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May 14, 2012 | 11:59am ET
No need to rush Thomas trade
 Despite numerous reports suggesting otherwise, the Boston Bruins don't really need to trade Tim Thomas.

CHICAGO, IL -- This summer's free agent and trade market will undoubtedly heat up, as usual, within hours of the NHL Awards after parties breaking up.

Last year, most of the distinguished guests hadn't boarded a plane out of Vegas yet when the Philadelphia fire sale sobered up the league. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were dealt, and the summer officially began.

This summer, the names everyone is staring at are the goalies in Vancouver. Can the Canucks find someone to take Roberto Luongo off their hands? Or will restricted free agent Cory Schneider price himself out of the net in Vancouver?

While the free agent market has a few intriguing names -- Josh Harding for one -- the trade market appears to be where general managers all over the NHL will focus their energies this summer.

The team that kissed the Cup on Vancouver's ice in 2011, the Boston Bruins, has one of the more fascinating goaltender situations in the league.

Tuukka Rask, the heir apparent, is a restricted free agent like Schneider. But unlike Schneider, the veteran ahead of him on the depth chart, Tim Thomas, doesn't have the better part of a decade left on his contract.

And many will wonder what the Bruins should do with Thomas this summer if/when they pay Rask.

Consider the 12 months Thomas and the Bruins have had since the Cup. The Conn Smythe winner was the only player to intentionally miss the ceremony at the White House with President Obama. Comments from Thomas surrounding the event, and the response from the Bruins' front office, led some to speculate there was a split between the top goalie and the Boston brass.

When the regular season ended, Rask was injured and Thomas had won 35 games with a .920 save percentage. He clearly still has game.

But he didn't have enough for the defending champions to escape the first round of the playoffs.

So the rumor mongers have an extra couple months to spin creative scenarios for Thomas to find a new address before the CBA D-Day hits in September.

Unfortunately, even with only one year left on his deal and a reasonable $5 million cap hit, Thomas should stay in Boston... for now.

The Bruins don't have an enormous amount of cap space to work with this summer.

Heading into this summer, Boston has a little over $59 million committed to 18 players on their NHL roster. That number doesn't include Rask (obviously) and free agent forwards Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille and Benoit Pouliot. Somehow, from somewhere, the Bruins need to come up with money to fill out their roster.

Obviously, moving Thomas, and his cap hit, would free up some flexibility. But then Boston would be dropped into the same pool of bidders as Tampa, Columbus and others to add the services of a free agent that, in all honestly, just wouldn't be as good as Thomas.

If hockey fans have learned anything from the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's that elite goaltending makes a difference when competing for a championship. Sacrificing their depth in net could be a tragic mistake for Boston, especially if Rask has any more injuries.

Beyond this immediate summer, and the upcoming transition to Rask on top of the depth chart, the Bruins options are far from limited after the 2012-13 season starts. There are some teams, like Chicago, that might go into the new season with the two goalies they already have under contract, but fully ready and willing to pull the trigger on a deal to upgrade the position if the right guy (Thomas) becomes available.

While Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli may have told the media in Jan. 2011 that he wasn't interested in moving Thomas, fast forward 11 months and his story will likely change.

With a grasp of what holes he needs to fill on his own roster to make a deep playoff run, Chiarelli would be better served to hang onto Thomas until someone makes a desperate offer during the upcoming season.

Tab Bamford is a Columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the Chicago Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.


 

 

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