Should the Edmonton Oilers trade for Tim Thomas?

Jonathan Willis
June 08 2012 12:28PM

As has been widely reported, Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas – the two time Vezina winner, as well as the playoff MVP just one year ago – has decided to take a year off from hockey.

The problem for Boston – a contending, high-salary team – is that because Thomas’ contract is a 35+ deal, they have to absorb his cap hit whether he reports to training camp or not. Presumably, the team will attempt to trade him this summer.

The interesting this is that for a team with some distance between themselves and the salary cap, there’s no real disincentive to acquiring Thomas; they don’t have to pay him. If he holds true to his decision to take the season off, the team with his rights can simply suspend him, absorb the cap hit, and not pay out a dime.

Boston has the cap room to handle it if they absolutely need to, but presumably would prefer not to. Tuukka Rask needs a new contract this summer, a number of forwards and defensemen are entering free agency, and the club has ~$10 million in cap space to work with. With Thomas off the books, that figure jumps to ~$15 million. For a team with Stanley Cup aspirations, that’s a big improvement.

There’s another interesting wrinkle. If Thomas takes the year off, the team that holds his contract has the option of tolling it; if they chose to, Thomas’ year off would not burn the final year of his contract. The Bruins would be unlikely to do that, as Fluto Shinzawa explains:

It is hard, however, to imagine the Bruins bringing back Thomas in 2013-14. Thomas would be 39, coming off a dark season. Also, Thomas’s $5 million cap obligation for next season might leave the Bruins bosses less than eager to grant him a return. The most likely scenario is for the Bruins to allow Thomas’s contract to expire after 2012-13.

For a team with salary cap space, the calculations are different. Thomas is only paid $3.0 million in the final year of his deal, so he’s cheaper than his cap hit. He should still have value as an asset even if he chooses not to play in 2012-13. A team with cap room to burn might very well opt to toll Thomas’ contract, forcing him to choose between another year off and reporting for work.

With that taken into account, does it make sense for the Oilers to acquire Tim Thomas?

I would argue that they could do so, but it makes less sense for them than for other teams. The Oilers are not a budget club out of necessity; they are a budget club because they are rebuilding. In the summer of 2013, the contracts of Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle expire. The entire blue line, save for Nick Schultz and Corey Potter, will need new contracts between now and then. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will have a single year on his deal.

In other words, while the Oilers would have no problem taking on Thomas’ cap hit this year, if they opted to toll his contract there might be negative ramifications in 2013-14. Their situation is not ideal for a long-term game of hardball.

For other teams, however, Thomas could be a real boon. The floor of the salary cap is always $16 million below the upper limit, which means every team needs to find a way to hit $54.3 million on the salary cap this summer. If Thomas plays, than they get an elite goaltender with a $5 million cap hit for $3 million dollars. If Thomas does not play, they get $5 million in bogus cap hit for nothing, and the chance to get an elite goaltender the next year for $3 million dollars (again with the $5 million cap hit). Under the current CBA, for a team like the New York Islanders or Florida Panthers, that’s a heck of a bargain.

Someone out there should be very interested in Tim Thomas. The Oilers are probably not that someone.

Thomas’ no-move clause expires on July 1.

This week by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#51 BlacqueJacque
June 08 2012, 06:05PM
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BlacqueJacque wrote:

You come up with some interesting ideas, Willis, but how much could we get if teams like Phoenix and the Islanders are eager to gain cap hit (without paying a dime) in order to reach the very high minimum cap this season?

Dangit, I swear only the first half of the article loaded on my computer. I need to replace this stupid Macbook b/c it's bugging out.

/blames hardware for his own problems

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#53 speeds
June 08 2012, 06:14PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Yeah, nobody's going to trade anything valuable for him... I thought the obvious, obvious read was that, at most, an interested team would put in a waiver claim, and that a G.M. with any sense ought to be able to get an asset back in addition to Thomas, in exchange for helping Boston out of a bind.

I should have stated that explicitly; I thought it was obvious.

In thinking about it for a bit, Thomas might be the trade assets with the widest difference in valuation, team to team, that I can remember.

He's worth far less than nothing to a team like PHI, I would argue a bit with JW that no team would trade anything valuable for Thomas. Yes, BOS would like to move the Thomas cap hit, but it's not like the acquiring team would get nothing out of it either - 5 mil in money saved is pretty valuable. Might a team move a 2nd or 3rd round pick for Thomas to save 5 mil? I wouldn't completely dismiss that possibility. There's only one team with Thomas, but there might be a number of teams that would like to save 5 mil in real money to make the cap floor

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#54 speeds
June 08 2012, 06:23PM
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As for the Oilers, I'm not sure they can pick Thomas up because they'll probably be too close to the cap. I'm just throwing in some estimates, maybe I'm wrong on the guys below, but if it's true the cap is likely to go down from ~70 mil with a new CBA it doesn't seem like there would be room for Thomas's cap hit.

