Goalie saga continues as Isles add Thomas

February, 7, 2013
2/07/13
6:24
PM ET


The Islanders’ goaltending is always interesting, isn’t it?

Their never-ending saga in net took another unexpected turn Thursday evening as the team acquired veteran netminder Tim Thomas in a trade with the Boston Bruins.

Surprised?

Don’t be. Don’t hold your breath for any sort of encore for the 38-year-old Thomas, either. This is purely a cap-motivated transaction.

Although Thomas led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup Championship in 2011 (who could forget how he spurned that White House invitation?), he has given no indication that he wants or is willing to play this year, or possibly ever again.

So what this means is that the Bruins shed the last year of his four-year, $20 million contract (prorated), while gaining some salary-cap flexibility, and the Islanders gain some insurance that they’ll be able to reach the cap floor.

Although the Islanders sent back a conditional second-round pick in 2014 or 2015 in the deal, it is unlikely those conditions are ever met. It is believed that the condition is whether Thomas ever reports to and plays for the Islanders or any team that acquires his rights in a trade.

Thomas announced via his personal Facebook account in June that he was taking a year off to spend more time with his family. He held true to his word once the lockout ended and was subsequently suspended by the Bruins.

Because of his 35-and-over contract, Thomas’ cap hit of $5 million (prorated) counts against the cap regardless of whether he plays. The Islanders can use that hit to make sure they hover comfortably above the floor without paying him a single dollar in actual salary.

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What’s interesting is that the Islanders were not perilously close to the cap floor. Before adding Thomas they were at about $48 million (according to capgeek.com) in cap payroll, $4 million above the floor. So one has to wonder if this could potentially be a prelude to another deal in the works. It could also be insurance for GM Garth Snow in case he is in a position to unload a player or two at the trade deadline if the team is out of playoff contention.

Another interesting element to monitor is whether the team chooses to “toll” Thomas’ contract. Although Thomas is in the last year of his deal, the Islanders can slide the last year of his contract to next season. Although that seems unlikely given his unwillingness to play.

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time the Islanders have been presented with such a situation. The team claimed goaltender Evgeni Nabokov off waivers in January 2011, but the former Vezina Trophy finalist refused to report. The Islanders suspended him for the rest of the season and eventually tolled his contract for 2011-12.

Nabokov ended up reporting to camp last summer and has been the starter ever since. He’ll be in net Thursday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden with Rick DiPietro backing him up.

In case you forgot about DiPietro and his albatross of a 15-year, $67.5 million contract, he’s still around.

See what I mean about the Isles' goaltending? Never a dull day.
Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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