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Sweeney: Re-signing Swayman is a ‘priority' for Bruins this offseason

The Boston Bruins have a lot of work to do during the NHL offseason, and perhaps no task is more important than re-signing goalie Jeremy Swayman.

The University of Maine product is coming off a stellar playoff run during which he cemented himself as the team’s clear-cut No. 1 goalie.

Swayman exited the playoffs ranked No. 1 in save percentage and goals saved above expected. He started 12 of the Bruins’ 13 postseason games, and it’s unlikely they would have survived the first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs without his excellent performances in net. Swayman allowed two or fewer goals in nine of his 12 appearances.

Swayman, for the second straight offseason, is able to become a restricted free agent. The two sides needed arbitration to work out a contract for the 2023-24 campaign. Neither side wants to go through that process again.

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Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Wednesday during the team’s end-of-season press conference that working out an extension with Swayman remains a priority for the organization.

“It’s a priority now and it will continue to be a priority until we get that across the finish line,” Sweeney said.

“He’s a big part of our current team and the run he went on in the playoffs, and our future. Our goaltending is arguably one of the best tandems in the NHL, and they proved it during the course of the season. They put us in a situation most nights to have an opportunity to win. The priority will be to find a landing spot with Jeremy.”

If Swayman’s next contract carries a salary cap hit of $5 million or more, the Bruins will be using up $10-plus million in cap space at the goaltender position. Backup netminder Linus Ullmark has one more year left on his deal with a $5 million cap hit.

It doesn’t make much sense to dedicate that much cap space to goalies, especially when the Bruins have other glaring roster weaknesses to address in the offseason, including the need for another top-six forward. The best-case scenario for the Bruins would be to trade Ullmark, but he does have some control over that process as a result of the 16-team no-trade clause in his contract. Ullmark made it clear during break-up day last weekend that he prefers to remain in Boston.

“We’re going to find a landing spot with Jeremy Swayman,” Sweeney said. “If we can make the math work, we’re going to have the best tandem. If we can’t, we’re going to explore. And/or Linus may come to us and change his mind. That may occur as well. Right now, he’s really happy. We were very happy to sign Linus. And in a perfect world, we would keep the tandem. Because I think it’s damn good. But we’re going to explore opportunities. My phone’s going to ring. I’m going to make calls. That’s just what the job requires.”

Ullmark is one year removed from a Vezina Trophy-winning campaign. His performance dipped a bit this past season, but he’s still a very good goalie and would be an upgrade for several teams, even a few that reached the playoffs.

Trading Ullmark would weaken the Bruins’ depth and talent in net. But sometimes you have to use your depth at one position to upgrade another one. And given the current state of the Bruins’ roster, having additional salary cap space to potentially acquire an impact forward is more valuable than having two really good goalies.