With hard news so scarce, the position so important, and the player seeming to be so good, it’s easy to see why the signing of University of Maine goalie Jeremy Swayman by the Boston Bruins created so much discussion.

The Bruins are fine at the position through whatever may remain of this season, and fine into next season with Tuukka Rask under contract through 2020-21, but after that they’re a little unsettled.

With current backup Jaroslav Halak approaching unrestricted free agency this summer, the Bruins will need a No. 2 goalie behind Rask next season.

Odds are at least even that the job will be filled by a free agent from another organization, if for no other reason than that’s how the Bruins have filled the job almost every single season since Tim Thomas decided to sit out the 2012-13 campaign, ultimately ending his career in Boston.

Niklas Svedberg was a slight exception – he was a 22-year-old undrafted free agent who hadn’t played outside his native Sweden, then spent two years at AHL Providence before his one season with the Bruins – but besides that, the Bruins haven’t developed a goalie to graduate to the NHL since – well, Rask, who seasoned with Providence in 2007-08 and ’08-09 before joining Thomas in 2009-10.

In Swayman and Dan Vladar, the Bruins hope to break a cycle that has seen them acquire Anton Khudobin (2012-13, via trade with the Wild during Khudobin’s minor-league days), Chad Johnson (2013-14, who had been in three other organizations and had played only five NHL games), Svedberg, Jonas Gustavson (former No. 1 in Toronto and Detroit), Khudobin (for a two-year stint, this time via unrestricted free agency), and Halak (who’d held No. 1 roles with the Canadiens, Blues and Islanders before giving Rask the most help he’s ever had for the last two seasons).


That’s not the worst way to go. The Rask-Halak tandem has arguably been the NHL’s best for two seasons running, Khudobin’s three years over two stints included a trip to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, and even Johnson (27 games) helped Rask conserve enough energy to win the Vezina Trophy in 2013-14.

The Bruins greatly need better returns from Swayman and Vladar than they received from their most recent attempts to fill the goaltending position with prospects. Neither Zane McIntyre, drafted as a high schooler in 2010 (Round 6, No. 165), nor Malcolm Subban, a regrettable first-round pick (No. 24 overall) in 2012, panned out for the Bruins.

Vladar, a 2015 draftee (Round 3, No. 75) who turned pro at age of 19, needed two years to get to Providence from the ECHL, but as the AHL leader this season in goals-against average (1.75) and saves percentage (.936), there’s evidence he might challenge for a job next season, at 23.

Swayman, 21, would likely need AHL seasoning, but the Bruins are better staffed on that front than before: In addition to Bob Essensa, who works primarily with Boston’s goalies, former NHL and UMaine goalie and goalie instructor Mike Dunham is in his second year as the organization’s goalie development coach.

With Rask just turning 33, the need isn’t necessarily urgent, but he’s also heading into his lame duck year, contract-wise. One way or another, the Bruins will need pieces in place before too long, and they’re counting on Vladar and Swayman.

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