WILMINGTON — Among the 2013-14 Bruins guarantees: Shawn Thornton will fight, Brad Marchand will run his mouth, and Tuukka Rask will be the No. 1 goalie.
Teams do not give a goalie an eight-year, $56 million extension to play less than 60 games per season. But the identity of Rask’s backup is not guaranteed.
The Bruins signed veteran Chad Johnson July 5 to a one-year, one-way deal worth $600,000. During previous stops in Phoenix and New York, Johnson backed up aces Mike Smith and Henrik Lundqvist. Johnson’s experience and cap-friendly salary peg him as Rask’s No. 2.
Niklas Svedberg would like to change that.
The Bruins weren’t sure how Svedberg would adapt to the AHL. The league can be challenging for Europeans, who are used to lighter schedules. Teams regularly play three games in three days, with bus travel in between.
Svedberg, also used to the 100-foot-wide sheet in Sweden, had to learn new angles. Opponents dumped the puck into the corners instead of carrying it over the blue line. Nasty forwards crashed the crease in search of tips and rebounds.
But Svedberg adjusted well. In 48 games last season, he went 37-8-2 with a 2.17 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. He displaced Michael Hutchinson as the No. 1 goalie, and Providence finished with an AHL-best 50-21-5 record.
Svedberg was named the AHL’s most outstanding goalie. His successful transition was one reason the Bruins didn’t tender Hutchinson, their third-round pick from 2008.
“If you look at the whole year, I think it was a good year,” Svedberg said. “The transition was good. I developed my game, I think. I feel more comfortable coming here this year.”
The Bruins had a near-perfect setup in net last season. Rask went 19-10-5 with a 2.00 GAA and a .929 save percentage. Anton Khudobin submitted a 9-4-1 record with a 2.32 GAA and a .920 save percentage.
But the Bruins declined to re-up Khudobin, who signed a one-year, $800,000 contract with Carolina. General manager Peter Chiarelli cited cost savings, as minimal as they are, as a factor in signing Johnson over Khudobin.
Svedberg is going into the second season of a two-year, $2 million contract. It is a two-way contract, and he can be assigned to Providence without clearing waivers.
Svedberg, who turned 24 on Wednesday, projects to be a solid NHL goalie. But one year of AHL experience might not be enough for the Bruins to consider him NHL-ready.
If Johnson sticks with the varsity, Svedberg would be the No. 1 goalie in Providence. There, he would see more action to develop his game than he would sitting for 60-plus games in Boston. Svedberg could share the Providence net with Malcolm Subban, the club’s first-round pick in 2012.
Svedberg would benefit from more reps. His regular-season standard did not carry over to the postseason. In the playoffs, Svedberg went 6-6 with a 3.29 GAA and an .889 save percentage. Svedberg was pulled from two starts, including the season-ending 5-0 loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“There’s a few reasons. Probably more reasons than one,” Svedberg said. “I think I had good games in the playoffs, too. I think I just wasn’t consistent enough at all in the playoffs.
“I don’t know exactly what it was. You have to work on your game every day and try to keep the consistency even longer. I think that was the first really long stretch that I played worse. It could have come earlier. It came in the playoffs. I’m not happy with it, but you learn from it and move on. I’m not too worried about it either coming into this year.”
Svedberg and the Bruins were satisfied with his body of work, and his first-year performance nudges up his ceiling for 2013-14 and beyond.
“Of course you have higher expectations for yourself every year that goes by to be good,” Svedberg said. “This year, my expectations are higher. So are other people’s for me.”
The Bruins concluded the week of informal practices at Ristuccia Arena Friday. Adam McQuaid and Matt Bartkowski participated in their first on-ice session since returning to Boston. The players will not practice Saturday. They are scheduled to skate at Ristuccia at 11 a.m. Sunday . . . The Bruins rookies tied their Tampa Bay counterparts in Coral Springs, Fla., 5-5, on Friday. Maxime Villemaire led the team with two goals. Anthony Camara, Alexander Khokhlachev, and Zach Trotman also scored. Subban was in goal . . . The Bruins rookies will play Florida’s rookies Saturday. They will conclude the tournament against Nashville Sunday.