Tim Thomas Trade Talk, Bruins’ Free Agent Possibilities and Other Hockey Thoughts

Tim Thomas Trade Talk, Bruins' Free Agent Possibilities and Other Hockey ThoughtsWhile the playoffs roll on toward an inevitable clash between rival coasts with Los Angeles set to meet the winner of Hudson River showdown between the Devils and the Rangers, the Bruins are well into their offseason planning after being eliminated in the opening round a month ago.

Despite the lack of action on the ice for the Bruins, there's been no shortage of questions about the club as fans look ahead eagerly to next season. I've done my best to answer as many as possible in this week's edition of the Bruins Mailbag.

As always, I'd like to thank all the readers who sent in questions and apologize in advance if I wasn't able to get to yours. Please keep submitting your questions and I'll answer as many of them as I can to help get everyone through the long summer ahead.

Doug, any chance we'll see the "Kessel Three" playing with the big team next year? [Tyler] Seguin is there and [Dougie] Hamilton looks like a pretty good bet, but does [Jared] Knight have enough yet?
— James Paul, St. John's 

There's a chance. As you said, obviously Seguin isn't going anywhere and Hamilton has a very good shot at making the team. Knight is the wild card. His performance at training camp has improved in each of the first two years he's attended, and a similar leap next fall would definitely put him in contention for a spot with the big club.

Knight hasn't done anything this year to temper the enthusiasm after his strong camp showing. He was a point-a-game player against in the regular season for London (26-26-52 in 52 games) and added 4-4-8 totals in 15 playoffs games despite a nagging ankle injury. He even earned bragging rights over Hamilton as London beat the defenseman's Niagara club for the OHL championship. Knight has another assist through three games at the Memorial Cup, where London is 2-1 and earned a spot in Sunday's final against the winner of Friday's matchup between host Shawinigan and QMJHL champion and defending Memorial Cup champ Saint John.

Playing in a pressure-packed situation like the Memorial Cup should further help prepare Knight to make a run at a spot in Boston, but he'll face some stiff competition from fellow OHLer Ryan Spooner and some of the club's older prospects in Providence, and there may be limited spots available depending on how active the Bruins are in free agency this summer.

Please explain to me why CapGeek has [Marc] Savard listed as a hit against the salary cap. With my disappointment of the first-round lost, I see the Bruins as a top contender each year for the next 3-7 years. But high salaries of injured players that sit out season after season make me wonder how we will continue to challenge if they affect our cap space. Doug, could you please shed some light on this? Savard, please retire, for the betterment of the team.
— Robert Laszewski, Cornwall, Ontario 

Savard counted against the cap last year because the Bruins did not need to place him on long-term injured reserve to free up cap space. Had they made any additional moves at the trade deadline that would have pushed them over the limit, they would have moved him to LTIR to make space as they did in 2010-11. Keeping Savard on the books did not prevent the Bruins from making any moves as the LTIR exemption was always open to the club if they needed to go over the cap by the amount of his cap hit.

The same situation will be in effect next season and for the remainder of Savard's contract. The Bruins will always have the ability to place him on LTIR and spend over the cap by that amount. There's no reason to force him to retire and absolutely no reason to put any pressure on him to formally retire. He was injured in a game after signing a guaranteed contract. He is entitled to receive every cent that contract is worth. To suggest that he should sacrifice any of his money for "the betterment of the team" is beyond insensitive. It's also totally unnecessary with the provisions for LTIR under the CBA.

Finally, while it is extremely unlikely that he will be able to play again considering his ongoing post-concussion symptoms, there is no reason to further burden him by eliminating that possibility, however remote, completely.

Do you think that [Chris] Kelly, [Gregory] Campbell, [Tuukka] Rask, [Benoit] Pouliot or [Joe] Corvo will be back next year with the Bruins? Do you think that the FA market will be small to maybe nothing this year due to their FA next year?
— Shawn, Gorham, Maine 

Well, this would probably be a good time to plug my ongoing series looking at each of the Bruins' free agents. That started off with some analysis of Kelly's situation on Monday that can be found here. Each of those entries is more detailed than I go here, so I'd encourage you to check them out.

For the Cliff's Notes version, I am confident that the Bruins will be able to re-sign Rask, who is a restricted free agent and still definitely their future in goal. Pouliot is also an RFA and will likely be tendered a qualifying offer to remain. Kelly is the most important of the unrestricted free agents and there is interest on both sides to keep him here, but his stellar season this past year will have plenty of other teams interested as well and it may be difficult retaining him at a price the Bruins are willing to pay. Kelly's status will impact Campbell's chances of staying, as the club may opt to go with a younger, cheaper alternative if they spend more on Kelly, while Kelly's departure would make retaining Campbell more imperative.

As for Corvo, I don't see any way he returns to Boston. He never really fit into Claude Julien's system and saw his playing time reduced as the season went on. He was even a healthy scratch for seven of the final 12 games of the regular season and was also out of the lineup for the final two playoff games even with Adam McQuaid also sidelined.

