Tim Thomas is gone, likely never to return to the Bruins, and that’s the mind-set Tuukka Rask said he’ll take into the 2012-13 season. He has to figure Thomas has moved on, and he’s moving on up.
“Well, of course, that’s what everyone wants,’’ said Rask, speaking Thursday afternoon in the lobby of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, following an afternoon visit with some patients. “You know, he takes a step back and thinks about his situation . . . and if he comes back, he comes back. But I just try to do my job as good as I can, like always.’’
Rask, 25, was home in Finland when Thomas, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, informed Bruins management of his decision to step away from the game this season, and possibly retire. Weeks later, Rask signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract extension that for the first time in his career will bring him to training camp as the club’s presumptive No. 1 goalie, backed by Anton Khudobin.
“It takes the excitement out of it for you guys,’’ said Rask, noting that Thomas’s absence negates the ongoing narrative as to whether Thomas or Rask would be the club’s primary goalie. “When there was two of us on the team all the time, it was this controversy going on all the time. So, that’s gone now. But maybe it’s going to be between me and Dobie [Khudobin] next year, who knows?’’
The assumption around the team, as well as the media and fan base, is that Rask is slated to work 60 games or more, with Khudobin penciled in for relief work, especially when the schedule has the Bruins playing on back-to-back days. It’s the role that Rask, who came to the Bruins in a June 2006 trade for Andrew Raycroft, has been gunning for since being drafted by the Maple Leafs in 2005.
“All my life, pretty much, it’s been a goal,’’ Rask said. “I played some games my first year consistently. But the year after, there was a kind of a step back playing-wise. I have been waiting a few years now and it’s going to be interesting to see how I handle it. It’s going to be a challenge, but I am always up for a challenge and I’ve got to make the most of it.
“I’m used to it. I played a lot in Providence, and down in Finland even. So, that’s not going to be new.
“I don’t want to put too much [emphasis] on that because you know how coaches [are] with the playing time . . . I am sure I am going to get every chance to play possible, but if I can’t get the job done there’s going to be more guys coming in.’’
That little bit of unknown — the fact that Rask has never been a true No. 1 stopper in the NHL — played a large role in why he signed only the one-year extension. Cory Schneider signed for three years, $12 million in Vancouver, a pact that Rask said he felt he could have signed here.
The fact that he didn’t essentially says he feels he is worth more and hopes to substantiate that case, and a higher price, with a solid season.
“A lot of people, I guess, were a little surprised about the contract and stuff,’’ Rask said. “But I really can’t tell the team that I want a long contract because I am an age that I would have gone to [salary] arbitration. We just figured it was best for both of us. And if I have a good year, then maybe I sign a longer deal.
“And if I suck,’’ he said with a laugh, “then kick me out, you know?’’
“Sometimes,’’ he added later, “you have to roll the dice a bit and see what happens.’’