But he has reason to smile wide after inking a six-year, $24 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
“I’m just really happy right now,” Rask said over the phone from his hometown of Leksand, Sweden. “It’s a lot of fun to be there for six more years. I’m just really happy.”
“He’s been with us for a few years now. I think we have a pretty good idea of what kind of player he is, what kind of person he is and the work ethic he has,” Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis said. “We felt comfortable that making the commitment long-term to him was not going to change him, how hard he worked or what he did for us on the ice.”
Rask had a breakout rookie season in 2014-15, skating in 80 games with the Hurricanes and totaling 33 points (11g, 22a). The 23-year-old’s sophomore season saw Rask nearly double his goal-scoring and post a career high in points with 48 (21g, 27a). He ranked tied for second on the team in scoring and tallied five power-play goals and five game-winning goals in 80 games.
“I’m just trying to improve myself every year, trying to get better and better,” Rask said. “So far it’s been good for me. I’m really excited for the next years here.”
“Every year he’s played he’s gotten better and better, so we think he’s still going to continue to do that,” Francis said. “He’s a guy who the coaches trust in any and all situations: 5-on-5, 4-on-4, 3-on-3, power play, PK, up a goal, down a goal, late in the game. He’s a guy you feel comfortable putting on the ice. To have that kind of repertoire and belief from the coaches at 23, we think he’s only got more upside moving forward.”
Rask, now locked up long-term through the 2021-22 season, figures to be a key piece down the middle for the Hurricanes in the years to come.
“He’s such a smart player,” Francis said. “He learns as he goes through the league. He gets better, takes in the knowledge the coaches give him, takes in experiences he has versus other teams, and I think at the end of the day, with his hockey smarts he’s able to mature in his game.”
“Since day one, it’s been really good. I’ve seen the steps that have been taken each and every year,” Rask said. “I think we have something really good going on here. I’m just happy I can be there and help it.”
Following the 2015-16 season, Rask underwent shoulder surgery in Raleigh to repair an issue that first manifested itself around January.
“I played with a special brace on my shoulder the rest of the season,” Rask explained. “It bugged me a little bit in the beginning, but you get used to it.”
Since the surgery, Rask has been training and rehabbing in Leksand. His shoulder “feels really good already,” he said. And he’ll be good to go by training camp?
“Oh yeah,” Rask said, confidently.
Rask said he plans to return stateside in early September, a few weeks before Hurricanes camp gets underway. Entering his third NHL season, the young Swede is prepared to take another step in his blossoming career.
“I want to be a two-way centerman. I want to be good at defense and also an offensive guy,” he said. “I think I did a good job last year doing both things. I had a lot of fun last year.”
I asked Rask what excited him most about the upcoming season with the Hurricanes. I couldn’t see his face through the phone, but I imagine he might have cracked a slight, optimistic smile.
“I want to see how good we can be. I know we can be good,” he said. “I’m looking forward to next season. I think we’re going to have a really good season. We’ve done some good things this summer. I’m just looking forward to it.”
is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.Email