Tim Thomas is eyeing a return to the NHL next season. Yesterday his agent tweeted: "Tim Thomas has asked me to explore possible options for next season. We'll have no further comment at this time. Thanks."
The speculation has already begun. Where will Thomas end up? He'll turn 40 in April. In goalie-years he isn't collecting Social Security yet, but he is getting 10% off at IHOP and going to dinner at 5:30pm. So who would want a 1-2 year goalie (whose salary would count against the cap even if he retires) who hasn't played a competitive game since April of 2012. What kind of shape will he be in? Will he be fresher having spent so much time off, or rusty?
One funny theory I had was that Vancouver would sign him. They just traded Cory Schneider, their best goalie, to the Devils. While they're stuck with Roberto Luongo they're in a hazy grey area. Do they need a starter or a backup? Luongo only started 18 games last year. But his cap number is $5.33 million and he's signed until 2022. Vancouver has repeatedly tried and failed to trade him.
The smart thing for the Canucks to do would be to sign/develop young goalies that don't take up much cap space. Then hope Luongo is fine during the regular season, then in an annual tradition in British Columbia, pull him when he shits himself in the playoffs.
Signing Tim Thomas would not be that smart for the Canucks, unless they get him for a bargain basement price. Even then it would introduce more uncertainty and unpredictability. You'd open yourself up for an epic goaltender controversy, which is rare in the NHL. Even when two goalies compete for a spot, the goalies themselves typically get along. That would not be the case with Luongo and Thomas. Luongo publically criticized Thomas's style in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, a cardinal sin in the fraternity of net minders. And Thomas fired back. Luongo has also used his unverified Twitter account to poke fun at the former Bruins goalie's political beliefs.
Some people say 4 more years of Obama. I look at it more like 4 more years of disgruntled goalie politically charged Facebook rants! #I❤TT
— Strombone (@strombone1) November 8, 2012
These two come from completely different hockey backgrounds. Thomas had to bust his ass to get to the NHL, bouncing around the ECHL, the IHL, the AHL, along with leagues in Sweden and Finland. He didn't make his NHL debut until he was 28 years old. Luongo was a star in the Quebec Juniors, and drafted 4th overall by the Islanders, making his NHL debut for them when he was 20. A post I wrote during the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals documents the different paths Thomas and Luongo have traveled.
Watching these two guys compete for ice-time would be a great sideshow. The similarities to Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow are inescapable. Then consider Thomas's proclivity for Facebook rants, and the Twitter account Luongo maintains that isn't officially his so he can retain plausible deniability about it. This rivalry would be fought out on social media, in full view of the public. It would be such a glorious show.
There wouldn't be much sense to Vancouver signing Thomas. But the Canucks often don't allow good sense to be an obstacle when they make moves. So it could happen.
In all seriousness, though, I think the Maple Leafs are a good destination for Thomas. They have talented young goalies, but need more steadiness in that position. They could use a veteran backup who can also take over the starting job when things go wrong. That's what Toronto needs. And that's what Thomas might be able to provide. Reimer is making $1.8 million next year and Bernier is a restricted free agent.
Could you imagine Phil Kessel and Tim Thomas coming to Boston as teammates and divisional rivals? Actually, that kind of scares me a bit.