Tim Thomas proves he is a ‘Free Citizen’, implies he will sit out 2012-13 season
Tim Thomas is exercising his rights as a Free Citizen yet again. The Bruins netminder made perhaps the zaniest move of an already unique career Sunday when he announced on Facebook he will use the next year to “reconnect with the three F’s: Friends, Family and Faith.” Thomas has yet to explicitly say he will not play hockey next season, but his Facebook post strongly suggests he will not be between the pipes next season for the Bruins.
The post was not completely unexpected. On Thursday, Pierre LeBrun reported Thomas was considering taking a year off from hockey. On Friday, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli informed the media during a conference call that he was operating under the assumption that Thomas would not be coming back. Now that Thomas himself has taken to Facebook to address the topic, it’s time to look at the consequences of Thomas’s decision. What does Thomas’s self-imposed timeout mean for both the team and the goaltender?Team:
- Thomas has one year remaining on his four-year contract. The Bruins owe him $3 million in salary for the 2012-13 season, but the team can get out of paying him his salary by suspending the goaltender should he not agree to play by the beginning of the season.
- Even if Thomas does not play, the goalie costs the team $5 million in cap space. The salary cap in hockey is $70,300,00 per year and the Bruins current payroll (including Thomas’s cap hit) for 2012-13 is $60,327,976. That means the team has about $9 million of free cap space, which does not give them much room for signing a highly coveted player.
- The easiest way to get rid of Thomas’s cap hit is to trade him, but given Thomas’s salary and reluctance to play, it will be difficult to find a buyer.
- One way to mitigate the cap hit is to put Marc Savard, a Bruins center who hasn’t played since Feb. 8, 2011 due to post-concussion syndrome, on long-term injury reserve. By doing so, the Bruins would be allowed to exceed the salary cap limit by the amount of Savard’s cap hit ($4 million).
- Who would play goal next season for the Bruins? The most likely candidate is Tuukka Rask, who started in net for much of the 2009-10 season and has been Thomas’s back-up for the last two seasons.
- Rask, a 25-year-old Finnish goaltender, is currently a restricted free agent, meaning he does not yet have a contract for next season, but the Bruins will have the first chance of any NHL team to sign him.
- Because Thomas does not seem to be an option for the Bruins in net, Rask can now demand a better contract from the Bruins.
- Rask is 47-35 in 102 regular season games with a .926 save percentage. He is a capable option in net for the Bruins.
- Anton Khudobin seems the most likely choice to back up Rask in net. He is under contract for the 2012-13 season with the Bruins set to pay him $875,000. He is 26 years old and is from Kazakhstan.
- Tim Thomas is currently 38 years old. He was the fourth-oldest goalie in the NHL last season and played the second-most games of those goalies. Although Thomas could return as a 39-year-old physically speaking, he is getting old in goalie years and it would be very tough for someone his age to readjust to the NHL.
- Thomas has the best career save percentage among active NHL goaltenders (.921). He reached the prime of his NHL career as an older goalie. Although he graduated from the University of Vermont in 1997, he did not make it to the NHL until 2002. He played in the ECHL, IHL, AHL and played abroad in Finland and Sweden before making it to the NHL, meaning he had a longer path to greatness than most.
- Thomas has accomplished seemingly everything a goaltender could want. He is a four-time All-Star, two-time Vezina Trophy winner, Stanley Cup Champion and Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) winner. He made the Olympic roster as a member of Team USA for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, but he only played one game. If he retires, he would not be lacking in hardware for his personal trophy case, but according to Chiarelli, he wants to make the 2014 USA Olympic team. That would certainly be more difficult if he sits out a year.
- Thomas has a history of making strange choices. In January, he declined to go to the White House with the rest of the Bruins as part of the Stanley Cup Championship celebrations.