4 things to know about new Bruins goalie Joonas Korpisalo

3 weeks ago

The Bruins have a new netminder in place for the 2024-25 season … at least for now.

Boston dealt Linus Ullmark to the Ottawa Senators on Monday evening — acquiring the No. 25 pick in the 2024 NHL Draft, pugnacious bottom-six forward Mark Kastelic, and goalie Joonas Korpisalo.

Korpisalo, 30, is currently slated to be Jeremy Swayman’s primary backup, with the Finnish product entering the second season of a five-year, $20 million contract.

The 6-foot-3 goalie could be due for a rebound season in Boston after a dreadful stint in Ottawa — or he could be shipped elsewhere before the start of the 2024-25 season even begins.

Here’s four things to know about Korpisalo.

1. He was arguably the league’s worst starting goalie in 2023-24.

Let’s face it, the main return for the Bruins in Monday’s trade is the No. 25 pick — giving Boston a chance to bolster its prospect pipeline with an intriguing young talent for a goalie who was going to be viewed as a luxury on the 2024-25 roster.

But while a fourth-line regular like Kastelic should at least give Boston some more snarl further down on the depth chart, Korpisalo remains a major question mark in terms of what he can offer the Bruins as a viable option in net.

After signing that five-year contract in Ottawa last July, Korpisalo’s tenure with the Senators was nothing short of a disaster.

Korpisalo posted a 21-26-4 record last season with the Senators, sporting an .890 save percentage along the way. His underlying metrics were even rougher, with Korpisalo ranking 97th out of 98 eligible goalies in goals saved above expected last season at -16.7, per MoneyPuck.

(For those keeping tabs, Ullmark ranked seventh in goals saved above expected at 14.8, while Swayman was fourth at 18.4).

The Bruins do have a great track record of getting the most out of goalies within their system, especially with Bob Essensa overseeing their netminders. Still, Korpisalo was far from just a league-average netminder in 2023-24. He was arguably the worst starting goalie in the entire league.

He has put together stronger returns elsewhere.

Beyond the potential lift that the Bruins might be banking on with Korpisalo and a full season under Essensa’s tutelage, Boston might also find solace in that its new goalie has put together strong returns on teams not marred by porous defensive structure.

Even though Korpisalo was dreadful last season in Ottawa, the Senators weren’t particularly better in front of him — ranking 25th in scoring chances allowed in 5-on-5 play, per Natural Stat Trick.

Granted, the Bruins’ underlying numbers on defense weren’t all that flattering in 2023-24, with Boston 20th in scoring chances allowed at 5-on-5 play. Still, the Bruins boast stronger personnel on their blue line and deploy a rigid D-zone structure that should hold up better than Ottawa’s.

On a stronger Kings team in 2023, Korpisalo was a key pick-up down the stretch – going 7-3-1 over 11 games while posting a .921 save percentage. Much like how Boston identified Ullmark as a poised goalie miring on a bad Buffalo team, perhaps they view Korpisalo in a similar light now that he’s out of Ottawa.

The Senators are retaining 25 percent of Korpisalo’s cap hit for the remainder of his contract. But even with that retention, taking on Korpisalo’s contract remains a head-scratcher on a Bruins team that should be freeing up as much fiscal flexibility as it can.

Even though moving Ullmark’s $5 million cap hit would ideally allow Boston to free up more money for Swayman’s upcoming pay raise (and allow Boston to address other needs in free agency), the Bruins only created $1.165 million in extra cap space as a result of moving Ullmark, but adding Korpisalo’s $3 million cap hit and Kastelic’s $835,000 salary.

If the Bruins intend on keeping Korpisalo, they very well could be committing over $10 million per year to their goalie duo in 2024-25 and beyond once Swayman signs his new deal.

Not exactly what you wanted to see this offseason, especially considering the sizable downgrade that Korpisalo is when compared to Ullmark. If the Bruins were concerned about having $5 million sit on the bench most nights in Ullmark, does Korpisalo’s $3 million cap hit really make Bruins fans feel much better?

The Bruins do have ways to lower his cap hit.

Of course, if the Bruins plan on manufacturing more cap space, they do have options when it comes to Korpisalo’s contract.

With Boston also signing Brandon Bussi to a one-year extension on Monday, the Bruins could opt to stash Korpisalo in Providence à la Mike Reilly — which would open an additional $1.15 million in cap savings, but would still count as a $1.85 million dead cap hit per year.

The Bruins also have the ability to buy out Korpisalo’s contract — which would lower his annual cap hit, but would also have him on Boston’s books for years.

According to CapFriendly, a Korpisalo buy-out would leave Boston with a with a cap hit of $250,000 next season, $625,000 in 2025-26, $1.375 million in 2026-27, $1.75 million in 2027-28, and then $1 million each year from 2028-29 through the 2031-32.

The Bruins could also try to flip Korpisalo to another team between now and the end of the offseason, although the writing is on the wall that Boston would likely have to either add a sweetener or retain some of his contract to entice a team to take on some of that contract.…Read more by Conor Ryan


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