Tim Thomas: Well Worth the Price Tag

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Tim Thomas: Well Worth the Price Tag
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

WEEI columnist Joe Haggerty wrote an interesting piece this morning headlined, "A Good Day for Thomas, But What About the B‘s?

He mentions many things—the good, the bad, the pros, the cons, and the all-important salary cap issues—regarding the alleged $5-mil per year for Boston Bruins netminder Tim Thomas. It’s an interesting read and something worth taking a look at.

However, there is one teeny-tiny thing I want to talk about within his piece. It’s only one sentence, but I decided to dig a little deeper into this sentence, and share what would have went down if this had happened.

“If the B’s had waited until this summer, it’s possible that they could have saved themselves as much as a million on the all-important salary cap hit.”

After I read this, I was a bit shocked. I had to re-read it once more…and once more again, asking myself the same thing, over and over, “If they waited until the summer?!”

Perplexing is an understatement. The only thing that I could come up with for an answer is, “He’d be in another city.”

Detroit.

The first day of summer is June 21, 2009.

The first day of NHL free agency is July 1, 2009.

So, that is a lot of time between now and then. A lot can happen.

Thomas is arguably the front-runner for the Vezina Trophy this year. He leads all NHL goalies in goals-against-average (GAA) and save percentage (SV %). His career-high 33 wins this season ranks him sixth in the league, and with just 51 games played this season, that’s a staggering winning-percentage.

So, if he wins the Vezina, guess what? The price tag goes up!

The Bruins have turned Boston into believers ever since the tight playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens last year. What was supposed to be four or five games and out, the Bruins stretched the series to the max, before finally losing game seven.

This year, the believers stayed true and the B’s have far from disappointed. Just one win away—or a Washington loss—from clinching the Eastern Conference, Boston (110 points) will have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

Just three points behind the San Jose Sharks (113 points) for the Presidents Trophy as the best team in the NHL, the Bruins are certainly a legitimate team for Stanley Cup contention.

So, if the Bruins make it to the promise land with Timmy Thomas as the anchor, guess what? The price tag goes up, again!

How much more? Well, that’s anyone’s guess, but I still firmly believe that Detroit would have made a big splash for Thomas come July 1.
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Minnesota Wild extended the contract of 31-year-old goalie Niklas Backstrom on March 3, 2009. He’s having a heck of a season, ranking in the top-eight in the NHL in every major category thus far. However, he’s now getting paid $6-mil per year over the next four years, for never making it out of the Western Conference quarterfinals.

The Chicago Blackhawks signed former Washington Capitals netminder, Cristobal Huet to a four-year, $22.5-mil contract on the very first day of free agency. Huet, now 33 years old, is having a mediocre season at best, splitting time with 36-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin.

There is in fact a dire need for proven goalies, and the Detroit Red Wings are a prime example.

Although the Red Wings may have the most prolific offense in the league (3.60 goals-per-game), their goaltending ranks 21st with an average of 2.95 goals-against per-game.

Chris Osgood, now 36 years old, ranks 45th in the NHL with a .884 SV percentage, and 41st in GAA with 3.17. He is owed just $2.55-million over the next two seasons, a small price to pay to back up someone like Thomas.

Now splitting most of the time, Ty Conklin has emerged into more of the everyday goalie than his original backup plan. The 33-year-old is putting up respectable numbers this year, far superior than Osgood’s, and will become an unrestricted free-agent at the end of the season—one of Detroit’s 11 free agents.

To survive on offense can only get you so far.

To rely on strong goaltending will get you further.

Now, we just have to “hurry up and wait” to see if players like Phil Kessel and David Krejci can remain in the black and gold uniforms. Boston has roughly $10-mil in cap-space for the upcoming 2009-10 season, about the same as Detroit.

So whether it is three million, four million, or five million per season—to hold onto a rock in net like Thomas is well worth it.

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