By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Sometimes the trades that you dont make are the best ones when a general manager looks back in the all-powerful omniscience of 2020 hindsight.
Thats certainly the case for Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and the Boston Bruins after watching 37-year-old Tim Thomas firm his place in the pantheon of Bruins greats with one of the best goaltending seasons in the history of the NHL.
The Bs goalie was great from his first appearance of the regular season, and broke through with an epic postseason performance after never finding the secret sauce during his previous Game 7 experiences.
A .940 save percentage, a 1.98 goals against average, four shutouts, and a 16-9 overall record following a Vezina Trophy-winning season mean that years from now people will refer to 2010-11 as The Year of Tim Thomas.
But it almost didnt happen that way for Boston, or for the goalie that went into training camp with a snow white set of goalie pads and a white mask free of all Bruins logos that revealed a few hard feelings headed into the season.
That can happen when a player is dangled on the trade market as a necessary evil due to salary cap issues, and it pushed Thomas into prove people wrong mode headed into this year. Thats always a good place for Thomas to be once hed gotten over the initial vexation at being involved in trade whispers.
Chiarelli admitted on Friday morning hed taken phone calls about Tim Thomas, and sources indicated then to CSNNE.com that the most seriously interested parties were Washington and Philadelphia. The Bruins and Flyers had casually discussed a deal involving Thomas to the Flyers while the goalie was recovering from hip surgery after losing his playoff starting role to a younger goaltending model in Tuukka Rask.
But the two teams couldnt agree on fair trade value for Thomas (the Bruins wanted Jeff Carter, and the Flyers were only willing to unload Simon Gagne), though Philadelphia was the place Thomas wanted to be if he was going to be moved.
The bottom line through all of it, though, was that Thomas wanted to remain in Boston where he could reclaim his job. Thomas desire to stay in New England was the constant, and at the core was proving to everyone he was worth the 5 million salary cap tag that certainly wasnt helping the team financially.
He did that and then some in setting the NHL-record for save percentage during the regular season on his way to an expected second career Vezina Trophy and then ruled the playoffs in a way an elite goaltender truly hasnt done since Martin Brodeur during his New Jersey Devils prime.
So how heavily was Chiarelli breathing a sigh of relief that Thomas was never traded, and how close did the NHLs best running rags-to-riches come to playing in another sweater?
Not really (close)," Chiarelli. "If you can recall at the time there was a kind of a mutual agreement between myself and Tim Thomas and Bill Zito to explore a trade on the premise that Tim does not want to leave Boston. Thats really where it ended. Its really where it ended.
"There were some calls in that and they kept him in the loop at all times. He kept stressing he didnt want to leave. And I said I know. . . lets just look at this very briefly. I know there are a lot of stories that flowed from it, but I cant stress enough the fact that Tim never wanted to leave. I wouldnt be doing my job if I at least didnt look at some things, and I did. You go through those things on a number of fronts with a number of players. You just field stuff. You look at them and you talk to other teams. At the end of the day you make the decision yay or nay. And here it was nay. It was an easy nay.
One would think it will be an even easier nay for a triple crown goaltender coming off the first Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup winning season since Bernie Parents run with Broad Street Bullies in Philly.