Tim Thomas has really done it this time. He made official what many in the hockey world had already been speculating, that he would take off the 2012-2013 season. His rationale stated that he had lost his focus over the past year, and needed to dedicate time towards all of his friends, family, and faith. His behavior the last day or two has been erratic, putting up facebook posts about pending global financial crisis, and then subsequently removing them, only to put them back up and then remove them again. This on top of the fact that he has felt compelled to speak up frequently about the general state of the United States and his concern over a perceived loss of individual liberties.
His actions could be looked at multiple ways. On the personal side, good for him dedicating time to his friends, family and faith and for recognizing in order to do so his ability to carry himself as a professional will be limited. Not many people admit when they are in over their heads, maybe this is the simple case for Thomas. Athletes tend to be very disconnected from everyday life when it comes to personal matters as the schedule that they live is extremely demanding, and long gone are the days when playing on a pro sports team was considered supplemental income.
On the other hand, he has really painted the Bruins into a corner. His cap hit will count against the Bruins cap, all $5 million of it, not to mention that the new goalie tandem may not have been what the team was hoping to go forward with. If that was the case, Peter Chiarelli did a good job to avoid saying so. And the contract situation may not be as bleak as what would be initially forecast.
Thomas has one year remaining on his contract at $5 million with a no trade clause which will expire on July 1’st. Initial thought would be that the contract would be impossible to move. But when considered the contract will require no actual payment if Thomas does not report to camp, and the only penalty would be the cap hit. If this was last summer, any team looking to stay above the salary floor would be thrilled to get his contract and then suspend him, in essence lowering the cap floor by that $5 million without having to spend a nickel. With the uncertainty this coming summer and fall with the CBA, it may not be so easy to move.
As for Thomas aspirations to play for team USA at the Olympics in Sochi in 2014, that may not be so easy. Thomas will be training during his sabbatical, but being away from any type of competitive hockey for an entire season is a tough pill. He will likely get interest when he intends to return, but it may not be as great as he would like. Look at Evgeni Nabakov, who went to Russia and actually played in the KHL. He got a qualifying offer from the Red Wings which was then picked up off of waivers by the Islanders. But to play for Brian Burke who looks to have the gig for the Olympics next year if he wants it, will be a tough task. The competition for that roster spot will include Jonathon Quick, Ryan Miller, and soon to be starter Cory Schneider. The difficulty to get on that roster may be tougher than the last go round. Also in competition would be Jimmy Howard and Cory Crawford, either of which would be capable in some role with the team. This does not even begin to mention the fact that the players may not have permission to play in the games in Sochi when the new contract is agreed upon.
In any event, no ill will here towards Thomas. If nothing else, it will be nice not to have to see him play Toronto four to six times a year. Best of luck to him in finding himself and whatever else he may be looking for.