|Tim Thomas: ‘My play will do the talking’||09.13.10 at 2:24 pm ET|
BOLTON — Between rehabbing from a hip injury, coming off a season in which he lost his starting job down the stretch, and trying to remain a key piece of the puzzle, Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas had plenty to talk about Monday at the team’s golf tournament in Bolton.
Thomas said the hip that was operated on following the season is feeling “pretty good” and that after skating a bit last week, has “passed every test we threw at it so far.” He’s not sure whether he’ll be cleared to go full throttle once camp opens Friday.
“I don’t know,” Thomas said when asked what his level of participation will be. “That’s going to be up to the trainers and physical therapists. It depends on how it reacts as it’s going along. You can’t really make a projection at this point.”
Thomas added that he and the medical staff will “evaluate it as it goes along” and that he should have a clean bill of health by the team the wheels touch down in Prague to open the season on October 9.
“That’s what we’re shooting for, is opening day of the regular season, 100 percent,” Thomas said. It’s been going pretty well. It might end up being 100 percent before that.”
Much has been made about what Thomas’ role with the team will be in the 2010-11 season. After getting the majority of starts in the regular season (43), Thomas saw Tuukka Rask take over as the team’s starting goalie in each of the Bruins’ two playoff series. The 36-year-old now must focus on proving naysayers wrong and splitting time with Rask once again.
“I thought it over over the summer, and I’m approaching it just like I did every challenge I had at every level going through,” Thomas said. “It’s a battle against yourself. I’ve proven in the past what I can do when I bring the best game that I have to the table, so it’s up to me just to do that.
“I was promised the same chance [as before], and that’s the way I’m approaching it,” he added. “I think I will [get a chance]. My play will do the talking. It’s in my hands. that’s the way I look at it.”
|X-Factors: Tuukka and Tim||08.24.10 at 1:00 am ET|
Each day this week, WEEI.com will be putting a player or position in the spotlight based on their “X-factor” status entering the season. Monday, we took a look at Michael Ryder. Up next are the two men between the pipes in Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas.
Though it may be a bit strange to not consider strong goaltending to be a sure thing in Boston given the past two seasons, it is certainly worth looking into what type of production the Bruins can expect from their netminders. Each player has something big to deal with in 2010-11. For Thomas, its another year under his belt and for Rask it’s the dreaded sophomore slump.
For the Bruins, and this goes against most of the fans’ wishes this offseason, it would appear the right choice was made in not dealing Thomas and his $5 million salary cap hit. The fact of the matter is that though he is 36 years of age, is coming off hip surgery and did not show his Vezina form last season, Thomas is of utmost important to the Bruins’ operation. He started the majority of Boston’s regular season games and posted a respectable 2.56 goals against average last season. He didn’t get a single start in the postseason, but he played just as big a role as Rask in getting the team there.
So why all the negativity surrounding Thomas? One would have to guess it can’t be fun going into each season with fans expecting you to lose your job, something Thomas has undoubtedly had to deal with for quite some time. Though he made $1.8 million more than Rask (after the rookie’s performance bonuses), evaluating the position as a whole based on cap hit would actually suggest the Bruins are paying a fair price.
Entering the coming season, the Bruins will be paying $6.25 million for a tandem that gave them a 2.33 goals against average over 82 games last season. The team’s GAA was second to only the Devils. For a frame of reference regarding that $6.25 million number, that’s exactly how much reigning Vezina winner Ryan Miller will be making with the Sabres next season. Though Thomas’ cap hit may be alarming by itself, the Bruins are paying a manageable amount for perhaps the league’s best duo in net. Read the rest of this entry »
|Quick thoughts on the Savard situation||08.10.10 at 5:06 pm ET|
It’s been a long day for the Bruins, as news hit today that the NHL is indeed investigating center Marc Savard‘s seven-year, $28.05 million extension. The deal is perceived to be a “retirement contract,” as it pays the 33-year-old veteran half its money in the first two years of the deal and the other half over the following five years, which makes for a much more affordable $4.007 million cap hit.
Hours after the news broke, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli came out with a statement in which he said that the investigation has been ongoing and that he had met with NHL lawyers as recently as last week. With the Bruins’ cap situation up in the air and the team risking the loss of Savard, it might be a little too much to keep track of. Here’s what we’ve learned today, and what it might mean for the Bruins.
