A year after goaltender Tim Thomas backstopped the Boston Bruins to their first Stanley Cup championship in 39 years, he’s surprised the hockey world by announcing his intention to sit out next season for personal reasons.
Thomas, 38, had become a hero in Boston for bucking the odds and establishing himself in his late 30s as an elite goaltender, netting two Vezina Trophies in three years and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2011 playoff MVP.
But Thomas’ recent decision raised eyebrows even higher after a season in which his snubbing a White House ceremony honoring the Bruins Cup championship cast a harsh spotlight upon his political views.
CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty broke down the options for Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli if Thomas followed through with his decision.
Chiarelli would have to suspend the goaltender, which would remove him from the roster, but because Thomas was 35 when his current contract took effect, his salary would still count against their salary cap. That also applies if he were demoted or bought out.
Another option could be to toll his contract forward to 2013-14, ensuring he would still owe the Bruins the final season of his contract.
Chiarelli could also trade Thomas after his movement clause expires July 1. Haggerty claimed management was seriously considering this prior to the goaltender informing Chiarelli of his sabbatical plans.
The problem, however, is there won’t be much of a market for someone unwilling to play next season.
Another theory making the rounds suggests Thomas is attempting to create leverage for himself once his no-movement clause expires July 1.
That implies Thomas wants to ensure the Bruins don’t attempt to move him this summer to a team he doesn’t wish to be dealt to.
The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch suggested the best course of action for Chiarelli would be to allow rival teams to contact Thomas, find out if he’d be willing to play for them next season and then attempt to work out a trade.
It would be a clever ploy by Thomas and his agent to control his future, though it would come at the cost of sullying his legacy among Bruins fans.
Should a trade be worked out, the Bruins probably wouldn’t get much back in return, but by clearing his salary off their books, it would provide additional cap space to pursue bigger fish via trade or free agency.
It’s even possible a team needing to spend a considerable amount to reach next season’s salary cap minimum could acquire Thomas’ contract simply to get over the floor and if he opted to return to action later in the season, so much the better.
One Bruin who will benefit from Thomas’ sabbatical is backup Tuukka Rask. The 25-year-old Finn would get an opportunity to re-establish himself as a full-time starting goaltender.
Rask stole the starter’s job during 2009-10 when Thomas was hampered by a hip injury, but spent the past two seasons relegated to the backup role. He and call-up Anton Khudobin have the potential to form a good tandem for the Bruins next season.
It’ll be interesting to see how this situation unfolds, but there’s a possibility Thomas and the Bruins may be parting company and not on the best of terms.
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News, Kukla’s Korner and The Guardian, Charlottetown.