Tuukka Rask signs AHL tryout contract in first step toward comeback with Boston Bruins

Tuukka Rask has signed a professional tryout contract with the AHL's Providence Bruins, the first major step in the star goaltender's comeback with the Boston Bruins.

Rask, 34, is an unrestricted free agent who underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip in late July. After his minor league conditioning stint, Rask is expected to sign a contract with Boston for his 15th NHL season.

"We have a plan in place. It shouldn't be an issue. Next week, I should be with the big guys," said Rask, indicating he'll only need one or two games in the AHL before returning.

Rask's return to the NHL will be delayed, however, as Providence's games on Friday and Sunday against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms have been rescheduled due to COVID-19 protocols affecting the Phantoms. Providence's next game is scheduled for Jan. 14 at home against Hartford.

The Bruins, who hold the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, have gone with a goalie tandem of 23-year-old Jeremy Swayman and veteran Linus Ullmark, who signed a four-year, $20 million free-agent contract last summer.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said he discussed plans regarding Rask with Swayman and Ullmark before the season, indicating that Rask would use the team's facilities to rehab and have a timeline for a potential return. Rask initially attended practice before the Bruins skated, so as not to be a distraction. He eventually joined Boston's full practices to face live shooters.

Rask said he hasn't spoken to either goalie about their peculiar situation.

"I didn't feel like I needed to go talk to them," he said. "Maybe we'll have a conversation with them next week. Who knows?"

Ullmark was seen as Rask's potential replacement if the veteran goalie couldn't work back from his surgery, but the Bruins have been comfortable with Rask's progress.

"He certainly looks the part out there right now," Cassidy said after Rask practiced earlier this week. "You're never sure with surgery how it'll go. He got through it, put the work in. He's clearly taking it seriously and wants to rehab as quickly as possible."

Cassidy wouldn't rule out the Bruins using all three goaltenders but acknowledged that demoting Swayman to the AHL could be the easiest solution, as he wouldn't have to pass through waivers.

Rask is Boston's all-time leader in wins, with a record of 306-163-66. He won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender in 2014 and was a finalist in 2020. He has played in 104 playoff games for Boston, twice leading them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013 and 2019.

Rask said the chance to play with Bruins veterans like Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, who is in the last year of his contract, was a motivation to return.

"That's why I didn't want to flirt with the opportunity to go anywhere else," Rask said. "It's a business, but for us players to have a team like the Bruins -- and a bunch of us have grown up together here -- you feel that brotherhood and you don't want to leave on bad terms. I just wanted to come back and maybe finish it up with a bunch of those guys who I played with my whole career."