It was another slow start for the Boston Bruins, but it was also another strong outing for goaltender Tim Thomas, who turned a 34 save performance into a 3-2 Bruins win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night. The win runs Thomas’ record to 10-1 this season.
Thomas has been the story of the young season for the Boston Bruins. After struggling in 2009-2010, a season in which he lost his starting job, Thomas has been between the pipes for every Bruins win so far in 2010-2011 and he was the first Bruins goaltender in team history to win their first seven starts in a season. Thomas’ play is arguably the main reason the Bruins are having any success in 2010-2011, which begs the question:
Should the Bruins trade Tim Thomas?
It is probably a safe bet that if this question were posed directly to a Bruins fan, their response would be to laugh, punch the person in the face or just give a resounding “NO!”
As absurd as the question might seem, though, especially given his start to the season and what he has meant to the Bruins since their return from the lockout in 2005, it is a question with merit and should be taken seriously.
It is no secret the Boston Bruins are in cap trouble. It is an issue Boston fans have been well aware of since rumors began to swirl in the off-season about the possible trade of center Marc Savard and is an issue now coming to a head with the impending return from injuries of Savard and winger Marco Sturm, rumored to be sometime around the new year. While there have been conflicting reports about exactly how much in salary the Bruins need to trim, it is somewhere in the neighborhood of $2-$4 million. So what is it Bruins brass should do to clear enough room to bring back their star center and one of their top wingers?
Trading Thomas is an option.
As the 2009-2010 season came to a close, even as early as the trade deadline, trading Thomas and dumping his over-paid cap hit was a common topic of speculation and made the most sense. Tuukka Rask was superb in his rookie season, leading the league in both goals against average and save percentage after taking the starting job away from Thomas mid-season. Folks in Boston already knew Rask was the team’s goaltender of the future, but in 2009-2010 he showed flashes of possibly becoming the league’s goaltender of the future.
Skip to this October and Thomas and his enigmatic style of play have not just reclaimed the top job between the Boston pipes, but are also looking like the elite goaltender he was when he took home the Vezina Trophy in 2009.
Who knew hip surgery would be such a cure-all for the 36-year old netminder?
After the way Thomas has started this season, leading the league in both save percentage (.960) and shutouts (4) prior to tonight’s games, his trade value has probably never been higher and is certainly higher than anyone else in the Bruins locker room. He is not getting any younger and his volatile goaltending style has proved unreliable at times. Despite a winless, 0-4-1 record, Rask has not played poorly this season either, ranking 10th in the league in save percentage coming in to the night. There are plenty of teams in the league who could use Thomas’ services, so there would be buyers. The Bruins already have a suitable replacement ready to go in Rask and getting Thomas’ roughly $5-million cap hit off the books would probably be the answer to all Boston’s cap woes.
At this point, with the way he has played and the amount of room the Bruins need to clear, it is as though Thomas’ value is too high. Though they have some good, young talent that is locked-up contractually for the next few years, the Bruins are still something of a thin team. Those players have the possibility of maturing into a championship caliber team, but if you were to trade Thomas with his stock at its current value, you would want that trade to return a piece that could turn the Bruins into a possible Cup-contending team in May and June. Given the Bruins lack of flexibility with their cap and little bargaining power, however, any trades made at this point would garner little more than the spare parts and picks.
Trading Thomas as a way to cure the Bruins cap woes would most likely only net about 25-cents on the dollar. As tonight’s win over the Rangers proved, Thomas’ play is vital to the Bruins success. The Bruins will go as far as the play of their goaltenders, both Thomas and Rask, will take them. Throw in the fact Thomas is a guy who has always played his best hockey when most people are counting him out, as most critics were coming off Rask’s performance last year and into the season, and it all equates to trading Thomas, as smart as it could be, not being the option at this point.
About the Author
Written by Matt Preston
I'm no Heminway or Haggerty, but keeping the dream alive, even if I'm pretty sure my Nana is my only follower. Self-deprecation is key, grammar is optional.