Yes, I too speculated what the Blackhawks might be thinking after the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch suggested this past Sunday that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli was listening to offers for the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. But after talking to a Chicago scout and another longtime NHL scout during the Bruins' 3-0 win over Montreal on Sunday, it is clear that right now, even if the Bruins are actively shopping their goaltender — we're told they're just listening — it doesn't seem likely that Chicago or any other team would be willing to absorb Thomas' contract. After this season, the deal Thomas signed last April to stay in Boston has three years remaining at $5 million per season in addition to a no-movement clause.
"He is struggling and at that age , it's hard to justify taking on such a contract," one scout said of Thomas, who is 13-15-7 with a 2.52 goals against average and .915 save percentage this season. During last season's Vezina-winning campaign, he went 36-11-7 with a 2.10 GAA and .933 save percentage.
"Thomas has proven he can win, though, and maybe … if he is willing to waive [his no-movement clause] and the Bruins took back enough salary, it could happen. But right now, I just don't see that happening by the deadline."
A source close to Thomas told NESN.com on Monday that Thomas would be unwilling to waive his no-movement clause and that the netminder is very happy in Boston, having recently moved his family to the area. As of Tuesday afternoon, Thomas and the Bruins had yet to address Garrioch's report.
As for the Blackhawks, their scout claimed they'd be willing to ride it out with Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi. In fact, he suggested they've been very impressed of late with Niemi, who is 14-4-1 with a 1.93 GAA and .922 save percentage. But the bottom line, of course, is money and with only $1.1 million left in cap space for the Blackhawks, the Bruins would have to take some hefty salary back in a Thomas deal. That, of course, would go against one of the main reasons for even thinking about dealing Thomas in the first place: saving money.
As Tuukka Rask turned away shot after shot on Sunday and helped to pull his team out of its 10-game winless streak with his 36-save performance, it was evident that Rask was close to taking over the B's No.1 goalie spot. Head coach Claude Julien acknowledged the transition after Rask turned in a gem in his third-straight start.
"We've been looking at the way he's played, and technically, he's been pretty sound," Julien said. "Even those last two games, he got us a point. The reason we didn't get two points is because we didn't do our job offensively. He's been good.
"Right now, we're at a stage where you've got to go with the goalie that's playing the best. I think right now, he's playing the best. We know what Tim [Thomas] can do. Tim will be there at some point. There's no doubt. But right now, I think Tuukka's done a pretty good job."
As Julien pointed out, the Bruins haven't given up on Thomas and believe he can return to form. But right now they're going to ride their hot horse in Rask.
Naturally, with so much money sitting on the bench, there are going to be rumors and there likely will be plenty more. But a deal including Thomas is not likely to occur before the upcoming NHL trade deadline. Anything is possible, of course, but for now these reports appear to be Chiarelli doing his due diligence and exploring the market.