Bruins: Tim Thomas
BOSTON -- Florida Panthers goaltender Tim Thomas was jovial and had a good sense of humor when asked about his new teammate, fellow goalie Roberto Luongo.
The Panthers acquired Luongo in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday afternoon, and he returns to the organization he spent the early part of his career with from 2000 to 2006.
On Tuesday, after the Bruins defeated the Panthers 4-1 at TD Garden, Thomas was asked about his new teammate.
“I did have one good line that probably somebody else has already thought of: It looked like [Panthers GM] Dale [Tallon] went kicking some tires and found one that needed pumping,” Thomas said with a laugh, referring to a comment Luongo made during the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.
During that series, the opposing goaltenders traded verbal jabs with Luongo first saying of Thomas, “I’ve been pumping his tires ever since the series started and I haven’t heard one nice thing he had to say about me.”
Thomas responded by saying, “I didn’t realize it was my job to pump his tires.”
The Cup finals in 2011 ended with the Bruins hoisting the Stanley Cup, and Thomas earning the Conn Smythe trophy. Now the one-time rivals are teammates.
“It’ll be interesting, but you know what, I don’t know how things are going to work out, but assuming I’m staying in Florida, it’ll be interesting,” Thomas said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be fun.”
Thomas stressed that he does not consider Luongo an enemy.
“No, not at all,” Thomas said. “I wasn’t an enemy with him even [in 2011]. I was so focused on playing and doing my job and that’s the way I was looking at it. So, yeah, we’re both pros, both been in the league a long time. I have a few more years on him, obviously, but we both have a lot of experience to bring to the team.”
Thomas said he found out about the trade on the way to the Garden before Tuesday’s game.
“Surprised, obviously, at first just like probably a lot of people who were caught off guard and didn’t see that one coming,” Thomas said. “But then I had to get ready to play the game against obviously a difficult team.”
Thomas, who signed a one-year deal with the Panthers during training camp, believes he can co-exist with Luongo in Florida.
“Yeah, of course,” Thomas said. “He’s a good goalie and from everything I’ve heard about him he’s got good character. I don’t know what their plans are. I don’t really know anything at this point. I can’t say too much.”
Since Luongo is back in the mix with the Panthers, the immediate speculation was that Florida would trade Thomas. During a conference call Tuesday night, Tallon said he would speak with Thomas.
After Tuesday’s game, Thomas hesitated when asked if he wanted to stay rather than ask to be traded to a contender.
“Uh, yeah,” he said. “Yeah, but now I’ve got to see the situation and see what they’re thinking. I’d like to check in with Dale before I comment on anything.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien was asked about Thomas and Luongo being teammates.
“We'll see if that's still the case tomorrow,” Julien said with a smile. “Maybe I can comment on it tomorrow after the deadline. Fair enough? I know it's a lot of tire pumping.”
With two defenders draped all over him, Thornton made a nice move out of the right corner and beat Thomas with a strike to the top left side of the net at 8:14 of the third period.
"The next whistle we had a shift down there and he said 'Are you kidding me?' He was actually laughing; he was as surprised as I was," Thornton said.
Thomas, of course, hates when someone scores on him -- whether it's in a game or at practice. That was the case during his eight-year tenure in Boston and Thornton witnessed it firsthand.
"I don’t know if I ever scored a goal on him in five years in practice, so that might have been my first right there," Thornton said with a laugh. "He seemed to stop me a lot in practice.
"Yeah we’ve played with him, we know how he plays," he added. "But that stuff doesn’t really go through my head when I’m coming out of the corner with the puck -- what his tendencies are. I’m kind of just looking for where I can go with it and hopefully it works out. Honestly, on that goal, [Daniel Paille] brought a lot of guys to him and created a lot of space for myself."
The Bruins are 26-4 when Thornton scores a goal.
The last time the Bruins saw Thomas on the ice, it was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on April 25, 2012, at TD Garden. It was Thomas' final game as a member of the Bruins.
