Former Boston Bruins‘ goaltender and former Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas has been stuck in the purgatory of the NHL free-agent market. His return to the league, after his baffling and now potentially damaging season off, is now is doubt. Teams either have no need for an aging goalie or would rather purse younger, more stable options. That being said, there are a couple of limited options that Thomas still has if he wants to continue his career.
Since there is no need in the league for an older, yet proven veteran, a team may be interested in bringing him on as a backup goaltender. Teams that have limited confidence in their goalies, such as the Edmonton Oilers, whose Devan Dubnyk is no sure bet on making saves, may take a chance on him. The only problem standing in the way is Thomas’ pride. I doubt Thomas will have the ability to swallow his pride and take on a position like this that will probably be less money than he is willing to accept. That being said, he does not have much choice if he wants to be signed before training camp. At the very least, he will get back into shape, a strong likelihood that he is already not, and go through the paces again to regain his form. Maybe, with time, he will be able to win the top spot through his work and prove his doubters wrong.
However, it seems at this point that Thomas is choosing his second option, which is to wait it out. There may be no need for his services now, but there may be in the future. Goalie injuries are all to0 common. Niklas Backstrom, Pekka Reine and Jaroslav Halak are notables from just last season whose impact on the ice was sorely missed. The potential and almost inevitability of an injury could be the factor that will determine if Thomas gets to start playing full time again. Unfortunately, this will not a smart strategy to rely on. Thomas, by that point, will have been off the ice for a year and a half. Nobody is going to put a fat, old goalie on the ice then.
If Thomas is serious about returning to the NHL, then he needs to build his way back in. It appears that, as of right now, he is still going to hold out for a first-string slot. His best bet will be to earn the job and prove he still has what it takes. Even with all of his success at his older age, his additional time off has put teams on the edge about his performance abilities. Hopefully, for his own sake, Thomas really is not trying to hold out for that starting job much longer; he may find himself sitting in purgatory for longer than he thinks.
Tim Nikolouzos is a Boston Bruins writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @timnikolou