The Boston Bruins traded goaltender Tim Thomas to the New York Islanders on Thursday for a conditional second-round pick (according to Arthur Staple of Newsday), even though the 38-year-old veteran reportedly will not end his self-imposed retirement in Colorado (via TSN's Pierre LeBrun).
Reports out there are correct: #Isles have acquired G Tim Thomas for a conditional 2nd-rounder in either 2014 or 2015.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) February 7, 2013
This trade will have an impact on both teams' short- and long-term plans, so let's break down what this trade means for the Bruins and Islanders.
What This Trade Means for the Islanders
If Islanders general manager Garth Snow is planning on making any more moves before the April 3 trade deadline, getting Thomas and his $5 million cap hit for this season will help ensure his team stays above the cap floor for the entire year.
The deadline to get to the cap floor is approaching, and since veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky's contract situation is unsettled at the moment, the Islanders needed to make a move, as Staple explains.
Move is cap-related -- #Isles needed to be over the floor by tomorrow, needed insurance against not being cap compliant the entire season.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) February 7, 2013
Fortunately for the Islanders, they may be getting this cap help for nothing because the conditional second-round pick will only be sent to Boston depending on Thomas' plans, as TSN's Bob McKenzie explains.
The Boston Bruins only get a draft pick from the Islanders for Tim Thomas if he reports to them or any other team if NYI trade his rights.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 7, 2013
Which is ideal for NYI. No acquisition price. NYI can toll contract to next year if they like, continue to get cap benefit in perpetuity.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 7, 2013
New York already has a No. 1 goaltender in Evgeni Nabokov, who has a respectable 4-3-1 record so far this year. However, if Thomas decided to play this season, he would certainly be a huge upgrade over Nabokov.
Thomas is a top-tier goaltender and could make the Islanders a playoff contender if he suited up, but this scenario seems extremely unlikely to happen.
This is a great trade for the Islanders because it gives them more salary cap flexibility, and if Thomas doesn't report to the team, they won't have to pay him his pro-rated $3 million salary for this season.
When Thomas becomes a free agent on July 5, the Islanders can let him walk, or they can "toll" his contract, which would add another year onto his current deal. They would be able to do this if he didn't play in 2012-13.
Tolling his contract might also give the Islanders a valuable trade asset for next season if Thomas decides to play in 2013-14 because teams may be interested in acquiring him to strengthen their goaltending. The Islanders could move him for a prospect and/or a draft pick in that situation.
Snow has not announced what he plans to do with Thomas' contract.
What This Trade Means for the Boston Bruins
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has once again proven why he's one of the league's finest front office executives.
Thomas was probably never going to play for the Bruins again. The team has moved on and is very happy with Tuukka Rask as its No. 1 goaltender. The 25-year-old goalie is 6-1-1 with a 1.96 GAA this season and has been Boston's best player through its first nine games.
After drafting Malcolm Subban with the 24th overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft, the Bruins have plenty of goaltending depth for the future and didn't need to keep Thomas beyond this season.
In this trade, Chiarelli freed up $5 million in salary cap space for the Bruins to use before the trade deadline to add an impact player to the lineup for another Stanley Cup run, which would likely be a top-six forward since Tyler Seguin is the only player on the team's roster with high-end offensive skill.
"It doesn't mean we'll go out and get somebody now because we have cap space," Chiarelli said Thursday.
"But if there are good deals that come early, you have to be in the ballgame. We're in the ballgame now. That was the proactive approach that we wanted to take here."
Calgary Flames forward Jarome Iginla could be one target for the Bruins. His contract expires at the end of the season, and he could choose to be traded to a Stanley Cup contender instead of re-signing with the Flames. Right now, there are no reports that Iginla wants to be traded, but it's a situation to monitor as the April 3 deadline approaches.
Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss and Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry are two other possible trade targets for the Bruins to pursue for some extra scoring depth and to upgrade their awful power play. Both players will be UFAs on July 5 unless they are re-signed before then.
Thomas had a phenomenal career in Boston and was a major part of the team's Stanley Cup championship during the 2010-11 season.
"We don't win the Cup without him," said Chiarelli.
Thomas won two Vezina Trophies with the Bruins (2008-09 and 2010-11) and the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2011 as playoff MVP.
He was a distraction at times last season, such as when he decided to not attend the team's visit to the White House in January. But ultimately, Thomas will be remembered as arguably the best goaltender in the storied history of the franchise.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. All salary information courtesy of Capgeek, and all quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.