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Tim Thomas Trade

It's usually a big deal when a future Hall of Famer gets traded.  If Tim Thomas returns to the NHL and he is motivated to play at a high level today's trade could be a big deal someday.  Right now it is a trade that has been made for bookkeeping reasons and to allow teams to try to circumvent their CBA responsibilities.

Tim Thomas has been traded from the Boston Bruins to the New York Islanders for a conditional second round pick.  The understanding is that the islanders will give up the pick only if Thomas plays for them or if he is traded to another team where he plays.  Its a cheap price for the best goaltender in the "inter-lockout" period from 2005 to 2012.  The problem is that it isn't clear if Thomas will play.

Thomas chose to take this season off.  He had alienated himself from his Boston Bruins teammates with his political views.  He chose not to join his teammates when they met with President Barack Obama after they won the Stanley Cup.  From that point on in the season his numbers dropped significantly and he seemed to no longer be motivated.  Thomas claimed that he was coming back next season.  That was the assumption when he was Boston Bruin property.  I assume things do not change as a New York Islander but that remains to be seen.

The reason for this trade is the salary cap.  Tim Thomas is signed for another season with a $5 million salary cap hit.  Since he isn't playing this season, his contract will likely be tolled to next year and can be continually tolled into the future if that is what his team wants to do.

Thomas turned 35 just before he began the first season in this contract.  That means his contract counts against his team's salary cap whether or not Thomas plays.  Boston was giving up $5 million in salary cap space for nothing this season because of Thomas's contract.  Boston would like to use that space.

The New York Islanders have no desire to spend anywhere near the salary cap.  They have no desire to spend enough to reach the salary floor if they can get away with it.  Tim Thomas is perfect.  He uses $5 million in salary cap space and as long as he doesn't play he doesn't cost the Islanders one cent.  If he plays, he is only owed $3 million in real dollars since his contract was front-loaded.  If he doesn't play his contract can be tolled and he can be on the books for $5 million in salary cap space into the future.  In the short-term, the Islanders need to add salary cap in order to waive Jeff Finley as that move would put them below the salary floor.

This deal could be a bargain for the New York Islanders if Tim Thomas plays for them.  If not it is a first example in salary cap circumvention under the new CBA.  The New York Islanders are finding a way to ice a team for well under the salary floor.  There is no reasonable hope of competing under those circumstances.  Boston found a way to get rid of a contract that was eating up salary cap space without playing hockey. 

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Comments

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So if Thomas never plays again, the Islanders could theoretically repeatedly toll the contract and have the phantom $5 million cap space for the duration of the current CBA?

And if Thomas never plays again, how would the Islanders get rid of it should they ever want to use their full cap space - would they need to “activate” the contract and pay the remaining $3 million, or could they just drop it?

Posted by Mr. Fnytelhatt on 02/08/13 at 06:25 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

As things stand under today’s rules, if Thomas never plays again, the Islanders never have to pay him.  Every summer they have to make the choice as to whether or not they toll his contract.  So each summer they can chose whether or not to have a phantom $5 million salary cap hit for next year or to let it go away.

Without rule changes, potentially a 90 year old Tim Thomas could have been given a $5 million salary cap hiteach year for more than 50 years by the Islanders, should they chose to do that.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 02/08/13 at 10:47 AM ET

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That is quite amazing.

Posted by Mr. Fnytelhatt on 02/08/13 at 04:52 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com