Did Linus Ullmark make his final start as a Bruin? Trade decision has to be made

BOSTON — In Tuesday’s overtime, Leon Draisaitl ripped the deciding goal past Linus Ullmark. The Boston Bruins goalie stayed on his knees in disbelief. What could have been a 1-0 Boston Bruins win had turned into a 2-1 overtime loss.

“No,” Ullmark answered when asked if it felt like a playoff game. “Feeling afterward is more like a playoff game. Because it felt like we had it. Slipped out of our hands after that final minute. I’ve got to take ownership (of) it as well. There’s no reason for me to freeze that puck. Got to keep it rolling, maybe turn around and score an empty-netter.”

Ullmark was referring to his decision to cover a late puck instead of playing it to a teammate. It allowed Draisaitl to tie the game with a net-front jam with 1:20 remaining in regulation. 

“You’ve got to find a way to close out games,” coach Jim Montgomery said. “This is a great opportunity for us to realize that you can’t take anything for granted. Because in a couple months, it doesn’t matter how tired you are at the end of a game. We’ve got to find a way to push through. We didn’t find a way.”

After Draisaitl’s winner, Ullmark eventually got to his skates. Jesper Boqvist gave him a tap as Ullmark skated off the TD Garden ice. 

Whether it was for the last time as a starting Bruins goalie remains to be seen.

The Bruins host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. Jeremy Swayman would start if the Bruins continue their rotation. The trade deadline is the next day. The Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Garden on Saturday. It remains to be seen if Ullmark will still be a Bruin by then.

On Monday, Ullmark had a good laugh about the online explosion he caused by watching the game from the Scotiabank Arena visitors’ dressing room instead of the bench. His future, however, is no laughing matter.

Before Friday’s 3 p.m. deadline, general manager Don Sweeney and his management colleagues have one critical question to address: Is it worth weakening the team’s No. 1 position of strength to reinforce at defense and/or forward? If it’s yes, then trading Ullmark and his $5 million average annual value, most likely for futures, would be the first step toward roster reinforcement.

But here’s the dilemma: Ullmark and Swayman give the Bruins a chance to win every game. Swayman (32 saves) dazzled in Monday’s 4-1 win over Toronto. Ullmark (24 saves) was equally stout against the fast-moving Oilers.

“I thought Linus was great,” Montgomery said. “He was awesome. Last two nights, our goalies were stellar. That’s what they’ve been for us. They’ve been really good.”

New Jersey Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald acknowledged he is looking for a goalie. Jacob Markstrom could be his preference. Markstrom is four years older than Ullmark, last year’s Vezina Trophy winner. Markstrom carries a $6 million AAV. Ullmark could be a Plan B for the Devils.

Trading Ullmark could be a step toward acquiring Elias Lindholm from the Vancouver Canucks. According to The Athletic’s Chris Johnston, the Canucks have discussed flipping the ex-Flame to the Bruins. The right-shot center has four goals and two assists in 14 games while averaging 18:43 of ice time per appearance for his new club. 

The Canucks traded Andrei Kuzmenko, a 2024 first-round pick, Joni Jurmo, Hunter Brzustewicz and a 2024 fourth-rounder to the Flames for the unrestricted free agent-to-be. Lindholm, 29, carries a $4.85 million AAV. The Bruins would be interested in signing Lindholm to an extension to replace Patrice Bergeron as a two-way center. They will have the cap space to do so.

Or Sweeney could choose to keep Ullmark and Swayman as his best bet for playoff success. It would make it trickier for roster upgrades without acquiring futures and clearing cap space by trading Ullmark.

“We’re thinking about the big picture about what’s to come,” Ullmark said. “It’s all about getting better every day and learn something from your experiences, faults and stuff like that. I’m going to do the same thing tomorrow. The sun’s going to rise again. I’m going to look at the videotape, get smarter and go from there.”

(Photo: Steve Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images)

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