CAPGEEK.COM USER GENERATED ROSTER My Custom Lineup FORWARDS Taylor Hall ($3.750m) / Ryan N.-Hopkins ($3.775m) / Jordan Eberle ($1.158m) Ryan Smyth ($3.000m) / Sam Gagner ($3.000m) / Nail Yakupov ($3.775m) Magnus Paajarvi ($1.525m) / Shawn Horcoff ($5.500m) / Ales Hemsky ($5.000m) Teemu Hartikainen ($0.875m) / Eric Belanger ($1.750m) / Ryan Jones ($1.500m) Ben Eager ($1.100m) / DEFENSEMEN Ladislav Smid ($2.250m) / Jeff Petry ($3.000m) Jason Garrison ($4.500m) / Nick Schultz ($3.500m) Ryan Whitney ($4.000m) / Justin Schultz ($3.250m) Andy Sutton ($1.750m) / Corey Potter ($0.775m) GOALTENDERS Nikolai Khabibulin ($3.750m) Devan Dubnyk ($1.800m) BUYOUTS Sheldon Souray ($1.500m) ------ CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter) (these totals are compiled without the bonus cushion) SALARY CAP: $70,300,000; CAP PAYROLL: $65,783,333; BONUSES: $6,887,500 CAP SPACE (23-man roster): $4,516,667

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#56 common sense
June 08 2012, 06:38PM
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Very nifty analysis. Could be a great way for a poor team to get up to the cap like you say and probably get something nice in return from the Bruins in addition to Thomas.

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#57 speeds
June 08 2012, 06:39PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

You're also betting on them adding almost $8.0 MM in defense salary. I'd love to see it happen, but I'll believe it when I see it.

It's a fair point. How much do you think they'll spend on the two roster spots I've given to Schultz and Garrison? It's certainly possible they keep Peckham in one of those spots, he'd cost significantly less than either. I suppose it's also possible they sign/acquire a 4 mil D and re-sign Hordichuk (or some other enforcer), to go with a 14/7 mix instead of the 13/8 mix I proposed.

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#58 Oiler Al
June 08 2012, 07:20PM
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NOt suggesting OIlers would or should do this, but the little extra could be flipping Kelly for Belanger. Naw, it would take Tambelini until October to figure this one out.

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#59 Jimbob
June 08 2012, 08:05PM
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Obviously Thomas is much better than Khabibulin but unless the Bruins want to take Horcoff's salary back (and good luck with that), this makes no sense whatsoever. The entire point of this year's goaltending is to give Dubnyk at least 75% of the starts to see if he's capable of being a starter. What's the point of getting Thomas to be a benchwarmer assuming he would even play for us. It's not like we're contending for the cup this year... honestly we probably aren't even contending for a playoff spot.

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#60 Manfly
June 08 2012, 08:27PM
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would Thomas even want to come here?

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#61 sizedoesmatter
June 08 2012, 08:31PM
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I like the idea of the Oilers finding there own stud goalie and there own #1 Defenseman

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#62 John Chambers
June 08 2012, 08:49PM
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Sometimes guys like Thomas realize they've been chasing their NHL dream so hard that they've missed out on seeing their kids grow up and spending time with their wife.

And then their kids get bratty and their wife starts to get on their case and they're back playing just after Christmas.

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#63 AGUY
June 08 2012, 10:48PM
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Stories like this are pure speculation for bored Oilers fans.

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#64 The Beaker
June 08 2012, 11:32PM
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@Manfly

"would Thomas even want to come here?"

*Facepalm* Really? Did you just ask that?

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#65 SLURVE
June 09 2012, 12:20AM
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Why? So he could snub Harper as well...

Not a good idea. Let Dunhyk develop without the threat of losing the number one job. Lets not kill his confidence and development any longer.

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#66 Dominolier
June 09 2012, 02:17AM
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Who says Timmy T will be any good after a year off?!.. if he comes back at all..

Why burden your club with that kinda sideshow!?..

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#67 Dominolier
June 09 2012, 02:18AM
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(because the cap space would go unused otherwise?!)

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#68 Dominolier
June 09 2012, 02:18AM
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(because the cap space would go unused otherwise?!)

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#69 oilers2k12
June 09 2012, 07:01AM
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If I was tambellini I would absolutely make an attempt at making a trade with boston to take thomas off their hands IF we got either a 1st or 2nd round pick or D.Hamilton back.. To get a Thomas and a 2nd round pick we would probably need to send them someone like Omark and maybe a 3rd round pick.. To get either a Thomas and a 1st round pick or D.Hamilton we would need to send something like Hemsky+3rd round pick to boston.. If we get their pick, I would then trade bostons first round pick plus Gagner to Anaheim for sixth overall..

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#70 madjam
June 09 2012, 08:36AM
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Stay clear of Thomase's baggage as we don't need that hassel to add to our woes !

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#71 Copperblueandwhite
June 09 2012, 08:41AM
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Should the Edmonton Oilers trade for Tim Thomas?

NO

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#72 MJNation
June 09 2012, 08:57AM
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You are as nutty as this idea. This is bad on so many fronts. No more old goalies and no more players with attitude.

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#73 TigerUnderGlass
June 09 2012, 10:18AM
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Is this comment thread for real? There cannot be this many of you showing up at once place at one time can there?

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#74 Rama Lama
June 09 2012, 10:29AM
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NO NO NO NO NO! This guy is a train wreck with all his political musings.............please oh god, if there is a hockey god, not to the Oilers, send him to the Flames!

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#75 Raine
June 09 2012, 12:18PM
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This blog was reaching just to tie in the Oilers one way or another which wasn't necessary at all. Don't understand the Oilers connection whatsoever.

It's a Bruins dilemma, yes...but why would the Oilers even consider making it their problem; which also wasn't answered in the blog. Confusing Oilers reference indeed...

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#76 Zamboni Driver
June 09 2012, 01:53PM
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@Jonathan Willis

OH I GET IT.

It's about MATH.

I guess I should have expected that. Because, as I said, I didn't read this nonsense. And now I'm even more glad.

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#77 TigerUnderGlass
June 09 2012, 06:10PM
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Dear Lord can none of you read or is everyone just trolling now?

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#80 The Oilers Shot Clock
June 10 2012, 04:06AM
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The window was there when he stumbled a couple years back and lost his starting job to Rask. Cheaper,younger and just plain better options out there now.

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