At 26, Tuukka Rask is the highest-paid Bruin. Next season, he will make more than defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk combined.
His contract is twice as long as any signed by David Krejci or Milan Lucic.
Come October, a harsh spotlight will shine on Rask, the soft-spoken goaltender who inked an eight-year, $56 million contract on Wednesday. He’s ready.
“Obviously, people are going to expect great things from me,” Rask said during a conference call on Thursday. “You should try to be worth your money, and try to prove yourself every night.”
Rask is on vacation in Finland. He is trying to relax, not think about hockey.
He doesn’t seem fazed by expectations, but doesn’t quite seem comfortable speaking publicly about his new riches.
In fact, it wasn’t until Rask read a Finnish newspaper story about himself on Thursday morning that it set in: He’s making more money than Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
“I don’t really look at it that way,” Rask said. “I want to earn my money. It doesn’t change my mind-set.”
His $7 million-a-year cap hit equals Nashville’s Pekka Rinne for the highest annual salary among NHL goalies.
Rinne signed his deal at age 29. He was already a Vezina Trophy finalist. The contract was announced midseason, five days after Rinne set the franchise record for career shutouts.
Rask, meanwhile, has yet to shoulder an 82-game season as the Bruins’ No. 1 goaltender. In the lockout-shortened 48-game schedule this past season, Rask went 19-10-5 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.
He was even better in the playoffs, leading the league in GAA (1.84) and save percentage (.940).
During that stretch, reporters often asked Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli if it would be more difficult to sign Rask since he was playing so well.
“I said no,” Chiarelli said. “It would be easier.”
Rask’s playoff performance solidified what the team believed for years. They liked his perseverance and the way he carried himself off the ice.
“I really like what Tuukka has become as a person and a goaltender,” Chiarelli said. “As a result, we thought we were ready to commit to him.”
Rask, who would have been an unrestricted free agent after next season, wanted to commit, too. He said he “never considered” playing for another team.
Chiarelli just needed to maneuver cap space. Nathan Horton and Andrew Ference left in free agency. Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley were traded to Dallas.
Negotiations continued even as Rask left for vacation last week. He returns to Boston in about a month, this time with a new deal.
According to capgeek.com, Rask has a full no-movement clause for the first four years. In 2018, Rask will submit a list of eight teams to which he can be traded. In 2019, that list will grow to 15 teams. The deal ends after the 2020-21 season, at which time Rask will be 34.
“I’m really happy he’s still with us,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “[Chiarelli and Rask] did the work. I’m the coach that gets the gift.”
It’s an expensive gift. Chiarelli said the Bruins are “very, very” close to agreeing on a long-term extension for alternate captain Patrice Bergeron.
After that, the Bruins will “stand pat” for the rest of the summer, Chiarelli said.
The Bruins are currently $1,461,310 over the cap, according to capgeek. That’s all figured out, according to Chiarelli.
“We’re fine, we’ve got space,” Chiarelli said, adding the team has $4 million from Mark Savard’s long-term injury to help it out.
Chiarelli was asked if the Bruins lost to Toronto in the first round of the playoffs, would Rask have received the same payday?
The GM laughed, saying he doesn’t like answering hypotheticals.
“Obviously, a lot of things would have been different,” Chiarelli said.
And the Bruins don’t have to wonder. It’s clear Rask is their goaltender of the future.