After a 16-month hiatus to spend more time with his family, the 39-year-old netminder returned to the NHL this season with the Panthers and was between the pipes against his former team at BB&T Center in Sunshine, Fla.
The Bruins got the best of their former teammate en route to the win, receiving goals from Daniel Paille, Dougie Hamilton and Smith, while goalie Tuukka Rask made 27 saves.
Thomas, the former Vezina, Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winner, finished with 37 saves. Kris Versteeg and Jesse Winchester scored for the Panthers.
SAVE OF THE GAME: During his time as Thomas' backup in Boston, Rask witnessed many timely saves by his predecessor. On Thursday, it was a huge glove save by Rask in the first period that proved crucial. The Panthers' Tomas Fleischmann created a partial breakaway and attempted to slip a backhander past Rask, who made the glove save to keep the game scoreless. On the ensuing faceoff, the Bruins gained control and broke out of their zone when defenseman Dennis Seidenberg moved the puck to Paille, who swooped in and beat Thomas to the short side as Boston gained a 1-0 lead at 3:45.
POWER PLAY: The Bruins connected on their first man-advantage of the game, snapping an 0-for-12 skid. Boston's top unit capitalized when defenseman Zdeno Chara, who was camped out in front, screened Thomas as Hamilton's shot from the point made its way through traffic and beat Florida's goalie to the top right corner to give Boston a 2-0 lead at 12:47 of first period.
O-ZONE: After tweaking his lines the past two games, Bruins coach Claude Julien went back to the lineup he began the season with to start the game. Brad Marchand was back on the second line, along with Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson. Reilly Smith returned to the third line with Chris Kelly and Jordan Caron. However, Julien switched back early in the first period and Marchand returned to the third line, with Smith on the second.
HEADS UP: Smith had his bell rung early in the second period when the Panthers' Mike Weaver applied a clean hit and crushed Smith into the end wall as he was trying to play the puck to the right of Thomas. Smith was slow to get to his feet and skate to the bench, but did not miss a shift.
SCRATCHED: Julien recently said he would find a way to rotate his defensemen, and that was evident against the Panthers. It was Adam McQuaid's turn to sit as he was the healthy scratch. In five games, McQuaid has one assist with a plus-2 rating. Sophomore blueliner Dougie Hamilton returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past two games.
Defensive pairings: Zdeno Chara-Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski-Dennis Seidenberg, Torey Krug-Johnny Boychuk
CONNECTIONS: Thomas isn't the only link between the Bruins and the Panthers. Seidenberg and Campbell both played for the Panthers. Florida assistant coach Craig Ramsay served as an assistant in Boston, while fellow Florida assistant Gord Murphy played parts of two seasons for the Bruins. Florida forwards Brad Boyes and Kris Versteeg also played for the Bruins.
Thomas, 39, was invited to training camp on a professional tryout agreement and he recently signed a one-year deal with the Panthers. A two-time Vezina Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion, Thomas’ last game in the NHL came on April 25, 2012, when the Bruins lost to the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs.
The common refrain around the Bruins is if there’s one player that can take 16 months off and still have success, then Thomas is that guy.
“Let’s not forget what he’s brought to our team in past years. He’s been a good soldier for us, he played well,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “We can say what we want about all the other stuff that’s been written, but he’s a good athlete and for him to come back after being off for a year, at that age, and to be able to perform as he has so far, it’s pretty incredible for him. I’m happy for him. As a player, I know he was a bit of a different person as far as his thoughts, but it never affected me coaching him and not respecting the person.”
The Bruins will play the Panthers on Oct. 17 at Sunrise, Fla. Boston will host the Panthers on Nov. 7.
Thomas has not played in the 16 months since he decided to step away from the game to spend time with his family. The Panthers signed the 39-year-old netminder to a professional tryout agreement (PTO) on Monday.
