BostonBruins.com – During a conference call originally set to discuss the signing of Bruins forwards Dan Paille and Chris Bourque to contract extensions, Boston General Manager Peter Chiarelli confirmed that all-star goaltender Tim Thomas has told the team that he is considering taking time off from hockey.
“Tim came to me…through his agent and said that he’s seriously considering taking the year off,” said Chiarelli. “So, as of now, I am operating under the premise that there’s a strong possibility that he’ll be taking a year off and we’d have to go about our business without Tim Thomas.”
Chiarelli said he wasn’t “exactly sure” what led to Thomas’ move, but said Tim indicated his family was first and foremost in the goaltender's thinking.
“We did exit meetings after we won the Cup and he was really tired, and that was another thing he had said to me after this [past season’s] exit meetings, that he definitely was worn down a bit,” said Chiarelli. “I just think with all the stuff that’s gone on in the last couple years with playing and all the other appearances and kind of the fame that goes with winning - I think he’s a little worn down.”
And Thomas isn’t alone in that regard.
“I know there’s been some players who’ve had long stretches in their careers, and then including some long playoff years – and when they come to the end of their deals -- and I think of [Scott] Niedermayer, I think of [Nicklas] Lidstrom over the years, [Teemu] Selanne -- where they take some time to decide if they want to play again,” said Chiarelli. “These things come up and these things happen and this is what’s happening with Tim right now. And we have to deal with it and we will.”
How the B’s deal with Thomas’ possible absence in goal will have much to do with how well Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin man the position next fall.
“I almost have to operate under the premise as if he isn’t coming back,” repeated the B’s GM when asked about the B’s future between the pipes. “I’ve had some discussions with Tim and he’s told me that he wants to play in the Olympics the following year, so I’ll have some more discussions with him later on.
“We’ve got two very capable goalies in Tuukka and Khudobin. So I’d be more than satisfied if that’s who we have to go with.”
But going forward, there are salary cap ramifications to Thomas’ taking time off.
“If he wasn’t playing I would have to suspend him,” explained Chiarelli. “His cap number would still be on the cap.
“We would have relief through [Marc] Savard being on the cap, so it would be almost a wash that way, but he would still be on the cap.
“And that’s the way we’d proceed with the year.”
However, that’s not the only remaining option for the B’s and Chiarelli said the club might look into making a move. But the probability of Thomas’ sitting out a season would certainly diminish the goalie’s value on the trade market.
“Sure, that would be something we’d look at,” said Chiarelli. “You do have that flexibility and there is the element of teams trying to reach the floor -- salary floor -- and I don’t know what that will be in the next [CBA], so there’s a little bit of uncertainty there, too.
“So, yeah that would be something that we would look at.”
But it remains to be seen if any other team in the NHL would be interested in Thomas’ rights.
“Obviously, it diminishes any leverage that you have or some leverage that you have,” said Chiarelli. “But I’ll tell you what - he’s a world-class goalie. So, he’d help somebody in a big way if he decided to play.”
And that’s why, in the end, the B’s GM is more than a little disappointed.
“But these things happen and you have to roll with them and you have to deal with them. When someone talks about their family and stuff, you have to respect that,” explained Chiarelli. “That’s really all I can say on it.
"You have to deal with it. “