How Could Owning Thomas' Rights But Not Playing Tim Thomas Benefit a Team?

I don't always agree with Jonathan Willis of the Cult of Hockey and Oilers Nation. That said, even when I don't agree, what I do find is that he has very interesting takes and viewpoints on certain topics and raises some very interesting questions. One of those questions got raised in his article about Tim Thomas on Oilers Nation today. It got me to thinking.

In the end Willis argued that Tim Thomas doesn't make a lot of sense for some teams including Edmonton, but that for an NHL franchise looking to hit the cap floor, Thomas could be a great bargain. I wonder, what if we look at it a completely different way? What if a team sees this as an opportunity to grab a player they want, taking Thomas or his dollar value as the baggage that comes with it?

This theory hinges on the fact that Boston GM Peter Chiarelli really is irked by the fact that Tim Thomas is sticking the Bruins with a $5 million cap hit for a player who is simply choosing to take a year off. So irked, that he'd like to remove Thomas from the roster and the team payroll even if it costs him something to do so. Think the Oilers and Sheldon Souray if you need a history lesson that this can and does actually happen from time to time. Perhaps knowing Boston is usually a fairly attractive location for free agents, Chiarelli needs the cap room to make moves and will sacrifice a bit to do so.

If we consider the above as possible, what if revisiting whether the Oilers might be a candidate shows there could be some reason for Edmonton to kick tires?

If you're the Edmonton Oilers and newly renewed GM Steve Tambellini, it's time to think out of the box to save your skin and be competitive this year. I'm of the many who think that even if Tambellini was given a three year deal, he has one year to make a run towards the playoffs or suffer the consequences.

If Tambellini is under the same impression, such out of the box thinking might make one realize that while it's not ideal to suffer a cap hit for a player who isn't going to play, as a team you won't have to pay Thomas' actual salary once Thomas is officially suspended for not reporting. Furthermore, the cap room the Oilers have this season to make such a move creates an opening that not all teams have.

How much cap space the Oilers have to actually play with might not be known until after July 1st. If Edmonton does or doesn't strike out at free agency, they'll have a better read on their cap situation. Land a couple free agents worth a fair penny and this Thomas  train of thought isn't an option. Don't land anyone, out of the box thinking becomes extremely important. Edmonton simply can't stand pat. With some $27 million in space available, they have room to be creative.

If what Willis says is true, that the team who owns Thomas' rights can choose to toll the contract and let Thomas walk after this season, essentially should he not report during any part of the Oilers 2012/2013 season, it's like a trade of the old days in terms of cash compensation for a player or prospect. The Oilers just need to let Thomas walk at the end of the year and they essentially gave up $3 million real dollars and $5 million cap space for whatever trade they wanted to make that Chiarelli would agree to.

If Thomas does report, and "Mr. Political" seems the type to change his mind and do strange things, it's not like the Oilers couldn't use his skills for that last part of the season should they be in the hunt and contending for that 8th place seed in the Western Conference.

Who the Oilers would target is another article completely and much of that depends on where Chiarelli's head is at. We could throw options out all day, but only really having a GM to GM conversation would really give us a true indication.

Boston picks at #24 this year. Not sure if I'd take the cap hit for that late a pick unless for some reason someone dropped dramatically out of the blue. If that's the case, Boston might want the pick.

I'd ask about d-man prospect Dougie Hamilton or bruising forward Milan Lucic, but those might be non-starters. It's really hard to guess.

All the same, a phone call is a phone call or a walk to the draft table is just a few steps. No reason not to ask. Especially if the right deal can be struck.


What would you do? Willis says not to consider Thomas. Is there anything on the Bruins lineup you'd find worth the cap hit?

June 8, 2012 at 1:30 PM comment-delete

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