PITTSBURGH - Tim Thomas’s no-movement clause would have expired on July 1, the date the fourth and final season of his $20 million contract officially begins.
But Thomas has waived the clause, freeing the Bruins to explore a trade before his movement protection was set to expire. According to general manager Peter Chiarelli, Thomas waived the clause 7 to 10 days ago. It is yet another indication that Thomas’s career in Boston is over.
Several teams have inquired about Thomas’s availability. Chiarelli said those calls have been in relation to the cap floor, which projects to be approximately $54 million in 2012-13. Chiarelli also said several other teams have called to confirm Thomas’s plans of sitting out next season; Chiarelli has told those clubs that Thomas does not intend to play.
Even if Thomas doesn’t play next season, an acquiring team could apply his $5 million cap hit toward its number, potentially reaching the required cap floor.
“At the very least, he’s being cooperative in that sense if we decide to trade him,’’ Chiarelli said. “It may not seem to make much of a difference because that no-trade clause will be gone after the end of this month.’’
Chiarelli said Thomas issued no preferences on teams to which he’d welcome a trade. Chiarelli didn’t disclose the identities of the clubs that have kicked the tires on the goaltender. According to www.capgeek.com, Colorado, Nashville, Phoenix, Winnipeg, and the Islanders are the teams with the lowest cap commitments toward next season. A team that acquires Thomas would be responsible for the goalie’s $3 million salary should he decide to play in 2012-13.
“If you look at it, there’s $5 million, which is the cap hit, that a team doesn’t have to pay,’’ Chiarelli said when asked about a trade possibility. “So yes, on that basis, I think there would be interest.’’
Chiarelli emphasized there is no urgency for a floor team to acquire Thomas. The floor could decrease upon the introduction of the next collective bargaining agreement.
The Bruins could also waive Thomas if a trade doesn’t take place. If Thomas is placed on waivers, any team can claim him without giving up assets. If Thomas is not claimed, the Bruins will be responsible for his cap hit.
The Bruins are eager to shed Thomas’s $5 million hit. They would not expect to receive much in return, if anything.
The Bruins might even have to add picks or prospects to rid themselves of Thomas’s cap obligation. Or they might have to take back a bad contract.
If the Bruins can shed all or part of Thomas’s cap money, they can apply some of it toward Tuukka Rask. The 25-year-old Rask, now the Bruins’ No. 1 goalie, will become a restricted free agent July 1. Rask is coming off a two-year, $2.5 million contract and is expected to command at least double that annual salary. Rask’s agent is Bill Zito, who also represents Thomas. Anton Khudobin is likely to be Rask’s backup.
It’s possible, although unlikely, that Rask goes to arbitration, for which he can file July 5. The team can file for arbitration the following day. Both sides would prefer to negotiate an extension.
Thomas has not made a public statement since his June 3 Facebook post, in which he declared his intention not to play in 2012-13. Chiarelli said it’s not 100 percent that Thomas will sit out, but the Bruins are assuming he will not change his mind.
There remains a chance that Thomas is not traded or waived. If so, the Bruins will designate him a suspended player for next season and be responsible for his cap hit. The Bruins will have the option to toll the remaining year of his contract forward to 2013-14. Thomas would then be required to fulfill the year with the Bruins.
The Bruins, however, would be unlikely to welcome Thomas back. He would be 39 at the start of 2013-14 and coming off a dark season. While Thomas has thrived on being doubted, it’s difficult to project the two-time Vezina Trophy winner could regain his form after a year off.
Thomas waived his no-movement clause two years ago at this time. Prior to the 2010 draft in Los Angeles, the Bruins considered trading him.