Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas had a 2010-2011 season for the ages. During the regular season, the Flint, Michigan native played in 57 games. He went 35-11-9 but the numbers get even better. Thomas led the National Hockey League with a 2.00 goals against average and set a new NHL record with a .938 save percentage, which also was tops in the league. He placed second in shut outs with nine.
Thomas, known as "Double T" amongst his teammates, was rewarded for his record setting efforts by being named the 84th recipient of the Vezina Trophy after the 2010-2011 season. The Vezina, as it is more commonly referred to, is voted on by the 30 NHL general managers and, as stated on the trophy, goes to the goaltender who is "adjudged to be the best at this position." It is Thomas' second Vezina trophy in three years.
Most goaltenders would have been extremely happy with that type of season but not Tim Thomas. He had his sites set on a bigger prize. Tim Thomas wanted the Stanley Cup.
In the 2010-2011 playoffs, Thomas went to work. He led the NHL in the following categories:
- Games played; 25
- Minutes played: 1,542
- Wins: 16
- Shots against: 849 (a Stanley Cup playoff record)
- Saves: 798 (a Stanley Cup playoff record)
- Shut outs: 4
- Goals against average: 1.98
- Save percentage: .940
The numbers added up to some of the most memorable performances in playoff history but for Thomas the number that he is most proud of is the number one, as in Stanley Cup championships. For his efforts, Thomas hoisted the Stanley Cup moments after being named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the most valuable player in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The University of Vermont alum is at the peak of his popularity in Boston. It could be argued Thomas is the most popular athlete in Boston and has become one of the city's most popular sports heroes of all time. Quite remarkable when one considers that he went from Vezina Trophy winner in 2008-2009 to being Tuukka Rask's understudy in 2009-2010.
Thomas entered the 2010-2011 season recovered from hip surgery and the knowledge that he a lot to prove to his detractors who wanted to see him traded and, at the same time, thought his four-year, $20 million, contract was too large for a back up goaltender.
Surprisingly, even with a Stanley Cup championship on his résumé, there are still some who would like to see Thomas moved with the Bruins using that money to sign a puck moving defenseman to enhance the team's power play or for a proven goal scorer. Obviously, that is not going to happen.
According to capgeek.com, Thomas' contract breaks down to his having received $6 million in 2009-2010 and again in 2010-2011. He will take a cut in pay for 2011-2012 and will earn $5 million. The contract expires after the 2012-2013 season. He will earn $3 million in the final year of the pact.
The contract has two years remaining, Thomas has set a new NHL regular season record for lowest save percentage and played in two consecutive NHL All Star games since signing this contract. He also has won two Vezina trophies along with the Conn Smythe trophy and the Stanley Cup.
This begs the question, what is the next step for Tim Thomas and the Boston Bruins? Should general manager Peter Chiarelli re-sign his superstar puck stopper or try to deal him to the highest bidder?
When looking at the contract, most fans will agree that Thomas will not be earning astronomical salaries in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 when compared to other goaltenders such as Pittsburgh's Marc Andre Fleury who will earn between $5 million and $5.75 million in the next two years of his seven year contract or New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, who will earn $5.2 million over the final two years on his contract. Of course, Thomas' counterpart in the Stanley Cup Finals, Roberto Luongo will earn $6.7 million over the next two seasons of his 12 year, $64 million deal with Vancouver.
The decision Boston management will need to make is, will Thomas remain an elite level netminder worthy of a new contract with a raise in pay or should they offer a new contract at a reduced salary.
The option of trying to make that trade for an offensive defenseman or goal scoring forward is an intriguing one. Right now, Thomas would certainly be of the highest value to any and all 29 other NHL teams. A trade involving him would be of the "blockbuster" variety bringing a big name skater in return to Boston.
Trading Thomas would leave the Bruins with a young yet solid starting netminder in Tuukka Rask. As mentioned earlier, Rask was the club's starter in 2009-2010. Questions marks abound concerning Rask. The 24-year-old native of Savonlinna, Finland was the goaltender of record when the club lost to Philadelphia in seven games in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs after leading the series 3-0. In 2010-2011, Rask played well in some games but overall, he struggled during the regular season, winning 11 games, losing 14, and taking two into overtime. He saw no game action in the 2011 playoffs.
The Bruins have some good young goaltenders in the pipeline and are preparing for the day when Tim Thomas hangs up his spoked B jersey for the last time.
It says here, Thomas deserves one more contract from the Boston organization. His résumé proves he should be the highest paid goaltender in the NHL.
A team builds from the net out and without Tim Thomas it can be argued that Boston would not have won the Stanley Cup.