- This investigation has been going on for a while, and by a while, we mean since Savard’s contract was registered with the league in the first place way back in December. This means two things. First of all, this isn’t some new development for the Bruins. Maybe it was the magical cap relief they were expecting all along when they made signings that in total would put them more than $3 million over the salary cap (Savard’s cap hit is $4.007 million).
Secondly, it really dents the validity of rumors that the team was working on trades to move Savard out of town this offseason. In addition to there being zero concrete or validated reports of the Bruins and another team discussing a deal for the center, would it really make sense for the Bruins to shop a player knowing full well that the NHL was intent on voiding his deal? That would make the Bruins look awfully bad as a prospective trade partner for any team in the future.
- Savard is not the only one. The only reason the news came about was because Savard’s investigation was listed in the footnotes of arbiter Richard Bloch‘s rejection of Ilya Kovalchuk‘s appeal. In noting why the NHL was correct in rejecting the winger’s 17-year, $102 million contract with the Devils, Bloch also listed Marian Hossa, Chris Pronger and Roberto Luongo as players also being investigated.
- Yes, the Bruins have been looking to save money off the cap (they’re right up against it even when factoring in the $3.5 million they will get in relief to begin the season thanks to Marco Sturm‘s long-term injury status), but there’s no way Savard’s contract could be viewed as the one that’s weighing them down. In fact, the only reason this deal is being investigated is because it is so team-friendly that the NHL is trying to prevent deals like this from being made going forward.
Both Savard and Tim Thomas ($5 million cap hit in each of the next three seasons) have starred in offseason trade rumors, but their values to the team should not be overlooked. If the team does end up losing Savard for nothing, it would seemingly be a huge loss for the Bruins.
|Rask unshaken by competition, sophomore slump||08.09.10 at 5:04 pm ET|
MIDDLETON — A refreshed and eager Tuukka Rask made his first appearance around these parts in quite some time as he prepared to tee off with teammates and fans for Shawn Thornton‘s Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament. With last season’s borderline traumatic Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Flyers in the rear view mirror and a new season just around the corner, Rask is ready to build on a 2009-10 performance that saw him become the No. 1 goaltender down the stretch.
“Things are going great. I had an awesome summer in Finland, spent a couple times there, seeing my friends and family and working out,” said Rask. “Now I’m back here so it’s time to get your thoughts back on the hockey season.”
After playing five games in the previous two years, Rask, a former first-round pick acquired from the Maple Leafs in exchange for Andrew Raycroft, made his first real impression in the NHL last season. In splitting time with then-reigning Vezina winner Tim Thomas, Rask started 39 regular- season games and posted a 1.97 goals against average, which, like his .931 save percentage, led the NHL.
Yet as Rask, who started all 13 playoff games for the Bruins, looks to improve and further his accomplishments, he must do so knowing of the sophomore slump that has plagued Raycroft and so many goaltenders before him.
“I’ve heard about people talking about it,” Rask said of the struggles that face second-year goalies, “but not yet in my part, but we’ll see what happens. You just try to be yourself and do your best every day and when you know that you have worked hard and you’ve done everything you can to be at your best, there’s nothing you can change and thats something I’m going to try to do. If it goes not so well, then it goes, but we’ll see.”
Any feared decline in Rask’s performance has hardly been the only discussion that has involved the Bruins goaltending this offseason. Given Rask’s emergence and Thomas’ $5 million cap hit in each of the next three seasons, there has been significant chatter among the fanbase that Thomas should be considered expendable for a team that is struggling against the salary cap.
That’s not how Rask sees it, however. He thrived on the competition with Thomas and maintained that having to challenge an established veteran made him better, which in turn made Thomas better.
“We had an awesome time last year,” Rask said of his relationship with Thomas. “It’s a fair competition for both of us and I think it’s healthy for a team and for us when nobody takes anything for granted. We liked it and hopefully that continues.”
Thornton, who this offseason re-upped with the Bruins on a two-year pact, can agree.
