Should the Edmonton Oilers trade for Tim Thomas?

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

  • Zamboni Driver

    Usually…okay sometimes a fan of Willis’ work, but I wonder why anyone would read any more than the headline?

    The answer is ‘absolutely not’.

    I think the Oilers have had their fill of old goalies.

    • This is getting stupid.

      Is it really so hard for people to grasp that this isn’t about the player but the cap space?

      Would it help if the name “Tim Thomas” was left out of the article and instead it read “rent out 5 million in cap space for a year”?

  • OIL4LIFE

    What does everyone think of this trade suggested at the hockey buzz. (not Eklund)

    The Edmonton Oilers send the 1st overall draft pick in 2012 to the New York Islanders for their 1st overall pick in 2012 (4th overall), Ryan Strome (C) and Calvin de Haan (D).

    I for one would do it if they were that dumb. lol

    WOW
    The more I look at this, what a overpay that would be. A 4th, 5th, and a 11th overall pick for the 1st overall.

  • OIL4LIFE

    Hey what was the other 39 year old goalie we had signed for 4 years?….oh yeah that one…maybe Thomas not such a good idea…I swear Willis you must be desperate for stuff to write about.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @TUG

    Well said Tiger.

    If i can grasp it, anybody should be able to grasp this concept…..and i’m usually the last one getting on the short bus.

  • oilersplumber

    Dubnyk/? 2012/13
    Dubnyk/Bunz 2013/14….to….?

    Yes I buy the whole cap space argument too…..maybe a moot point altogether though come September….we may be having to watch the “Mentalist” with the wife for entertainment……..UGH

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @ Shaun Doe

    Think i remember Brian Burke taking 3 bodies off the Washington Capitals hands in order to manuever around the cap during this CBA already. Burke took on Ollie Kolzig was one, and a couple other players off the Caps payroll to make room for something Mcphee wanted to do. Can’t remember if the Leafs got anything in return for their service to the Capitals that yr. Not sure there’s anything the league can do till they close this loophole permanently.

  • dawgbone98

    We have no cap issues. Whitney?3.5 million take it or leave it. Smid 4 million.Petry 3million. Shultz 4 million. Klefbom 995000+. Plante 850000. Teubert 950000= No problem, if you think we are going to get Justin Shultz then another 995000. So where do you see a Cap issue. Horcoff is getting paid less. Smyth is going to to try FA and that might be a good thing for the development of MP and TH. I’d be shocked if Belanger is here. Potter? Gone. Sutton gone. Peckham. Gone. Eager. Maybe here. Gagner. Gone. And probably sooner than we think. Hemsky? I would be stunned if he is here after the trade deadline this season. Heck I wouldn’t be shocked if he isn’t traded at the draft for late round draft pick. Especially if Yakupov is our number 1 pick. Add Bulins contract and Sourays payout and 2013-2014 looks pretty good in terms of cap space/contracts.

  • book¡e

    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?

  • There are a ton of commenters on this website completely incapable of grasping the fact that Nikolai Khabibulin and Tim Thomas are different goalies, and that the latter is *so* much better than the former that it’s not even a point worth bringing up.

    “Listen, Willis, they signed an old goalie once and it turned out bad – obviously, all old goalies are evil.”

    Anyhow, the point here is clearly that Boston needs cap space, and that’s what the team acquiring Thomas would get. That’s what the Oilers would be selling to Boston: they’d take the cap hit if Boston sweetened the deal. It’s what every other team would be selling the Bruins on to.

  • book¡e

    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

      • 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.

  • book¡e

    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.

  • book¡e

    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.

  • book¡e

    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.

  • John Chambers

    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.

  • SLURVE

    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.

  • 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..

  • dawgbone98

    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…

    • What? Boston has a cap problem? The Oilers have tons of cap space? They might be able to get an asset for using the latter to solve the former?

      THIS IS A REACH, WILLIS. EVERYBODY KNOWS THE OILERS CAN’T USE THEIR “CAP SPACE” TO ACQUIRE “ASSETS” – THAT’S JUST CRAZY!