Tuukka Rask left the Bruins on Saturday, after three weeks in NHL’s bubble in Toronto, and nothing in his farewell note so much as hinted he would be returning any time soon. In his statement, issued via a team press release, he said he needed to be with his family and wished his Black and Gold teammates well for the remainder of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And even though Rask plans to stay home with his wife and three daughters until a team raises the Cup, there is a clause in the NHL’s return-to-play agreement that allows a player to return to their respective bubble, should Rask want to reunite with the Bruins if they reach the Stanley Cup Final for a second consecutive year.
According to the agreement, Rask can return to Toronto at any time, but is subject to a litany of consequences including nasal-swab testing, a 14-day quarantine, refusal of access, and in the strictest case (i.e. a potential positive COVID-19 test or violation of the agreement), a dismissal.
If Rask returns, he must have four consecutive negative tests and complete the 14-day quarantine before hitting the ice.
So, even if Rask changes his mind tomorrow, the Bruins could be well into their second-round series — or eliminated, depending on how the remainder of the series with the Hurricanes turns out — before Rask is allowed to put on his pads and mask again.
If the Bruins reach the Eastern Conference finals, Rask will have to travel to Edmonton and wait it out there. Is that a risk Rask will take?
“Yes, it’s possible that things quiet down at home for Rask and he asks back in a week or two,” the Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont wrote after the Bruins’ 3-1 win Saturday over Carolina. “But that’s not a bet to make. Rask has one year left on his contract and the Bruins have the right to trade him to one of the 15 teams he was obligated to name months ago as the February trade deadline approached. [Bruins general manager Don] Sweeney will be working the phones.”
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters Sunday he and Rask exchanged texts, and said that Rask and his family are doing well. The decision to return, however, is one only Rask can make.
“His family’s doing well, so that’s very encouraging for the Bruins organization,” Cassidy said. “As I said before, we support Tuukka. We wish him well. We want nothing but the best for him and his family.
“Should circumstances change there where he feels he can come back to the club, I think we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, and see what it involves.”
The league’s return-to-play agreement also says that if a player returns to the bubble after being in a high-risk environment, the player’s access to a secure facility, such as a team hotel or the arena, could be revoked.
That doesn’t seem to be the case for Rask right now, as he and his family are presumably at lower risk of contracting COVID-19, but he is free to travel wherever he wants after he leaves the Toronto bubble.
“[There is] no real need to expand on the league’s explanation, as return to play for any player is possible as each case is reviewed by the league,” Sweeney told the Globe via email. “Return-to-play quarantine timelines are dependent on means of travel, testing, and diligent preventative measures. All [are] subject to review by [the] NHL medical director.”
So while it’s possible for Rask to return to the Bruins at some point during the the playoffs, it’s not probable. A run to the Stanley Cup Final now rests on Jaroslav Halak’s shoulders.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.