“They’re both professionals,” said Thornton, who noted training camp competitions are a natural part of the game. “It’s the same for us. My job’s not guaranteed either, so every training camp you go in fighting for a spot. I think competition’s a good thing. I think it’s healthy. I’m sure Tuukka knows that job isn’t his and it’s not going to be given to him, so that’s healthy for them to push each other. We’re pretty fortunate to have two No. 1 goalies as far I’m concerned.”
Based on the statistics of the two, it’s hard to argue with Thornton’s logic. Both Thomas and Rask certainly have the pedigrees and reputations to suggest they could earn a starting job on most teams, but the younger of the two doesn’t seem to care about anything but what happens on the ice each night.
“Whoever is playing good is going to play,” Rask said matter-of-factly. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve got 16,000 Vezinas or zero Vezinas, you know? That’s just the way it goes on our team and that’s good for everybody I think.”
Rask appears to have put on a little weight, though it’s nothing noticeable enough to confuse him with any of the league’s bigger goaltenders. After playing last season at 171 pounds for a man who stands at 6-foot-2, any bulking up on the 23-year-old’s part seems welcomed to him.
“I’m, heavier. I don’t know if that’s because of the workouts or the food I ate. We’re getting there. I’m working out with [Bruins strength and conditioning coach] John Whitesides now so we’ll see in a couple weeks what things look like.”
Rask is back in the states for good until training camp opens in the middle of September. He pointed to working with Whitesides as a big reason for his early return, admitting that working out by himself isn’t as productive as working with a “real trainer.” Rask admitted his first full season in the NHL did feel him leaving a little rough when it came to the offseason, but as he trains for 2010-11, everything has been smooth sailing.
“I think it was about five or six weeks [after the season ended], and my body was still kind of feeling the season, but after that, everything was normal and you start doing your workouts and stuff like that and everything felt good,” Rask said. “No problems, but it always takes quite a time to recover fully.”
Rask signed a two-year extension with the Bruins in November and will earn $1.25 million in each of the next two seasons, at which point he will remain under the Bruins’ control as a restricted free agent.
|Thomas denies waiving no-trade clause||08.06.10 at 10:58 pm ET|
LOWELL — Tim Thomas has been a lot of things in his hockey career. He’s been the backup, the starter, an All-Star (twice), and a Vezina Trophy winner. Yet more recently, he’s been none of those. Instead he’s been seen as a contract and a perceived difficult piece for the Bruins to move.
Despite the lot of the rumors (many of which have been quite inaccurate) as the season draws nearer, it seems a foregone conclusion that Thomas and his annual cap hit of $5 million will stay in Boston, which for all intents and purposes is a good thing. Thomas has proven to be able to handle splitting time, and with Tuukka Rask entering his second full season (the NHL equivalent of the Bermuda triangle for goaltenders), having a capable veteran netminder is a big plus.
But back to the trade murmurs, accurate or not, that have ruled the town for the summer. The 36-year-old has spent the offseason hearing his name in trade rumors and reading about how he had allegedly waived his no-trade clause in order to facilitate a move out of town. On the contrary, Thomas noted Friday night that he never spoke to the Bruins about waiving his no-trade clause. In fact, he never spoke to them, period.
“I haven’t talked to the team at all, except for the physical therapist that I’m dealing with in recovering from my surgery,” Thomas said.
The surgery, of course, is the operation he received to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He is 11 weeks into a recovery that required 12, so, Thomas stayed on the bench in Milan Lucic’s Rock and Jock softball game for charity.
“If it was a week later, I think I’d get the clearance to play,” Thomas said, “but right now I have to be a spectator.”
With the offseason winding down and the storm passed regarding trade rumors, Thomas looks back on a period in which he heard so much negativity that he’s glad the chatter, including more speculation that he’ll see decreased playing time, has died and a new season is beginning.
“With everything that’s happened I think you’ve just about seen it all,” Thomas said of the rumors. “It’s gotten just about as difficult as it can get, so it was just another summer.”
Thomas told Matt Kalman of The Bruins Blog that he’s not upset with the Bruins, whom he noted are his “employers,” for anything in the offseason, though in reading reports and hearing what was said about him in the media, he was surprised by the validity of information that surfaced.
