Tim Thomas' Situation Presents Tough Choice for Potential Trade Partners

Riley Kufta@@RileyKuftaContributor IIIJune 2, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Goaltender Tim Thomas #30 of the Boston Bruins walks back to the locker room before the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on December 28, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The announcement that Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas is considering taking next season off was surely one of the bigger stories in the NHL, along with the Cup finals and the Nicklas Lidstrom retirement. 

Prior to the announcement, Thomas was expected to be a hot trade commodity this summer, as the Bruins are set to hand the reigns over to Tuukka Rask. 

But now that he's made his thoughts public, he's a risky investment at best. 

So let's take a look at how this could all play out. 

He could follow though with his thoughts and take next season off. Because he is over 35 years old, his salary would still be a hit on the Bruins' salary cap, which prevents them from adding essential pieces over the offseason. 

Of course, he could remain with the Bruins and make the decision that he does, in fact, want to play. In that case, he would be a backup. Even if Thomas is still capable of playing well, the Bruins need to show Rask that they're committed to him.

Because of this, trading Thomas once he decides to play would be the best-case scenario for the Bruins. But if that is after the entry draft or after the season commences, the potential trade partners would evaporate, leaving just a few teams with the need and assets to make it happen. 

Prior to this announcement, the ideal scenario for the Bruins was likely to trade Thomas at the entry draft, picking up draft picks and setting themselves up for a successful future. 

Lastly, the Bruins could still trade Thomas at the deadline as planned, but the pieces coming back would not be what they previously expected. 

Instead of just about every team in the league being interested, the list would then be reduced to just a few. These would have to be teams with playoff potential, who are in need of a starting goaltender, but have a young goaltender that could develop into a No. 1 after Thomas' contract ends. 

Not only would the number of teams interested in Thomas decrease, but his value would as well. Teams will not be willing to part with big-name players and prospects for a player who could end up being a $5 million cap hit without ever wearing the team's jersey. 

In my opinion, because of the circumstances that have unraveled, there are only three teams that could make take a chance on Thomas. These teams are the Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets. That said, a trade sending Thomas to Edmonton or Columbus would likely just give him a push towards taking the season off.

So really, that leaves the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche have more than enough money available to pay Thomas; and could even afford to pay him if he didn't play a game. With the amount of young talented players on the team, they also have the pieces to send the other way.

This would not only give the young Avalanche a player that has the ability to make them a playoff team, but time to watch Semyon Varlamov develop, and make an educated decision on whether or not he has the ability to be a franchise No. 1 goaltender.

While Colorado is a feasible option, the most likely candidate for Thomas would now be eliminated from the mix. This team is Chicago. 

Had Thomas not announced his thoughts, the Chicago Blackhawks would have been an ideal destination. Chicago fans are fed up with Corey Crawford, but it is far too early to give up on the young backstopper.

Thomas would add some much needed experience in net; the only position the Blackhawks lack experience, and immediately put the team into Stanley Cup contention. In addition, this would let Crawford work on his flaws, and try to reestablish himself as a No. 1 goaltender. 

Either way, the news about Thomas puts the Bruins at a serious disadvantage in trade negotiations, and if they are unable to trade him, he puts them at a serious disadvantage as a team next season.