Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas raised eyebrows back in June when he took to Facebook to announce his intention to sit out the 2012-13 season for personal reasons.
Thomas, 38, was the hero of the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup in 2011, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, as well as the Vezina as the league’s top goaltender.
The 2011-12 season, however, was a difficult one for Thomas and the Bruins. The club struggled with consistency and were bounced from the first round of the 2012 post-season, while Thomas was criticized in February for skipping a White House ceremony honoring the Bruins championship.
Thomas was set to earn $3 million this season, but his cap hit was $5 million. Because he was over 35 when he signed his contract, it still counts against the Bruins cap even if he was suspended for refusing to play, demoted or bought out.
Fortunately for the Bruins, the NHL lockout has put this season on hold. Thomas' no-trade clause also expired last July, making it easier for GM Peter Chiarelli to shop the netminder if the lockout ends in time to salvage what remains of the season.
If there's an amnesty buyout in the new CBA, Chiarelli could try to dump that final year of Thomas' salary. From all indications, however, it doesn't appear the amnesty buyout option will be part of the new agreement.
If the entire season is lost to the lockout, the final year of Thomas' contract would be written off. He's due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Should a new CBA be implemented by January, Chiarelli would have to find some way to deal with Thomas's salary cap hit.
Back in September, Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe wondered if a lengthy lockout would prompt Thomas to have second thoughts about sitting out the season.
If Thomas did reconsider, Dupont believes Chiarelli would shop him, even if the return was “a dollar bill or a bag of pucks.”
Since the lockout began there has been no indication from Thomas that he might return to action if a season-saving CBA was implemented.
If Thomas remains intent to sit out this season, the Bruins could try to shop his rights to clubs in need of reaching the salary cap floor.
Chiarelli had mentioned that possibility late last June, claiming several clubs had contacted him expressing some interest in the wayward goalie.
The cap ceiling for this season was set at $70.2 million, with the cap floor at $54.2 million. Currently, the Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders and Phoenix Coyotes sit below the floor and would need to become cap compliant when the season opens. Of course, with the CBA being negotiated, the salary cap level isn’t certain.
All those clubs, however, are now close enough to the cap floor to reach it either by re-signing their remaining restricted free agents or promoting a top prospect into their lineup. It appears the Bruins' window of opportunity to move Thomas' rights may be closed.
Regardless of the outcome of the current NHL lockout, it's clear Thomas' time with the Bruins is over. Given his age and actions last season, it remains to be seen if he can continue his NHL playing career.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 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 and Kukla's Korner.