“There’s so many little pieces of misinformation that I’m not even going to waste my time setting the record straight,” Thomas said. “I’m just not going to discuss it anymore. As far as how hard this summer was, every summer I’m replaced as the No. 1 goalie. So it’s pretty much standard course.”
The Michigan native and former University of Vermont star also told Kalman that he expects to battle Rask for the starting goaltending spot when training camp opens on September 17, saying that he doesn’t “intend on backing anybody up.” His words should lead some to the stat sheet, which should remind Bruins fans that despite Rask claiming the job down the stretch, it was Thomas who started the majority of the team’s regular season games. Coming off his Vezina-winning 2008-09 season, Thomas went 17-18-8 last season with a 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage in 43 games.
The Bruins certainly have issues financially, as they will be less than $400,000 under the salary cap once they enter the season with Marco Sturm’s cap relief. The trio of Thomas, Marc Savard, and Michael Ryder have been viewed as guys who may be the victim of the team’s attempt to get a little breathing room from that $59.4 million wall. If they, count Thomas among those pleased.
|Slow free agency to blame for slowed trade market||07.19.10 at 3:41 am ET|
The Bruins had plans to be active in the trade market throughout the offseason, and as anyone who’s seen their current cap situation could infer, they would have been in far better shape had they been able to move contracts out as they brought new ones in. Yet in all their moves thus far, they’ve crept closer and closer to that $59.4 million cap ceiling with moves still left to be made.
Dennis Wideman and Nathan Horton‘s annual cap hits were essentially a wash, with Horton ($4 million) making slightly more, but the $1.1 million Gregory Campbell will earn in each of the next two seasons, in addition to multiple re-signings made by the Bruins, has left the team looking at just over $500,000 to sign both Blake Wheeler and Tyler Seguin, neither of which could be had for such cheap money.
Though the Bruins clearly are in a predicament, it’s tough to blame them. In fact, it could be argued that they have actually done the best with the situation the offseason has put them in, with free agency in particular preventing them from potentially making a deal they may be interested in.
Though Ilya Kovalchuk has gotten plenty of attention for still not having signed a deal, the fact of the matter is that the high-scoring winger is not alone is prolonged free agent status. Alexander Frolov, Lee Stempniak, Marty Turco, Paul Kariya and Maxim Afinogenov are just a few of the big names that remain on the market 20 days into free agency.
As a result, general manager Peter Chiarelli said last week to expect the Bruins to be “relatively quiet” as they wrap up Wheeler and Seguin. This means that anyone who has been strung along by each murmur of a rumored deal including Marc Savard or Tim Thomas may be disappointed. Read the rest of this entry »
|Will Bruins stick to status quo in net?||07.02.10 at 12:54 am ET|
Though Tim Thomas rumors have been more or less overflowing from the internet this offseason — some feasible, some outrageous — Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is certainly speaking like a guy who wouldn’t feel it was the end of the world if he goes into next season with his No. 2 goalie making $5 million.
“I’m comfortable with our goaltending duo,” Chiarelli said. “There will be an intense competition, that’s the way we had planned it and I’m comfortable with it. I’m not saying it’s going to end up that way, but I’m certainly comfortable if it is.”
With the looks of free agency so far, it’s a good thing he’d be comfortable with it. With Marty Turco and Evgeni Nabokov still on the open market, it’s hard to believe teams would rather trade for a guy who’s two years older and seemingly better-suited for a tandem.
Some may view it as a waste to keep the 36 year-old Thomas around at such a high price tag, but he undoubtedly adds security to a goaltending position that may be a bit overestimated due to solid play down the stretch from Tuukka Rask. Thomas has the track-record of being able to play at a high level despite age and Rask hasn’t been the man for a full season yet.
The Bruins are in a tight spot regarding cap space, and though Thursday’s two-way deal given to old friend Jeremy Reich won’t be a back-breaker (he’ll get $500,000 if he’s on the NHL club), the team has just $4,465,357 in cap space, with Tyler Seguin set to seemingly get the entry-level maximum of $900,000 in salary (he’ll get more in bonuses) and deals still to be done for Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart.
Making all three deals happen may be tough given their current cap number and a contract may have to be moved around to make the signings a possibility, but don’t count on it being Thomas.
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