Tim Thomas Traded: What Should The Boston Bruins Do With The New Cap Space?

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Tim Thomas Traded: What Should The Boston Bruins Do With The New Cap Space?
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On Thursday, the Boston Bruins traded goaltender Tim Thomas and his $5 million cap hit to the New York Islanders. This instantaneously leaves a previously cash-strapped squad in Boston with $7,047,738 in new cap space.

But, much like a fat bonus at work or a tax refund, this is not something that should be freely spent without forward thinking.

Actually, that is precisely the operative term here: forward. The Bruins may find themselves craving an additional one of those for the 2013 homestretch and postseason.

Based on how general manager Peter Chiarelli was quoted by ESPN Boston’s Joe McDonald, it seems as though the Bruins are financially and mentally prepared for that exact pursuit, as they should be. Said Chiarelli to McDonald:

We've got a good team and that doesn't mean we're gonna go out and get somebody because we have this cap space right now, but sometimes, in my experience, there are deals that come early and you have to be in the ballgame, and we're in the ballgame now. That was the proactive approach that we wanted to take.

Even when Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton return to action, one has to wonder if Boston has a satisfactory stable of 12 strikers to hold them up through the bigger games in April, May and, possibly, June.

For all of his decorated Calder Cup success, journeyman Chris Bourque might not be enough in the playoffs at this level. If there comes a time when head coach Claude Julien is compelled to impose a healthy scratch, will the likes of Ryan Spooner or Jamie Tardif—who have both made their NHL debut during the last two games—suffice as substitutes?

Beyond them, two-year and 71-game veteran Jordan Caron is rebuilding his form in the wake of recurrent injuries amidst a season spent exclusively in Providence so far.

Even if Bourque can instill enough comfort, it would be best to explore a deal at, or close to, the April 3 trade deadline in order to add a little more quantity and quality to the top-nine.

A readers' Q-and-A with Dallas Morning News reporter Mike Heika that was published last week yields some potentially enticing scenarios for Boston.

In an answer to one fan’s question about the state of the Dallas Stars, Heika wrote that, “If they do look like a non-playoff team, I could definitely see them dangling Ryder, Jagr, Morrow, Robidas, even Whitney.”

The players that he was referring to were Michael Ryder, Jaromir Jagr, Brenden Morrow, Stephane Robidas and Ray Whitney. Most notably, the first and last of the names that Heika listed ought to catch the attention of the New England faithful.

Until his Phoenix Coyotes gained traction at the right time en route to last year’s first-place finish in the Pacific Division, Whitney’s name circulated in trade chatter. If he enters the market for real this time, the Bruins will once again have a chance to obtain the ageless winger and use him as an essential replacement for Mark Recchi.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Better yet, it might not be a bad idea to entertain the thought of bringing back Ryder, who left for Dallas via free agency in 2011 after winning the Stanley Cup with the Bruins. That title was the culmination of a three-year relationship that began on the premise of reuniting Ryder with Julien, whom he played for in multiple cities earlier in his career.

While Ryder has been more prolific since his time in Boston, his power-play output and postseason numbers from those three years in the Bean stand out. Add the fact that, during portions of the 2011 homestretch and playoffs, he was linked up on the third line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, so he should have no problem transitioning back into a role with the Bruins.

Naturally, these proposals would depend on how the Stars’ season takes shape and what Dallas would request as a return package. The same holds true for any other hypothetical move.

In other trade talk, Stephen Weiss of the Florida Panthers has emerged. A recent tweet from Howard Berger of The Fan-590 in Ontario holds that both of the province's teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators, are interested in Weiss’ services.

If there is merit to Berger’s report, and if shoring oneself up while preempting a divisional rival from padding on offensive prowess is of any concern, then Weiss would be worth a look on Boston’s part as well.

Weiss, who will turn 30 on the day of the trade deadline, would come with a $3.1 million cap hit and is due to become a free agent this summer. The same holds true for the 32-year-old Ryder, whose cap hit is $3.5 million.

At $4.5 million, the 40-year-old Whitney is pricier, and his current contract lasts through 2013-14. That could make him a riskier acquisition, both in terms of his value on the ice next season and in regards to leaving enough money to re-sign other free agents or make other desired summer moves.

In turn, for the less than eight weeks between now and the deadline, Chiarelli should be on a keen lookout for sellers bearing reliable forwards that are due to hit free agency. Ryder and Weiss are just two subjects of speculation at this point, and Boston must keep all eyes and doors open as prospective acquisitions grow more realistic.

It surely ought to be a welcome task, though, and the Thomas trade makes it possible to open the wallets in Boston again.

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