The Boston Bruins will be facing quite the different offseason this Summer than they did a year ago, after hoisting the Stanley Cup and celebrating up and down the streets in Beantown. This year, they suffered an early elimination at the hands of the Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now, they are preparing to move on from Tim Thomas, who has been their stopper in the net for the past four or five seasons.
But it is not like a usual departure for the Boston netminder. Thomas is not leaving via free agency, nor is he retiring. As of now, he says he plans on taking a year off from the game. But at 38-years-old, one has to truly wonder whether or not Thomas will decide to come back after taking off a full season from the NHL. While a handful have done it before, Thomas may not feel a need to return to the game. He has won a Stanley Cup and became the oldest ever to win a Conn Smythe award last postseason.
Now, the Bruins have to decide what to do without Thomas this season, and possibly for the foreseeable future. Do they go with Tuuka Rask and have Anton Khudobin serve as his back up, hoping that Rask more resembles the goalie he did two years ago than the one that was a bit shakier in net last season? Do they go out and sign a free agent to bring in for competition, such as Scott Clemmensen or Martin Biron? Should they go out and acquire another goalie from a team who is willing to unload one, including perhaps Roberto Luongo, who was public enemy No. 1 one postseason ago?
Chances are, the Bruins will stand pat. Unfortunately for them, Thomas’ $5 million cap number will still be on Boston’s books for the 2012-2013 NHL season. That is, unless they trade him.
It may sound insane, but it is not outside the realm of possibilities. After all, the Bruins are most likely preparing that Thomas will never play again in Boston anyway.
If Thomas sits out the season, the Bruins are on the hook. But they are not if they trade him. You may be asking why would any team trade for Thomas, knowing that they would have to have him on their payroll and may never even see him put on their sweater?
Simple. Just like most things in professional sports, it all boils down to money.
Paying a player who is not playing for you makes no sense at first. But with the new salary cap that features a basement price that every team needs to reach, acquiring a player such as Thomas who will not mess up any chemistry or take up a space on the active roster could make sense. Teams who need to hit that cap number could trade for Thomas and give up little to nothing in return. And if Boston wants to deal him, all they have to do is wait until after July 1 and they do not have to worry about Thomas’ no’trade clause.