If he makes the team out of camp, circle Nov. 7 on your calendar. That’s when the Bruins will host the Panthers at TD Garden. The Bruins also play the Panthers in Florida on Oct. 17.
“I was happy to see him coming back,” Bruins No. 1 goalie and former Thomas backup Tuukka Rask said Wednesday. “Like I’ve said before, I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened and it did. I’m hoping that he’s going to make the team, get a good contract and get a good year out of it.”
Thomas said Tuesday he feels refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to show he can still compete at this level, despite his hiatus.
“If he wants to be good, he will be good, there’s no doubt about that,” Rask said. “I don’t think it’s too big of an issue to take a year off and come back. I’m sure he kept himself sharp, saw some pucks and it won’t be that big of a deal to come back. He’s definitely the guy to make it happen.”
Thomas said he didn’t think about hockey over the past year until he watched his former team reach the Stanley Cup finals last June. It was then that the competitive juices began to flow and he started to train for his possible comeback.
“Obviously, he was here for a while and has deep relationships with a bunch of our players,” Rask said. “I’m sure he was emotional about watching [the Cup finals] and he felt the itch, I bet when he saw us play and make that run again after he was a big part of it a couple of years ago. I think it’s good that he didn’t think about hockey during the year. He just totally cleared his mind and he’ll be fresh coming out.”
Rask wasn’t the only Bruins player that thinks Thomas can return to the NHL.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Bruins forward Gregory Campbell. “He’s a competiveness guy and I know, personally, stepping away from the game for any reason, whether it’s an injury or the lockout, this is a game we play because we all love it. It’s obviously a job and a career but we all love playing the game. It’s only natural for anyone to miss the game. I know with Timmy’s competitive nature doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s one of the most competitive guys I’ve played with.
“Seeing the success we had last year I’m sure brought him back to 2011 when we can all attest to the fact that the longer you play in the playoffs the more fun it is. We’re fortunate on this team to have such a great group of guys and it’s fun to play. I’m sure those are some of the thoughts going through his mind.”
Campbell learned first-hand how tough it is to watch from the outside and how difficult it can be to get back into game shape due to a significant time off the ice.
“I’ll say this: It’s not easy for anybody to take that amount of time off and come back, but if anybody can do it I’m sure Timmy is a strong candidate,” Campbell said. “He likes to prove people wrong. He’s a super-competitive athlete and he’s a talented player as well and that will bode well for him. He obviously had his reasons to take some time off, so sometimes you can reflect a little bit, refresh your mind and body, come back and you feel that excitement for the game again. I think Timmy is going to do well.”
“You know what really gave me the itch? Watching the playoffs,” Thomas told reporters in Sunrise, Fla., where he is trying out for the Florida Panthers. “Actually, over the last season I didn’t watch hockey at all. But then when it came playoff time, I started to watch some hockey and it started to get the competitiveness juices flowing and I saw my former team, the Boston Bruins, and the success they had and I was so proud of those guys and what they did, what they accomplished last year, but it started to get the competitiveness juices flowing again.”
It has been 16 months since the 39-year-old Thomas declared he was sitting out the final year of his contract to spend time with his family. The surprise announcement thrust backup Tuukka Rask into the starter’s role, where he thrived last season.
During his hiatus, Thomas was off the radar, making his home in Colorado. He started a real estate business and built townhouses. He said he spent a lot of time with his kids and went on hunting trips. He said he even caught an alligator and turned it into a rug.
The Bruins last summer traded the rights to the two-time Vezina-winning Thomas to the New York Islanders, who made him a free agent when they decided not to toll his contract. Thomas returned to the ice in July, working out in Michigan, and on Monday agreed to a tryout deal with the Panthers.
Thomas’ departure from the Bruins was preceded by months of turmoil. He made headlines in January 2012 for skipping the team’s celebratory visit to the White House for political reasons. He faced heavy criticism for the move and his relationship with the media soured in the weeks that followed.