Would you say the fact we had major players injured and the lines jumbled up was why we lost so early in the postseason?
— Simon Elchami via Facebook 

Injuries were certainly a factor, and when you lose a series in overtime in Game 7 every element that goes into the game could be a difference-maker. That said, injuries are a part of the game and every team has to deal with them, especially in the postseason. It's not something that should be used as a crutch or excuse.

Would having Nathan Horton or Adam McQuaid in the lineup and Patrice Bergeron at 100 percent have made a difference in a series with all seven games decided by one goal? Probably, but you still have to play the game and the Bruins still had a formidable lineup with enough talent and experience to make a run. You can't take anything away from the Capitals. They played an excellent series, then proved it was no fluke by taking the top-seeded Rangers to seven games in second round in another series that was also a nail-biter throughout.

What’s the status on Tim Thomas' contract? How much time do we have before his contract is up and needs to be renewed? Also, did Seguin’s surgery go well?
— John Muise via Facebook 

Thomas is entering the final year of his current deal. His cap hit will remain $5 million, though his actual salary for 2012-13 will be $3 million as the four-year, $20-million deal he signed back in 2009 was slightly frontloaded with $6 million salaries in each of the first two years.

Thomas' no-trade protection does expire on July 1 of this year, which could put him in play for a possible deal, though Peter Chiarelli has stated that's not his intention at this point. Even if Thomas does play out the final year of this deal in Boston, it's unlikely he will be re-signed for any further seasons. The plan has long been in place for Rask to eventually succeed him and I don't think the Bruins can push that any further than one more year. The only way Thomas stays in Boston beyond this season is if he was willing to take a significant pay cut and played more of a backup role with Rask getting the bulk of the starts, and I really don't see that happening.

As for Seguin, there were no complications with the surgery, which took place a few days after the end of the Bruins' season. He was initially injured in March in a game in Florida, but played through it for the rest of the season. The procedure repaired a tendon in his left hand. The cast was removed two weeks after the surgery and last week he had the stitches removed here in Boston. He is expected to need 10 weeks overall to recover, and should be fine well before the start of camp.

Is there any truth in the Bruins adding a goalie from Swedish Elitserien to the roster?
— Veine Vikberg via Facebook 

It appears that may indeed be the case. While the Bruins have not officially confirmed it, there is a report from NHL.com that they have signed goalie Niklas Svedberg, who helped Brynas IF Gavle to the Elitserien title this season. Since that report is coming from the NHL's own web site, I imagine it can be trusted.

Svedberg, 22, posted a 1.70 GAA and a .947 save percentage in 13 games in the playoffs after compiling a 2.40 GAA and a .915 save percentage in 29 games in the regular season with Brynas. Svedberg would likely be ticketed for Providence next season, where he could team with Anton Khudobin, or he could be insurance for the Bruins if they were to lose Khudobin on waivers if they send him down.

The power play destroyed this team. The goaltending is still among the elite of the league. Any chance of trading [Anton] Khudobin or [Tuukka] Rask for some offensive help?
— Keith Curtis via Facebook 

The power play was definitely a weakness for the Bruins once again this season. They were able to overcome their shortcomings there last year as the Kings have done so far in this postseason, but it is still rare for teams to make a deep run in the playoffs without being more proficient on the power play. So, clearly that is an area the Bruins need to improve, whether it is through personnel additions or by changes to the strategy and tactics used on the man advantage.

I'm not sure that the surplus of goaltending the Bruins possess will be the means of fixing the problem though, at least not in the examples you used. Rask is about as close to untouchable as anyone on this team. I don't see him being part of any trade at this point. Khudobin could be used as a chip, though he isn't likely to land a major return, at least not on his own. He has not established himself in the NHL enough to have that kind of value, and the rest of the league knows that he could well be available on waivers if the Bruins retain both  Thomas and Rask.

Thomas is the wild card here. His age would limit the potential return somewhat, but the Bruins could explore what he would yield in a deal to improve the offense and still feel comfortable with a tandem of Rask and Khudobin. That's not to say the Bruins will trade Thomas, and in fact as mentioned above Chiarelli has stated he doesn't plan to deal him, but it is a more likely scenario than trading Rask. 

If we lose [Chris] Kelly and [Gregory] Campbell, do you think there's a chance the Bruins try make a trade for Dustin Brown?
— Wes LeJan via Facebook 

If the Bruins aren't able to re-sign both Kelly and Campbell, I would expect them to be active this summer in looking to acquire some veteran help up front to fill that void. While Brown would look great in a Bruins uniform and there were some rumors of him possibly being available at the trade deadline after the Kings acquired Jeff Carter, I don't see any way the Kings would be willing to part with him now.

Brown is having a monster postseason, leading the Kings with 7-9-16 totals in 14 games and is the heart and soul of that team. Los Angeles trading him would be like the Bruins trading Patrice Bergeron after last year's Cup run. It's just not going to happen. The Bruins will have to look elsewhere for help up front, whether it's to replace Kelly and Co. or simply to augment the lineup even if those guys are re-signed.

Have questions for Douglas Flynn’s mailbag? Leave them in the comments section below, send them to him via Twitter @douglasflynn or send them here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week. Be sure to check back to see if your question was answered.

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