by PuckStopsHere on 07/03/13 at 12:45 AM ET
Perhaps the most interesting free agent this summer is Tim Thomas. Thomas was the 2011 Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy winner. He had the best season a goalie has recorded in recent memory and arguably ever. His 2011/12 season was good enough for him to wind up in the All Star Game, but it seemed like a disappointment given the heights he rose to in the previous year. There were off ice distractions as Thomas isolated himself with some right wing political leanings, including his refusal to join his team as they met with President Barack Obama for winning the Stanley Cup. He appeared to burn himself out and opted to take the 2012/13 season off.
During the year he was traded to the New York Islanders. He was traded for a conditional second round draft pick. The condition was he had to play a game for the Islanders for that second rounder to change hands. The Islanders wanted him for his salary cap hit. They would have otherwise fell below the salary floor and been punished for this. Tim Thomas offered them a salary cap hit with no actual salary to pay since he was taking the season off. Now the Islanders could have tolled his contract into this upcoming season if they chose to. They haven't. The Islanders could use his goaltending if he is in form. Evgeni Nabokov, their starter, posted a relatively average .910 saves percentage in 2013.
Tim Thomas will be a free agent this summer. He is 39 years old and thus may be in decline. However he is only a few years removed from an incredible season. He could be an all star goalie. He could be a Vezina trophy winner. He could be a distraction. He could be no longer in shape. He is the free agent with the biggest possible range in outcome.
Philadelphia is his most likely destination, but one never knows where a free agent might wind up until he signs. Philadelphia needs a goalie after they bought out Ilya Bryzgalov. Steve Mason is their starter at this point and that was a failed experiment in Columbus.
Tim Thomas is a free agent to watch. I think the biggest prediction I can make is that he will outplay the New York Islanders goaltending and make them look silly for not tolling his contract. That isn't certain, but it is more than likely true. He will likely be a solid starting goalie next year and could be one of the best in the league. He could be well rested and post another great year. It will be interesting to watch.
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