Haggerty: Thomas not out to be a trade pawn

Haggerty: Thomas not out to be a trade pawn
June 4, 2012, 5:30 pm
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People can make jokes about the bunker and conspiracy theories, and some of them are tin-foil hat funny when it comes to Tim Thomas.

One can almost picture him living on cans of Spaghettios on his Colorado property when the end of days arrives, and opining about the collapse of the global economy.

Some can attempt to finger the Bruins media as the culprits behind the 38-year-old goaltender walking away from 3 million in salary that could have provided nicely for his family, friends and faith.

The Bruins wags didnt blow enough smoke up his pads, or Timmy would have stayed, some Bruins fanatics will chime in.

Some can look at a growing schism between Thomas and the Bruins that developed after he skipped out on the White House, and deduce the two-time Vezina Trophy winner wasnt coming back to Boston.

Some can look at two hard back-to-back seasons for Thomas in his late 30s, and point to an entirely believable burnout factor with the game of hockey.

Some might even think this all about serious family issues that have pulled Thomas away from the game of hockey when he was still seemingly in his prime a scenario he hinted at on his Facebook account:

"At the age of 38, I believe it is time to put my time and energies into those areas and relationships that I have neglected. That is why at this time I feel the most important thing I can do in my life is to reconnect with the three F's. Friends, Family, and Faith. This is what I plan on doing over the course of the next year."

There is a morsel of truth to all of these things, of course.

But the truth might just be that Thomas has lost that loving feeling in Boston, and is trying to control what happens to him next.

The veteran goaltender went into this season knowing the Bruins could deal him once his no-movement clause expires on July 1, and perhaps he formulated a plan to put into place if he saw the writing on the wall.

It started with the very unorthodox move of relocating his family from Boston to Colorado back in December during the middle of the regular season. It continued during the second half of the year when he really struggled between the pipes, and he seemed to have lapses in concentration with uncharacteristic bad goals.

He had a 2.69 goals against average and a .903 save percentage in the 26 games after skipping the photo op with President Obama.

The Bruins had always intended on keeping the option open to trade Thomas in the final year of his four-year contract. Once the White House situation dropped in late January, though, things got pretty strained between the team and player.

The possibility hed be traded after July 1 got a lot stronger, and so did the possibility that Thomas would walk away.

It became a near certainty when the Bs bowed out in the first round, and neither Thomas nor his teammates could recreate the kind of magic that was sprinkled all over them during their run to the Stanley Cup.

Tuukka Rask is ready to go from goaltender of the future to goaltender of the present, and it appeared his teammates were ready to move on after the Bruins were eliminated from the playoffs by the Caps.

Too many times they had to answer questions about Thomas when he refused to address them himself, and too many times his eccentricities caused other players to be overshadowed. That Daniel Paille's conference call was hijacked by a 30-minute streak of Tim Thomas questions for Peter Chiarelli last week was the most recent example of this, but there were others.

So perhaps Thomas threatened to walk away from the team, sit out his last contracted season with the Bruins and essentially stick them with a 5 million cap hit.

Whether he retired, played in the KHL, hosted a season of the reality show Doomsday Preppers or simply trained all year for the 2014 Olympics in Russia, the Bruins are stuck with the cap hit unless they can trade him.

The one caveat: A new CBA this summer might include provisions giving teams relief from the onerous 35 cap rules or amnesty for bad contracts. Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs draws plenty of water around the league and could suggest a rule change.

The questions about Thomas' unwillingness to play will kill any trade value that Thomas might have held for the Bruins. It's a tough predicament for Chiarelli: The Bruins either a) get very little in exchange for a four-time All-Star goaltender, or b) cant afford a top-shelf player because theyre wasting 5 million of cap space on a player who will not play.

Thomas was stung by the lack of loyalty and the trade rumors that leaked out from the Bruins two years ago, and he wasnt going to allow himself to become the teams trade pawn once again.

Thats the theory anyway.

Perhaps this is all about a moment of clarity for Thomas, who wants to spend more time cherishing the family, friends and faith that have taken a backseat throughout his hockey career.

But the straight-talking Thomas is going to look a little hypocritical if he ends up playing elsewhere in a different uniform this season after trumpeting the "three Fs" on Facebook.

Of course those words were followed by a ham-fisted advertisement for the workout paraphernalia hell be utilizing to train with for the next year.

That might have taken some of the heartfelt emotion out of the message for some.

Thomas is a borderline Hall-of-Fame talent on the ice and was the single-biggest driving force behind Bostons first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Nobody can argue that, and nobody should want to.

But hes also a man facing a lot of questions about his increasingly bizarre behavior since winning the Cup. And he's provided no answers -- not even a forwarding address to his Colorado bunker -- for the Bruins fans he left far behind.