“My initial reaction after all that stuff was I was so surprised,” he said Tuesday. “Now, I don’t think about it at all. I’ve got better things to think about. I didn’t go out of my way to bring any political beliefs into that situation. I didn’t honestly feel I could go in good conscience to the White House. I had to give a reason for not going to the White House. I didn’t want to lie and say I was sick. I thought I gave, from my viewpoint, a very honest assessment of the situation. I just tried to leave it at that."
Thomas said the criticism bothered him but he has gotten over it.
“It did a little bit at first,” he said. “Over the course of the year I didn’t listen to the media at all. I’m not trying to do any digs, or whatever, and I moved past that and into a totally different place where now I’m focusing on different things and a totally different mindset. I have a new love for playing the game, a newfound appreciation for being able to play the game at this level and be part of a team. I just feel totally new.”
Thomas was asked Tuesday whether he had any regrets about how his tenure in Boston ended.
“That’s a hard one to answer,” he said Tuesday. “In the big picture do I regret it? No. I made the right decision for me and I made the right decision for my family. I’m very happy with what’s come out of it in my own personal life.
“Now, is it hard to leave an organization that gave me my opportunity to break into the NHL, and a place in the Northeast, especially Massachusetts that’s really accepted me as part of the family? Yeah, of course it’s hard to do that. Having said all things, it was the best decision to make for me and my family.”
Prior to stepping on the ice Tuesday morning in Florida, the last time he played in the NHL was on April 25, 2012, when the Bruins lost to the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at TD Garden.
That summer he decided to step away.
“I got tired and I needed a break,” Thomas said. “Now I’m energized and I’m looking forward to it. I feel great.”
“I think this organization is on the verge of a big turnaround and a big bounced back,” he said. “I’ve actually been through that in Boston before. When I first came into Boston in 2005-2006, that was a low point for the Boston Bruins and I was able to see that rise in that organization. The Florida Panthers are situated in a similar situation.
“My time in Boston was great. I was very fortunate to have the type of personal and team success there. Great teammates, great area, the people of that area allowed me to almost be part of their family. This is a totally new start, totally new place and I’m looking forward to what’s going to happen in the future here.”
Thomas wouldn’t speculate on how long he wants to play hockey, saying only he felt “rejuvenated, refreshed and ready to go.”
Part of the reason the Panthers decided to offer Thomas a tryout is to add some experience to the goaltending position. Florida’s starter is Jacob Markstrom, the 23-year-old Swede who went 8-14-1 with a 3.22 goals-against average last season.
“Nothing can replace experience is one of the things I’ve learned,” Thomas said. “I remember being a young guy in the league and having people talk about experience and thinking experience is overrated,” Thomas said. “Now that I’m on the other end of the spectrum and I’ve been through it, I realize experience can be beneficial.”
Thomas quotes were courtesy a NBC6 Miami reporter, who was at the Panthers’ practice session.
He hasn’t been called out for failing to pump the tires of an opposing netminder, but beyond that Tuukka Rask’s run through these Stanley Cup playoffs is beginning to look a lot like the stretch Tim Thomas put together en route to the Cup in 2011.
Through the first two rounds and the first three games of the conference finals, Rask -- who has surrendered just two goals over 11 periods to the best offensive team in the league -- actually has a better save percentage and goals-against average than Thomas had at this point in 2011 (see table at right). Thomas, of course, went on to win the Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Whether Tuukka’s run will be judged as good as Timmy’s will ultimately be determined if the Bruins are hoisting the Cup at the end of the month, but it’s interesting to compare the two. Thomas’ save percentage of .940 in the 2011 playoffs is the exact number Rask sports at present.
With the Bruins a series win away from returning to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in three seasons, Thomas' name and historic performance in the B's 2011 Cup run have been brought up many times this year. After all, he was a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, and a Conn Smythe winner, too.
Through the first 13 games of Thomas' historic playoff run in 2011, he was 9-4 with a 2.39 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. Rask is 9-4 with a 2.10 GAA and a .933 save percentage in 13 postseason games this spring.
