Just this past week Tim Thomas of your Boston Bruins decided that taking a year off to spend time with his family and focus on apparently his views of the world was a great idea. Far be it from me to tell a man whether he should or shouldn't spend more time with his family, but that's not what this blog is about. I think there's an underlying ploy here that may be the true cause of his "decision". Tim Thomas may very well want to spend time with his family. He may very well want to try out his Warren Buffet persona and save the crashing economy as he ranted on his Facebook page the other day. But at the end of the day I think there's two things possible here:
1) Tim Thomas wants to retire
2) Tim Thomas wants a trade
It is entirely possible Tim Thomas wants to just stop playing hockey. He busted his rear to get into the NHL and finally proved he could play at the NHL level. In fact he was so successful he proved he could be the best goalie in the world when he reached the peak of his career. His 2010-2011 season will go down as one of the greatest goaltending seasons in the game's history between the Vezina, Conn Smythe and big game performances in the postseason. His shutouts in game 7 against Tampa Bay and Vancouver earned him folk lore status in Boston as he set the record for fewest goals allowed in a 7-game Stanley Cup Finals (8).
The fact is thirty-eight year old athletes don't "take a year off" and come back normal. Not in this day and age. Just like an alcoholic doesn't "go out for one drink", Tim Thomas stepping away from the game would in my opinion signal the end of a career. Teams are not going to give big money to a goalie who has been out 12 months and is closing in on forty years old. He's accomplished quite a bit in his abbreviated career and seeing as he wants to play for a contender, there's not many spots open on teams on the verge of a Cup for a one year rental.
The alternative is he is using this stance for leverage in a trade. By threatening to sit out the season, he would still qualify against the Bruins cap for 5 million next season so naturally there would be some angst among Bruins executives to find a way to avoid that cap hit. Thomas' agent maintains that Thomas is not looking for a trade and that he's simply worn down from the past two seasons. I'm calling bluff...
It's no secret Thomas was agitated by the Boston media last season after missing out on the team's White House visit to see Obama and be welcomed for their Stanley Cup title. Whether or not that impacted the locker room was always a question that was downplayed but the idea Thomas could just want a change of scenery for his final years wouldn't be unrealistic. The issue is where would they move him to?
I can't imagine the Bruins would trade him to a fellow eastern conference team and given Thomas' desire to play for a contender, it makes it even tougher to find a trade partner. The second question that must be considered is what can you get back for a near-40 year old goalie who has played a ton of minutes the last two years and seems as content stopping the financial crisis as he does pucks. The Bruins would likely have to bite the bullet on most trades and take back .60-.75 cents back on the dollar.
With Tuuka Rask waiting in the wings the Bruins have a luxury most teams in this situation wouldn't have in a young, talented backup they can turn to. Rask was the starter for the Bruins only three years ago and though the team collapsed against Philadelphia in the 2nd round, also gained critical playoff experience that the Bruins have had as an edge over most oppositions in the postseason the last few seasons with their regular appearance in the postseason.
End of the day, I don't buy that Thomas is sitting out next year and coming back the year after. I don't see a scenario in which that becomes a realistic scenario. Retire or get traded, I think that's the two alternatives we're looking at right now.