Tim Thomas is back in the NHL.
Thomas played the first half of the Florida Panthers' preseason game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Estero, Fla., on Thursday night, a few hours after agreeing to a one-year contract with the NHL's last-place team in 2012-13.
The 39-year-old allowed one goal on 10 shots in his first action since April 2012 before being replaced by Jacob Markstrom in a game the Panthers lost 3-2 in overtime.
"It felt good for being the first time in a game-like atmosphere for 15 months," Thomas told the Miami Herald. "I think it was a necessary step for me. I thought it was good not to wait. We're running out of preseason games. I feel ready now."
TSN's Bob McKenzie reports that the Thomas will earn a base salary of $2.5 million, but that the contract will carry an average annual value of $3.75 million because of potential performance and games-played bonuses.
Thomas had participated in Florida's training camp after signing a pro tryout agreement, but was not allowed to suit up in a preseason game before Thursday. He is returning to the NHL after sitting out the 2012-13 season, the last on a four-year contract with the Boston Bruins.
Thomas has made all 378 of his NHL appearances with the Bruins, posting a 196-121-45 record with a 2.48 goals-against average and a save percentage of .921. He led the Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP by going 16-9 with a 1.98 GAA, a .940 save percentage and four shutouts.
"He battles on every shot, every drill," general manager Dale Tallon said. "This is great for our team, great for him and great for our goalies."
Thomas is a four-time NHL All-Star (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012) and won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender in 2009 and 2011, when he led the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage. He and Manny Fernandez shared the William M. Jennings Trophy, given to the team with the fewest goals allowed, in 2009.
With one preseason game remaining, the Panthers now have three goaltenders on the roster -- Thomas, Markstrom and 36-year-old Scott Clemmensen, who went down with a knee injury during camp. Markstrom finished last season as the starter after Jose Theodore was injured.
"We want the best goalies," Tallon said. "Inner competition is great for the success of a team. Let them battle it out."
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