Friday, April 3, 2009

Thomas Extension - Ramifications

The Boston Globe is reporting that Tim Thomas signed an extension with the Bruins for 3 years at $5.2M per (the same amount as Brodeur). Needless to say, this has some MAJOR ramifications for the future of the team, not all of which are of a positive nature. As much as I love Thomas and everything he has done for this team, I have very mixed feelings about this contract and here is why:

Timing - One of the positive aspects of the deal actually. Per the new CBA, a player's contract can be bought-out for 2/3rds the value with the cap hit being 1/3rd the value spread out over double the remaining length. (Example: Player A has 2 years left on his contract with a cap hit of $3M per. If he were bought-out, he would have a $1M cap hit for the next four years.) However, while players signed after the age of 35 may still be bought-out, there is no cap relief allowed. Tim Thomas turns 35 on April 15th. Had he not been signed til the offseason, the Bruins would not have the insurance of cap relief via buy-out should Thomas struggle at the end of his contract.

Duration - What does this mean for Tuukka Rask, the goaltender of the future? People have already been clamoring for him to take over for Manny and back-up Tank after his impressive 35-save shutout earlier this year. The plan has been to get him up next season as a backup and get him used to NHL life before having the responsibility of starting thrust upon him. A one or two year extension for Thomas would have made sense as Rask could have backed up next season (25 games?) and then swapped the following season (50 games?). With three years of Tank, the question becomes when does Rask assume the starting role and will he get frustrated waiting for it?

Monetary - Not gonna lie, $5.2M a year is an awful lot for an older goalie, especially when there is someone like Rask waiting in the wings. I would have very much preferred his deal top out around $4M but nothing to be done about it now. This will make the upcoming offseason that much more critical as Boston has three RFA's who will all be demanding a raise. Currently, Kessel, Krejci and Hunwick combine for a $3.8M cap hit... my guess is they will require at LEAST $10M next season to retain all three. At best, Boston will have $8M in cap space (assuming the cap ONLY drops $1.7M to $55M) meaning someone will have to be moved. It may also prove difficult the following offseason with four RFA's needing to be signed (Rask, Wheeler, Lucic, Stuart). Mind you, when I say that these seven need to be signed, I mean NEED... these are the kind of players you build a franchise around. It will take some impressive work from Chiarelli to keep this group together in light of the Thomas signing.

My hope for the cap next year? It has a slight drop to the aforementioned $55M giving Boston the most room possible. With the CBA securely installed, the rookie contract bonus structure will return, meaning that Rask and Wheeler will see their cap hit drop from a combined $5M to ~$1.6M (I need to do more research into this matter to better understand the specifics of the cap and how bonuses are applied but this is my current understanding.) Should the bonuses be removed from cap consideration and Glen Murray win his appeal (thus taking his $1.4M buy-out off the cap next season) Boston would have 15 players under contract for $44.4M (8 F, 5 D, 2 G). This is assuming PJ, Hnidy and Yelle are not re-signed for next season.

Problems arise when you attempt to add in the hopeful $10M for the three RFAs as the Bruins have $600K in cap room with only 18 players (10 F, 6 D, 2 G) under contract! Should Ward retire (a definite possibility given his age and frequent injuries) the Bruins would save another $2.5M giving $3.1M to sign three forwards and two defenseman. Would be very difficult to say the least. One possibility would be PJ, Yelle and Hnidy returning for a combined $2.25M ($750K a pop seems legit) meaning two spots still need filling with $850K and thats just not happening! Looks like Kobasew, Sturm or Bergeron will be trade bait with Kobasew being the best asset due to his health and lower contract. Unfortunately, it is for those very qualities that I would want to keep the man in a Boston uniform!

Oh, and let's not forget... the cap is expected to drop even further the following off-season! The same off-season that Rask, Wheeler, Lucic and Stuart will be RFAs. This is going to require some impessive massaging of contracts and cap-hits for PC to make this all work... and that is with a number of beneficial assumptions all going in Boston's favor!

In all honesty, this signing may have just killed the future of the Bruins...

Edit: Apparently the extension is actually 4 yrs, $20M. Goodbye Tuukka. Goodbye Phil. Send us letters from your future ASG appearances!

1 comment:

Rian Murray said...

You have to understand that this is the salary cap era. Some players are going to be shown the door. It's part of the business.

That said, this is really a STEAL of a deal when you take a few things into account.

1.) Thomas is a 2 time All-Star and the leading candidate for the Vezina this year. Simply put, he's one of the best in the league. That's not debatable.

2.)13 goalies will make more than 5 million dollars next year. Why? Because in the NHL, you need a proven goalie to contend for the Cup. If the Bruins let Thomas walk, he gets more money somewhere else. That's a fact.

Krejci & Kessel are great young players, but they have both shown inconsistency in their play. I also think that Kessel is prone to injury. If you have to take one of the two, you take Krejci. He gets it done on both sides of the ice and makes his linemantes better. It's a no-brainer.

As for Rask, yes, he will be a great goalie, but he is not a proven, battle-tested NHL goaltender right now. He just isn't. His little tantrum the other night just goes to show that physically, he may be ready, but mentally he is far from it.

But like a friend of mine said, if you have the choice of securing a top 5 NHL goaltender or two talented, but inconsistent young players, you go for the goaltending every day of the week and twice on Sundays. One good player can't steal a playoff series, whereas a hot goalie can.