Peter Chiarelli ‘Not Inclined’ to Trade Tim Thomas, Keeping Current Goalie Tandem Could be Tricky


Apr 28, 2012

Peter Chiarelli 'Not Inclined' to Trade Tim Thomas, Keeping Current Goalie Tandem Could be TrickyBOSTON — Tim Thomas has a no-trade clause that expires July 1, prior to the start of the final season of his four-year, $20-million deal.

He just turned 38, stirred up controversy with his polarizing political stances and is coming off a season in which he played well but didn't come close to matching the historic campaign he put together last year. Oh, and the Bruins have a talented young netminder patiently waiting in the wings in Tuukka Rask, not to mention a capable understudy in Anton Khudobin, who will be on a one-way deal next year.

It's not surprising that convergence of circumstances has let to plenty of speculation that Thomas could be on the move this summer. But on Friday, each of the principals involved — Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, Rask and Thomas himself — tried to put the brakes on those runaway rumors.

Asked about how he sees the club's goaltending situation playing out next season at Friday's breakup day at the Garden, Chiarelli indicated he was in no rush to break up a tandem that has been so solid over the last three seasons.

"I view it pretty much the same way I saw it going into the last summer, the biggest difference being that Tuukka obviously didn't play towards the end because of his injury," Chiarelli said, before quickly adding, "for me there's no uncertainty there with regard to him being back and healthy.

"I know I've seen speculation about moving a goalie and all that stuff, but certainly I'm not inclined to do that," Chiarelli continued. "Tim didn't have statistically the year he had before, but I thought he had a very good year. We have, if not the best, one of the top two or three goalie tandems in the league."

Rask is coming off a strained groin and abdomen that sidelined him for the final five weeks of the regular season and start of the playoffs, but he returned to dress as Thomas' backup in the final two games against Washington. On Friday, Rask declared himself "100 percent" and was not worried about any future issues with the injury.

A bigger stumbling block could be Rask's restricted free agent status this summer. He needs a new deal and is due to get a raise on the $1.25 million salary he made this past year. Rask and the Bruins haven't opened talks yet, but both sides are confident an agreement can be reached.

Money won't necessarily be the biggest obstacle. Instead, the plan of succession in goal may be most important.

"I think there's a clear plan," Rask said. "I think everybody's been talking about it for a long time now. It's not about the money — it's more about what's good for everybody. I've always said I like it here, and I think we have a great group of guys and the organization is great, so I don't see why anybody wouldn't want to be here. In my case it's the same thing, I love it here and now we've just got to make things work."

But can it work for another year with Thomas sharing the crease with Rask? The finances could be tricky, especially if the cap goes down when the new CBA is implemented in September. Thomas' $5 -million cap hit and a healthy raise for Rask will tie up a lot of resources at one position.

Chiarelli declined to discuss any specifics about the numbers or any other issues to be discussed with Rask's representatives but expressed confidence that a deal would be reached.

"I'm not going to talk about negotiations," Chiarelli said. "But he's a guy that's unsigned, and we want to sign him, and he's been an integral part of a strong du,o and I hope that that would continue, and that's where I'll leave it."

Rask has shown patience in being the junior partner in that duo, and he appears willing to do that for another year if Thomas stays through the remainder of his contract. Rask doesn't see any similarities to the Canucks' situation, where incumbent Roberto Luongo is likely to be dealt after youngster Cory Schneider usurped his role in the playoffs.

"We've never had a problem with it," Rask said. "I think Timmy has one more year left on his contract. The situation is kind of different in Vancouver, the one guy [Luongo] has what 10 years on his contract? And the other guy [Schneider] is up. But we always just work hard with each other and we compete with each other, but at the end of the day it's just who's at his best plays. It's pretty honest competition, so we've never had a problem with it."

Thomas agreed, bristling at any insinuation that there would be friction between the two netminders.

"The media likes to make goaltending battles within a team into a competition between those two guys," Thomas said. "I don't think me and Tuukka look at it that way. It's always just a competition against ourselves to play to the highest level we can, and as long as we're playing to the highest level that we can as individuals, then why set it up in a manner that there may be some tension? I think I've been fortunate to be playing with Tuukka for three years now, and there's been no tension whatsoever."

Thomas also said he hasn't thought about being traded despite the rumors and pending expiration of his no-trade clause. But he was also hesitant when asked if he envisioned retiring as a Bruin.

"That's so early, why even get into that?' Thomas said. "Who knows? Who knows how long I'll be here, or not. We'll cross that bridge when we get there."

Rask, meanwhile, likes the status quo of teaming with Thomas to give the Bruins two strong options in goal.

"I think it's a situation every team wants to be in," Rask said. "We've been lucky to have that for a couple of years and hopefully we can keep it that way."

But if they don't, will Rask be ready to be the No. 1?

"I think there's only one answer to that," Rask said. "Even if I wasn't I would say yes, but I feel good about that. I'm not looking forward to that because I like working with Timmy, but if that would be the case, then yes, I'm ready."

But are the Bruins ready to part ways with Thomas and turn the reins over to Rask? Chiarelli said no on Friday, but he may have to explore his options as the offseason progresses.

Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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