They may be similar statistically, but Thomas and Rask are completely different. Just ask Bruins coach Claude Julien.
"Tuukka's normal, really. And you know what, I'm not going to get into Timmy," Julien said with a laugh. "I'm just saying Tuukka is normal like when I say normal as I've ever seen in a goaltender, I could talk to him during periods and go talk to him about a couple of things. I wouldn't dare do that with any other goaltender I've had in the past. They're in their bubble. But with him he listens and it's no problem, so on and so forth. So that's Tuukka. Very relaxed but you've seen the other side of him when things don't go his way, he's got a temper. That to me is normal."
Thomas of course could still be playing for the Bruins, but he decided to take this season off and the Bruins eventually traded his rights to the New York Islanders as a paper trade only.
That opened the door for Rask this season and he's proving his worth in the playoffs. Julien described the difference between the two on the ice.
"When you look at Tuukka when he's at his best he's straight to the puck," the coach said. "Tim is more of a battler. Timmy wasn't about style, it was about battle and as I said at the end of the day it's about making saves. You respect the Dominik Hasek back in the day as much as you respect the guy who is like Patrick Roy, great butterfly goaltender and those two guys had different styles but at the end of the day you take any one of them so we're in that same situation right now where we had Timmy make the save when you had to make the saves and didn't matter how he made them as long as he did, and Tuukka probably technically a little bit more, I don't know if I want to say stable, but he's more of a guy that will follow the puck getting him square to it most of the time."
But the Bruins have a solid core and the team is already built to win now, so just because Chiarelli has some money to play with, don't think he's going to hurry up and spend it.
"I may be wrong, but available players are going to be scarce," Chiarelli said during a conference call Thursday to announce the Thomas trade to the New York Islanders. "Because of the condensed season, we're trying to figure out the market, when it starts and the ebbs and flows of it. I wanted to be in a position where if something comes along now, because sometimes there are deals when guys try to move guys early, I wanted to be in a position that we would be in the ballgame.
"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."
NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders have acquired goaltender Tim Thomas in a trade with the Boston Bruins, the teams said.
The trade sent back a conditional second-round pick in 2014 or 2015 to the Bruins.
The move is believed to be purely a cap-related transaction. While the Bruins receive cap space from clearing the last year of Thomas' four-year, $20 million contract from the books, the Islanders add some insurance to reach the cap floor.
The 38-year-old Thomas has not played this season, electing to sit out. A source told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun that Thomas still doesn't want to play this season. In addition, the Bruins did not need his permission to trade his rights; his no-trade clause disappeared after last season.
"Thomas' situation is status quo," Thomas' agent, Bill Zito, told ESPN The Magazine's Craig Custance. "As far as I know none of this had anything to do with Tim. In fact, it was news to us when we learned of it."
To read the full story, click HERE.
Said to be content/happy living with his family in Colorado, Thomas not interested in fulfilling final contract yr with BOS/any other team.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 6, 2013
Thomas is entering the final season of a contract that will pay him $3 million and will cost the Bruins $5 million against the cap. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has said if Thomas doesn't play, he would suspend the goalie.
But even if the Bruins suspend Thomas, the cap hit still would count against the team for next season. However, the Bruins would gain $4 million of that back by placing injured center Marc Savard on long-term injury reserve.
"If he wasn't playing I would have to suspend him," Chiarelli said of Thomas in June. "His cap number would still be on the cap. We would have relief through Savard being on the cap, so it would almost be a wash that way, and that's the way we would proceed through the year. We're not seriously cramped from the cap perspective. As I've said, we've got Marc Savard on LTI and he's at $4 million, and Tim's at $5 million, so do the math and we're maybe a million short. So we're not seriously disabled there. It's something that I'll approach delicately with Tim."
Jacobs, the son of owner Jeremy Jacobs, expressed confidence that the Bruins will be able to unload Thomas in a trade despite his intention to sit out the 2012-13 season.
