In a conference call scheduled to discuss the signings of forwards Daniel Paille and Chris Bourque, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli spent the bulk of his time answering questions about two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Tim Thomas after Chiarelli confirmed reports that Thomas is likely to sit out the upcoming season.
“Tim came to me toward the beginning/middle of May through his agent and has said that he is seriously considering taking the year off,” Chiarelli said. “The reasons why, I’m not exactly sure, but he did give some reasons regarding the family, which obviously I respect wanting to spend more time with his family.
“As of right now I’m operating under the premise that there’s a strong possibility he’ll be taking the year off,” Chiarelli added. “And we’d have to go about our business without Tim Thomas for the year.”
Thomas, 38, has one year remaining on a four-year, $20 million deal. His actual salary in 2012-13 is scheduled to be $3 million, but his cap hit would be $5 million. That will remain on Boston’s cap even if he does not play.
Chiarelli stated he would suspend Thomas and could toll the contract, which would leave Thomas still owing that final year of service to the Bruins. Doing that would keep the cap hit on the Bruins’ books, however, even if he did not return to play that season either.
The Bruins still have solid options in goal with Tuukka Rask poised to take over the starting role, though he is a restricted free agent who still needs to be re-signed this summer. Anton Khudobin has a one-way deal for the final season of the two-year contract he signed last year and would assume the backup role in Boston if Thomas sits out.
Chiarelli stated he is confident in going forward with Rask and Khudobin as his netminding tandem and believes he has enough cap flexibility to build the roster he wants even with Thomas’ $5 million cap hit.
Chiarelli indicated he would place Marc Savard, who remains out indefinitely and is not expected to play again with post-concussion symptoms, on long-term injured reserve to get more cap space. Savard’s cap hit is slightly over $4 million, so that would cover the bulk of Thomas’ dead money on the cap.