On Monday, TSN reported that Tim Thomas asked his agent to gauge interest on which NHL teams could potentially use his services. After stating that he would take a year off, Thomas was shipped to the New York Islanders for a conditional pick, but the goalie stayed true to his word and sat out the entirety of the abbreviated 2012-2013 NHL season.
While Thomas took a year off from hockey, the time away from the game apparently did not change the goaltender’s mind about returning to play in the NHL. Despite the fact that the Islanders might not have had any immediate intention of aggressively pursuing Tim Thomas, the goalie’s desire to return to the NHL could perhaps draw New York’s interest for a number of reason. Garth Snow and the Islanders certainly loaded up on goalies (Parker Milner, Eamon McAdam, & Stephon Williams) on draft day, but with the team’s goaltending situation in a state of flux right now, Thomas could be viewed as a very likely option.
New York Islanders Goalies In The Fold
During the 2012-2013 NHL season, the Islanders relied quite heavily on Evgeni Nabokov. For the second straight year, Nabokov started 41 games for New York and was one of the driving forces for the team’s playoff push. However, Nabokov’s efforts during the Stanley Cup Playoffs had some fans questioning whether or not the goalie was gassed after starting the majority of the team’s games during an abbreviated season.
Whether or not Nabokov would be able to stand up to the rigors of a full NHL season is something that is a relative unknown as the goalie has not appeared in more than 42 games in a season since coming back from the KHL. To further complicate matters, Nabokov and the Islanders haven’t been able to hammer out a deal that would see the goalie return to the team, and it is starting to seem like the Russian netminder will head toward free agency once July 5th rolls around.
On the other hand, young goalies Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson are still very much in the grooming process for the Islanders. While Poulin has more NHL games (21) under his belt than Nilsson (4), his play with the Islanders during the ’12-’13 season indicated that he could use some more games as a backup before being potentially thrust into the starting spotlight. Similarly, Anders Nilsson had an up and down ’12-’13 campaign in the AHL as a lack of B12 caused the goalie to miss portions of the hockey season. Much like Poulin, Nilsson will need to get more games, both at the AHL and NHL level, under his belt before he is considered for any type of long-term promotion.
DiPietro Waived Again, What Now?
A couple of days ago, Arthur Staple announced that the Islanders would be using one of their compliance buyouts on Rick DiPietro as he tweeted:
Team will use compliance buyout for DiPietro — $1.5 million owed for next 16 seasons will not count against cap.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) July 2, 2013
Despite the fact that Islanders fans could have foreseen this situation unfolding this summer, many fans still expressed their feelings as to how DiPietro’s time with New York played out. Perhaps the draft day additions of Parker Milner, Eamon McAdam, and Stephon Williams signaled the end of DiPietro’s time with the Islanders as New York was likely looking to restock its pipeline with new goaltending talent.
Neither Milner, McAdam, or Williams are expected to make an impact on the Islanders this season, but the addition of the three goalies signified that Garth Snow wanted to add some depth behind Poulin and Nilsson as the two goalies approach key points in their respective maturation processes. Even though Garth Snow managed to successfully net three goalies on draft day, the Islanders’ goalie situation will not be remedied by three young netminders without any AHL experience.
The Case For or Against Tim Thomas?
Tim Thomas has always been known as an individual to speak his mind. Not only has Thomas been remembered for his political stances and viewpoints, he has also been a polarizing figure in the hockey locker-room. Whether or not the Islanders would want to take a chance on signing a figure that is as vocal as Thomas is not known, but the 39 year old goalie would certainly bring veteran experience to a relatively young Islanders team.
Evgeni Nabokov provided the Islanders with a stabilizing presence in goal, and it is not as though New York hasn’t turned to other veteran netminders (Dwayne Roloson) over the course of its rebuilding process. Even though Thomas probably has some rust to play off before getting back into the swing of goaltending in the NHL, he could provide New York with much the same stability that Nabokov has given the team over the last two seasons.
While Thomas’ potential contributions to the Islanders can be envisioned by hockey fans that have seen the goalie play, a bigger question mark might be the goalie’s price tag or desired asking price/length for a contract. Some might question the point of giving a contract to a goalie that will turn 40 by the end of the ’13-’14 regular season, but it is unlikely that Thomas would seek to return to the NHL if he felt that he didn’t have something to offer a team.
For the Islanders, a decision as to who will man New York’s crease has remained largely unanswered, and the team has to come up with a solution sooner rather than later. Since many teams, for the most part, have their goaltending situations solved, Thomas will likely draw interest from a small number of teams. However, the teams that do show an interest in the veteran netminder will likely express strong interest in bringing the goalie on board. Getting into a bidding war with another team for an older goalie might not be in the Islanders’ best interests, but if the team wants to find a goalie via the free agent market, then they must be aggressive suitors come July 5th.
Garth Snow and the Islanders could always explore the trade market and gauge the cost for a goalie such as Ryan Miller or Jaroslav Halak, but if the team over-commits to acquiring a goaltender via one specific avenue and fails, then the team’s options might become severely limited. There are still a plentiful amount of options available to the Islanders when it comes to acquiring a goalie, but the team must consider the fact that time is of the essence when addressing their goaltending situation.
*** Let us know how you feel. What do you think about Tim Thomas as a member of the New York Islanders? Please feel free to leave your comments below!
In his third year with The Hockey Writers, Toli covers all things related to the New York Islanders. Focusing on the Islanders, the NHL Draft & draft-eligible prospect goalies, and hockey history, Toli can be contacted on Facebook by searching/messaging Toli Metter and on twitter by searching @ToliMetterTHW.