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Why Tim Thomas May Be Out of Options in Return to NHL

Apr 22, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas (30) makes a save against the Washington Capitals in the second period in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs at Verizon Center.  Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
Nicholas GossCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2013

It's not often that a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner is unable to find a home in free agency.

But unfortunately for Tim Thomas, the only person to blame for his current situation is himself.

He hurt his reputation by creating distractions with controversial Facebook posts in 2012 and bailing on the Boston Bruins last season, despite having another year left on his contract.

Per the Calgary Sun:

It's now three weeks into free agency and Thomas hasn't made much, if any, progress.

The 39-year-old goaltender, who, prior to the start of free agency, was said to be exploring his options for next season after taking a year off, is still available.

Three teams -- the Philadelphia Flyers, Florida Panthers and New York Islanders -- were originally rumoured to be interested in signing the 2011 Conn Smythe winner.

The Sun suggests that these teams are no longer options for Thomas based on their offseason activity at the goaltender position.

If you look around the league, there are very few situations, especially among playoff contenders, where Thomas would be able to start. Most clubs already have a quality starter in place. It's also difficult to imagine that Thomas would accept a backup role at this stage of his career.

One possible destination for him is the Edmonton Oilers. They will go into next year with Devan Dubnyk as the No. 1 goalie, but the 27-year-old still hasn't proven he's capable of succeeding in this role long-term for a playoff contender.

If Dubnyk struggles early in the season and Edmonton starts going down the draft lottery route again, it wouldn't be surprising if general manager Craig MacTavish made a desperate move for a veteran like Thomas to get back into the playoff race.

If playoff contenders aren't interested in Thomas, making a comeback is going to be incredibly difficult. A rebuilding team would be foolish to waste financial resources on Thomas when its goal isn't to make the playoffs. The better option for these clubs is to let young goalies develop and earn valuable NHL experience. Signing Thomas would prevent that from happening.

Complicating matters for Thomas is the fact that general managers have better options to pursue if they want to upgrade their roster.

Buffalo Sabres star Ryan Miller, who has just one more year left on his contract for a team in a rebuild, has been involved in trade rumors (via TSN's Pierre LeBrun) since last season. Another goalie that appeared in trade rumors (via The Fourth Period) recently was St. Louis Blues starter Jaroslav Halak, who's also entering the final year of his deal.

Both Miller and Halak are at least six years younger than Thomas and have a combined 60 games of playoff experience. If a playoff contender wants to make a bold move for a veteran netminder before training camp or the trade deadline, these two players are better options than Thomas.

The most likely avenue back to the NHL for Thomas might be taking over for a starting goaltender on a contending team that suffers an injury. The list of contending teams with less-than-stellar backups includes the Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers and Oilers.

But even in that situation, signing Thomas midseason when he's not in real hockey shape and hasn't played in an NHL game since April of 2012 wouldn't be an ideal move for any club.

Thomas, his agent, or both, may have miscalculated the amount of interest he would generate on the free-agent market. If his only option is to retire, it would be a disappointing end to a remarkable and eventful career.

It's still too early to rule out a comeback for Thomas, but the amount of options available to him appears to be quite small right now.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, as well as the 2013 NHL draft.

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