One interesting wrinkle to the extended talks between the NHL and NHLPA this week has been the mention of a contract amnesty provision.
Contract amnesty is something many assumed would be mentioned at some point, as the two sides finally settled down to the business of a new CBA. The New York Posts Larry Brooks indicated the subject was broached this week.
While infamously wasteful NHL contracts, like those to Rick DiPietro and Wade Redden, would be at the top of the amnesty candidates list for the Islanders and Rangers if it became a one-time CBA feature, it begs a different question altogether for the Boston Bruins:
Would Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli be tempted to use the contract amnesty feature to buy out goaltender Tim Thomas after he headed straight for his Colorado bunker after last season?
It was a downward spiral for the 38-year-old goaltender after he skipped the team's White House visit in honor of their Stanley Cup championship last January. Then Thomas decided he was going to skip the 2012-13 NHL season to get reconnected with friends, faith and family, according to his own Facebook post, and train for a spot on the 2014 Winter Olympics squad.
Some have given Thomas "attaboys" for being ahead of the NHL lockout curve, and credited the Cup Finals hero with seeing the work stoppage coming ahead of time. But it appears more and more likely there will be an NHL regular season in 2012-13, and it could start as early as Dec. 1. Thomas isnt expected to have a change of heart about playing, and the Bruins will attempt to trade his contract to another NHL team once the new CBA is activated.
Theres also discussion of lowering the salary cap floor for NHL teams that are under water financially, and those were the exact teams the Bruins had targeted for a Thomas deal prior to the lockout.
So the cap-floor seeking teams may dry up under the guidelines of a new CBA. If that happens and the Bruins put Thomas on the suspended list, then the amnesty buyout clause will give the Bruins a chance to get his onerous 5 million cap hit off their books. This could be particularly important if the salary cap drops in the first few seasons of the CBA, and potentially hurts a Bruins team thats already spent 65.2 million this upcoming season and has 57.1 million committed for 2013-014.
The million dollar question is this: Would Bruins ownership decide to pay off the final year of the Thomas contract to get him off their books?
That would free him to sign with another team without the Bs seeing any trade value in return. But theres also been no indication that Thomas has been working out with a return to hockey in mind for this season, and his Facebook account has been silent since the beginning of August. An amnesty clause might finally allow the Black and Gold to close the chapter on a goalie who turned his back on them months ago.