"Timmy's going to do what he wants to do, and you know what? I bet we'll get something for him if he elects not to come back," Charlie Jacobs told WEEI. "And there is in fact a floor for the salary cap this upcoming season, I can see teams trading for that $5 million cap [hit] to bring their team up to the floor.
"So I think there will be a market for a player, as ironic as it sounds, there will be a market for a player who's not going to play next year."
Jacobs also questioned Thomas' thought process for skipping the entire season.
"I'm having a hard time wrapping my ahead around that whole line of logic," Jacobs said. "I respect Timmy and I respect his decision, but at 38. ... I want to say he'll be 39 by the time he comes back, taking a year off from pro hockey, from the National Hockey League, from the show, I don't see how it's possible to come back and play at that level. He may prove us all wrong, but I would be stunned. This is prime earning potential for him. This is not chump change -- we're talking 5 million bucks -- and the possibility of another deal if he does perform well."
No stranger to political controversy, Thomas offered his support of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy, who has come under fire for his recent comments in opposition to same-sex marriage.
Cathy told the Biblical Recorder (Raleigh, N.C.) newspaper earlier this month that Chick-fil-A was "guilty as charged" for its support of "the biblical definition of a family. " He reiterated that stance in a subsequent radio interview.
Politicians and gay-rights advocates have lined up to denounce Cathy and Chick-fil-A for their anti-gay rhetoric.
On Wednesday, Boston mayor Tom Menino added his voice to the chorus.
"There is no place for discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it," Menino wrote in a letter stating he would oppose a Chick-fil-A attempt to open a restaurant in Boston.
Thomas has used his Facebook page in the past to illustrate his political views and also to announce that he will take the 2012-13 NHL season off.
Information from ESPNBoston.com's James Murphy and The Associated Press was used in this report.
Longtime NHL scout Grant Sonier and ESPN Insider Craig Custance graded all 30 NHL teams' performance at the 2012 entry draft.
Here's what they had to say about the Bruins:
The Bruins made a minor deal in sending winger Benoit Pouliot to the Lightning in return for winger Michel Ouellet and a fifth-round pick. GM Peter Chiarelli isn't interested in shaking up his roster too much this summer so it was a quiet weekend for the Bruins. They started to move on from Tim Thomas by drafting Malcolm Subban with their first pick of the weekend. Chiarelli also met with Tuukka Rask's agent, Bill Zito, to talk contract and neither side anticipates any issues getting a deal done.
Sonier's prime picks: Subban was considered a top goaltender in this year's class. The most exciting thing about him is his athleticism. The fact that he started being a goaltender at a late age illustrates how his talent could take him to a starting role if he continues on this upward curve. He had the numbers this season to back it up (.923 SV% in Belleville). Matthew Grzelcyk is a Massachusetts kid who projects as a small, skilled puck-moving defenseman.
To read the full breakdown of every NHL teams' draft moves, CLICK HERE
During a teleconference to announce new deals for forwards Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell, Chiarelli confirmed that he has learned through Thomas' agent, Bill Zito, that Thomas' decision is final.
"I haven't seen his infamous Facebook post. I'm aware of it. I've talked to his agent in the last little bit, and nothing's changed," Chiarelli said. "If you're asking me, 'Has he clarified that he's not playing for the year?' -- he's stated that through his agent that he's not playing for the year, so I guess that's where that stands. But nothing's really changed since the last time I spoke."
Chiarelli also acknowledged that Thomas' decision has already played a role in his approach to roster decisions and remains a consideration moving forward.
"As I said before when we talked about Tim, I'm operating under the premise that our goalies will be Tuukka (Rask) and Anton (Khudobin) because Tim won't be playing for us," Chiarelli said. "So I mean there's a whole -- I'm not going to tell you everything -- but there's a whole host of things that trickle down from that one event. So, yes -- short answer -- yes, it has had an impact."