Life Without Tim Thomas: Bruins Confirm “Strong Possibility” That Reigning Vezina Winner Will Sit Out Next Season
When reports began to emanate on Thursday that Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was toying with the idea of taking a season off, many — including myself — simply shrugged it off in the belief that it was pure speculation on the part of the media. However, the tide took a major turn on Friday when the team’s General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced that the two-time Vezina Trophy winner had indeed approached the club about possibly sitting out for the entire 2012-’13 season.
“Tim came to me towards the beginning of May through his agent and said that he is seriously considering taking the year off. The reasons why, I’m not exactly sure, but he did give some reasons regarding the family, which obviously I respect; spend more time with his family” said Chiarelli on a Friday afternoon conference call with the media. “So as of right now, I’m operating under the premise that there’s a strong possibility that he’ll be taking the year off and we’d have to go about our business without Tim Thomas.”
Yes, folks, you read that right. The 2011 Vezina trophy and Conn Smythe award winning goaltender is contemplating taking the final season of his four-year, $20 million dollar contract off to spend time with his family. Just one season after becoming the first Bruins goalie to hoist the Stanley Cup over his head since Gerry Cheevers performed the feat in 1972, the B’s all-star netminder is considering abandoning his team for an entire season.
All of this comes just twenty-four hours after Comcast SportsNet New England’s Joe Haggerty reported that Thomas — who had taken up a residence on Boston’s North Shore for much of his hockey career — had uprooted his family in the midst of last year’s regular season and moved them to Colorado. A peculiar move if there ever was one. From CSNNE.com:
“His move to the more politically conservative state of Colorado might explain why Thomas has been so noncommittal when asked about retiring as a Bruin. He also wasn’t very forthcoming in declaring his happiness as a member of the Bruins organization after the team fell to the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs this season.”
If Thomas does indeed decide to sit out next season, he will be suspended by the Bruins organization. If that is the case, Thomas’ $5 million dollar cap hit will still count against the cap. Chiarelli also mentioned the fact that he will have the option of tolling Thomas’ contract. This means that the team will have the choice of either allowing his deal to expire after the suspended season (2012-’13) or push it off until the next year (2013-’14).
Boston’s seventh year GM also revealed another interesting tidbit of Thomas information: that the Flint, Michigan native would like to suit up for the United States at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Now, I’ve learned better than to doubt Thomas on any goal that he sets for himself, but I also find it hard to believe that a 39-year-old — which is the age he will be when the 2014 opening ceremonies begin — goalie who has just taken a year off from the game will be able to compete with the likes of fellow American ‘tenders Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles), Craig Anderson (Ottawa), Ryan Miller (Buffalo) and Jimmy Howard (Detroit) for a spot on the U.S. roster.
Chiarelli went on to acknowledge his disappointment in the overall situation but made it clear that he will respect his goaltender’s decision, whatever it may be.
“(I’m) a little disappointed. A little more than a little, I’m 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. That’s really all I can say on it. You have to deal with it.” — Peter Chiarelli
Conspiracy theorists everywhere will begin to assume that the relative proximity between the time of Thomas’ revelation of possibly sitting out for a season (June 1) and the expiration of his no-movement clause (July 1) isn’t exactly a coincidence. Since the Bruins’ were dispatched from the 2012 postseason by the Capitals back on April 27, hockey media outlets everywhere have suggested that the two sides would part ways before the summer was over, with 24-year-old Tuukka Rask set to take over the starting job in Boston. Some will suggest that this is simply a ploy to avoid being traded — because no team will give up much in return for a player who may or may not ever lace up the skates next season –. Others may ask if this is Thomas’ way of holding out for a contract extension. Chiarelli shot down both of those rumors on Friday.
“No. And I asked (his agent) Bill (Zito) that question (If this was all about a contract extension) and no, no. That’s to an earlier point about if it’s coincidental about the trade deadline. No, I don’t think there’s anything mischievous from his point about this. I really felt that it was what he said.”– Peter Chiarelli
Chiarelli also noted that the Bruins are prepared to go into next season with the tandem of Rask and former Minnesota Wild draft choice Anton Khudobin as the team’s goaltenders. Rask — who has previously shown the ability to carry the load of a number one goaltender — holds a 47-35-11 record in 102 career NHL appearances with a 2.20 goals against average and a .926 save percentage. Khudobin, though only making seven career starts, holds impressive splits at the NHL level. The undersized Russian boasts a 5-1-1 record with a 1.32 goals against average and a .961 save percentage. Between Rask, Khudobin and newly signed youngsters Niklas Svedberg and Adam Morrison, the future of the Boston crease looks to be in very capable hands.
While Chiarelli would not rule out the idea of Thomas changing his mind on the issue, he didn’t exactly sound optimistic about the chances of his all-star goaltender returning to the club — and the NHL – this fall.
“I’ve seen this stuff happen with players after a long couple years, at this particular point in their career, they’re like, ‘I’ve got to take some time before I decide I’m coming back.’ Tim has pretty much said that he’s not, but people change their minds.” – Peter Chiarelli
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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Have written for The Hockey Guys and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com.