The Boston Bruins will be starting the 2010-2011 season with sophomore goaltender Tuukka Rask, who won the starting position this past season over former Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas.¬† Rask has two more years on his contract, has a salary cap hit of $1.25 mil, and is only 23-years old.¬† Tim Thomas, on the other hand, has three more years on his contract, a salary cap of $5.0 mil, and is 36-years old.¬† Logically, the Bruins don‚Äôt want to waste $5 million for the next three years on an aging veteran who is riding the pine.
The Bruins are actively looking to dish Thomas, and any team that makes a trade is going to likely have to shed salary cap space to make it work.¬† The San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning have been linked to this rumor, which makes some sense, but the Flyers have been thrown in the mix as well.¬† Call me crazy, but signing a 36-year old goaltender on the decline with marginal stats this past season for another three years with a high salary cap hit in a market with 10+ NHL ready goaltenders is ludicrous, and so I write this rumor off as Bruins’ fans wishful thinking.
The second rumor floating around¬†revolves around the¬†theory¬†that with an improved defense (presuming that both Dan Hamhuis and Braydon Coburn sign with the Flyers), the goaltender next season only needs to be adequate.¬† The theory is sound when you consider that Michael Leighton was one of the goaltenders in the Stanley Cup Finals. The goaltender in question, however, is Antero Nittymaki. Nitty served as the back-up goaltender for the Flyers from 2006 through 2009, and proved that he was phenomenal some days and craptacular on others (in other words, streaky). This trend continued this past season, when he played as back-up for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Nitty will be a free agent on July 1st.¬† As much as his services have been appreciated, signing Nittymaki to a low-salary deal, while financially sound, seems like a step backwards for a team that always seems to be two or three pieces short of a Stanley Cup team (the most glaring piece in between the pipes).
A final update on goaltending is with regards to unrestricted free agent Evgeni Nabokov, which was mentioned on this site earlier.¬† Nabokov is a sound, elite goaltender, but is getting older (he‚Äôll be 35 next season), has a reputation for choking (as do most Sharks), and will be expecting a substantial salary.¬† Yes, he’s available, but do the Flyers want him?
“If you look at the trends in this league the last four or five years in particular and the dollars that are dedicated to that position,” GM Doug Wilson said. “If you’re dedicating $5 million or $6 million, that’s coming out of somewhere else.”
Wilson gets it. He made another statement today in line with what I’ve been trying to get at:
“The goaltending market is very deep.¬† There’s lots of goalies that are out there that you can supplement or build a tandem with what you have.”
If the Flyers were to pursue Nabokov in free agency, it would be an excellent upgrade in net, provided that the contract terms were reasonable.¬† Considering the number of free agent goaltenders on the market and the recent trade of Jaroslav Halak (which helped undermine the value of a goaltender), Nabokov may be available for less than he expected.¬† If the Flyers could sign Nabokov to less than $4 million per year (and that‚Äôs a big IF), chalk up another hole plugged heading into next season.