It all started when the entire Boston Bruins’ roster was invited to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama. Tim Thomas was a no-show. Even though it was his right as an American to not attend the gathering, his absence created a backlash for himself and the franchise. The subject was constantly brought up during interviews and press conferences. It even got to the point where Thomas would walk out on the media from time to time.
One could argue that all of his off-ice antics contributed to his decline of production on the ice. In the 26 games that Thomas played following the White House trip, he posted a 2.69 goals against average with a .903 save percentage. He also allowed 16 goals in the first round playoff loss to the Washington Capitals.
One of the big off-season questions for the Bruins was going to be what they were going to do with Thomas? The answer to that question was taken out of their hands over the weekend.
It has been officially reported by Bruins’ GM Peter Chiarelli that Thomas will take the year off from hockey. According to Thomas’ official Facebook page, he will use the time to “reconnect with the three F’s: friends, family, and faith.”
Chiarelli was contacted by Thomas’ agent in early May of this possibility becoming a reality. Thomas will not be owed his $3 million salary on the final year in his contract, but the Bruins will take the $5 million cap hit. This would only occur if the current situation were to remain the same from now until Opening Night 2012, which would be highly unlikely.
Let’s put this in perspective.
Thomas’ no-trade clause expires on July 1st, the first day of free agency. As of now, there are several teams who not only need a goaltender, but need to accumulate the salary cap minimum. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, which is due to expire before the start of next season, the cap minimum is $70 million. The $5 million cap hit that Thomas would bring to a team would go a long way towards reaching that goal.
The team that needs to spend the most money to reach the salary cap minimum is the Colorado Avalanche. Coincidentally, Thomas moved his family to Colorado last December. He would help the Avalanche organization in more ways than one. He would help them reach the cap minimum and, should he play again, would provide brief stability in goal, something Colorado has been lacking.
Teams like the Florida Panthers, the New York Islanders, and the Phoenix Coyotes could also be in the running for acquiring Thomas. A tremendous bidding war could ensue over the multiple services that the veteran netminder would provide for them.
As for the Bruins, a trade could net them the cap space to target a big name free agent (Rick Nash or Zach Parise) and a top prospect or first-round pick.
Of course, there’s a flip-side. The Bruins might choose not to trade Thomas because suspending him (but taking the cap hit) would mean that they would save $5 million in actual dollars that they couldn’t spend on a big name player.
In other words, for the first time in this salary cap era, the Bruins’ owners might once again get tagged with the “cheap” label if people catch on. Not trading Thomas would put Boston in a position to basically pass on the opportunity to take advantage of his enormous value to small-market teams while at the same time improving the Bruins’ Cup chances.
With Thomas out of the way, it is now time for Tuukka Rask to assume the starting role. Rask has been in this spot before, but he will not have to be constantly looking over his shoulder if he has a sub-par performance in net. Rask has a career 2.20 GAA and a .926 save percentage. He is also a restricted free agent at this point in time. The Bruins are well aware of this and a new deal should already be in the works. Anton Khudobin will most likely serve as the back-up.