The Boston Bruins announced today that the team has signed veteran goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to a one-year pact valued at $700,000.
It’s interesting to me how much rage I got on my Twitter feed about the signing. A lot of folks are convinced Gustavsson can’t play at this level, but that’s neither here nor there. The B’s obviously felt that going with a player who has been in the NHL since 2009 made more sense than putting their faith into the game but completely unproven (at the NHL level) Jeremy Smith. Smith was okay in the preseason, but in order to give the Bruins confidence that he should be the one to get the nod as the Boston backup, he needed to play a little better than he did. It was close enough in the performance levels between he and Gustavsson that Boston obviously opted to go with the safer bet in the veteran Swede.
Now, what remains to be seen is what the B’s do with Smith.
Here are the options:
- The Bruins carry three goaltenders. With a maximum roster size of 23 players, this means they would either have to carry 12 forwards and 8 defensemen or 13 forward and 7 defensemen. Right now, Tyler Randell looks like he’s going to be odd-man-out if they go with eight defenders.
- Assuming he clears waivers (consistent on three of four options), Smith goes to Providence and the Baby B’s try to split time between Smith, Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre. This is the least beneficial option for the development of Subban and McIntyre.
- Smith and Subban play in Providence, the B’s option McIntyre to their ECHL affiliate, the Gwinnett Gladiators near Atlanta, Ga. On the plus side, McIntyre will likely get a good share of playing time, but it comes at a lower level. Some very good NHL goaltenders began their careers in the ECHL: Jonathan Quick, Devan Dubnyk, Braden Holtby, Jaroslav Halak and Scott Darling to name a few all saw some action in the “East Coast League” before they found NHL success.
- Subban and McIntyre play for Providence and the B’s loan Smith to another AHL team that would welcome a vet of his ability and experience with open arms.
We’ll find out what happens next, but with final roster cutdowns due by Tuesday afternoon, Don Sweeney and company have some interesting decisions to make.
Zdeno Chara is still “day to day” but expected to be back by the start of the season if not soon afterwards, and with Joe Morrow having to go on waivers in order to go down, it makes more sense to put a player like Randell or Smith on waivers and risking losing them as opposed to Morrow.
In the meantime, Gustavsson isn’t an ideal option as backup, but he’s the best chance Boston has to rest Tuukka Rask by having a player that the coaches (at least initially) will trust to spell. There are 11 back-to-backs on the schedule this year, which is fewer than in 2013-14. The Monster is a better goalie than some give him credit for, but he never really delivered on the promise he showed after a dominant 2008-09 campaign in Sweden before signing with Toronto as a coveted free agent that spring. Still, he’s shown he can rise to the occasion in stretches and is at least someone with an NHL track record if he ends up being needed more than just the occasional start to spell the starter. Perish the thought, but the B’s are putting themselves in position to at least have some NHL games in net in a worst case scenario, but should that come to pass, the B’s are in much bigger trouble than any of us can imagine, and it doesn’t really matter who your backup is at that point.