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What's next for Thomas, Bruins?

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What's next for Thomas, Bruins?

NEWARK, NJ So how do the Bruins proceed if Tim Thomas does indeed step away for the 2012-13 hockey season as hes thinking about, according to Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli.

No decision has been made and Chiarelli said that hed be operating under the premise that Thomas wont be around next season.

So the bomb has been dropped, and that brings plenty of dominoes into place for the Bruins.
Whether it was for family reasons, due to fatigue, maneuvering to avoid getting traded or simply because hes lost that loving feeling in Boston, the first thing Chiarelli and the Bruins would do is suspend the 38-year-old goaltender.

There is a very strong possibility we could be moving on without the services of Tim Thomas for the year. The reasons why areIm not exactly sure. He did give reasons regarding the family, which I obviously respect. He wanted to spend more time with his family, said Chiarelli. If he wasnt going to play I would have to suspend him. His cap number (of 5 million) would still be on the cap.

Thats the way we would proceed for the year. I know there are players that after long playoff years and seasons at the end of their deals have needed time to decide whether they want to play again: Scott Neidermayer, Teemu Selanne, and Nicklas Lidstrom. They needed time to decide whether they wanted to play again. Neidermayer, I believe, was still under contract. Its what is happening with Tim and we have to deal with itand we will. Hes also told me that he wants to play in the Olympics the following year, so well have some discussions later on.

Per the rules of the current CBA (collective bargaining agreement) Thomas 5 million cap hit would still remain in place for next season, and the Bruins couldnt use any of that money for a replacement player. They could gain some cap space back by placing Marc Savard on long term injured reserve with a savings of slightly over 4 million of cap space, but thats space they should already have above and beyond the rather large cap hit for Thomas.

The Bruins could opt to trade Thomas after July 1 something they were seriously considering before Chiarelli met with the goalie and agent Bill Zito about his desire for a leave of absence but his trade value has been significantly compromised by questions about his desire to play.

Most teams would be wary of a 3 million salary for a player that appears to have no intentions of actually suiting up and playing, but there is one slight benefit: a 5 million cap hit for a team struggling to reach a 54 million salary cap floor that could be implemented for next season.

It would be something wed look at, said Chiarelli referencing a trade. Sureit would be something to look at. Wed have that flexibility and there would be some teams trying to hit the salary cap floor. It would be something wed look at.

Obviously it diminishes the trade leverage that you have, but hes a world class goalie. Hed really help somebody if he decided that he wanted to play.

Chiarelli stressed that he didnt think there was any mischievous agenda behind Thomas desire to step away from the team next season, but it certainly smells like a play to gain back leverage once his no-movement clause expires on July 1.

There was an element of surprise. I respect what hes trying to do. He wants to spend more time with his family, but I was surprised by it, said Chiarelli. We had exit meetings after we won the Cup and he told me he was really tired. That was definitely something he said again after this season: that he was worn down a bit. I think with all of the stuff thats gone on the last couple of years with playing and with going places and all of the fame that goes along with winning hes a little worn down.

I think its coincidental that this is going on with his no-movement about to expire. He says that he wants to keep playing. He wants to play in the Olympics.

They could put Thomas on waivers and send him to the AHL, and still be on the hook for 3 million. They cant buy out Thomas contract because he signed his extension after he turned 35 years old, per the current CBA.

They could also toll his contract for the 2013-14 season, and control his rights for an additional year if Thomas decided to sit out all of next season. That would keep him from playing anywhere else but Boston.

But the interesting thing about the situation is that the current CBA is over in September when Thomas next contract kicks in, and there could be a very different landscape for Chiarelli and the Bruins. They may have the power to buy Thomas out or suspend him without any salary cap complications.

Theres also the sheer difficulty of a 39-year-old attempting to return to the NHL and elite hockey after sitting out a full year. Dominik Hasek did it ten years ago after sitting out a full season and he helped lead a stacked Detroit Red Wings team for several seasons after he returned to the NHL.

But all of these decisions are months and years away.

The reality right now is that Thomas has said to the Bruins that he wants to spend time with his family, and he wants to play for his country in the Olympics. Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin will be the goaltending tandem for the Bruins at the start of the year, and the team will be forced to move on from the Thomas era.

Its clear Thomas doesnt want to play for the Bruins next season barring some unforeseen change of mind, and that isnt Thomas modus operandi most of the time.

Once the goaltender has made his decision then he usually sticks to it.

Dont believe me?

Just ask the Bruins officials that tried to cajole him into attending the White House ceremony last year.

One thing he made clear to me is that hes not going to comment on any of this, said Chiarelli. He may post something at some point on Facebook, but beyond that thats all that I can tell you.

A Facebook post would really be a fitting end to Thomas days in Boston, wouldnt it?

DeBrusk providing an offensive spark for Bruins since scratch

DeBrusk providing an offensive spark for Bruins since scratch

BOSTON – Give Bruins rookie Jake DeBrusk credit.

The 21-year-old rookie said that he didn’t want to go through the experience of being a healthy scratch again, and he has played like it ever since.

DeBrusk finished with a pair of assists in the Bruins 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, and is now riding a four-game point streak with two goals and five points in his last four games. He came up with the primary assist on Boston’s first goal when he fed David Krejci all alone cutting to the net, and then again fed Krejci in the slot on the play where the puck found Matt Grzelcyk for his first career NHL goal in the second period.

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In all DeBrusk finished with the two points in 18:46 of ice time, and had good skating legs while collecting four shots on net and a couple of hits in stringing together another solid game as a first-year player.

“It goes back to the mentality of playing fast. I think that was one of the focuses. And ever since I got scratched, I think that I’ve had some jump in all the games or at moments. I think that level of confidence and I’m also playing with great players,” said DeBrusk. “They open up a lot of space for me. And on that example, [David] Krejci’s goal, I’ve seen him do that 100 times. It’s nice to get a reward and it’s nice to get on the board, especially twice, in a game like this. I thought that we were coming along and we’re just looking to build on it.”

DeBrusk is currently on a pace for 20 goals and 48 points while battling through the natural highs and lows of being a rookie at the NHL level. The first-year winger hasn’t yet mastered the consistency component quite yet as a young player making his way through the league, but there’s little doubt DeBrusk will keep getting the chance to find that level while producing offense with his passing, skating and shooting in a key top-6 spot.

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Bruins 'feeling pretty good' riding a four-game win streak

Bruins 'feeling pretty good' riding a four-game win streak

BOSTON – It was hard to imagine this could have been possible a couple of weeks ago when injuries were ripping through the roster amid a very challenging stretch of hockey, but the Bruins have managed to survive and thrive within the adversity. With several regulars still missing from the fold including leading scorer Brad Marchand, the Bruins won their fourth game in a row taking a strong 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The win allowed the Bruins to push into the third spot in the Atlantic Division and lay claim to one of the playoff spots on the day after Thanksgiving, a milestone that usually portends good things for hockey clubs sitting in that position.

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Given the winning streak and Boston’s ability to get busy living rather than getting busy dying amid the trying stretch, confidence is at the high mark just a couple of months into the regular season.

“I still think that collectively as a group, there are still things that we need to build on. But obviously, we can’t complain with four straight wins,” said Jake DeBrusk, who has two goals, five points and a plus-4 in the four-game winning streak. “It’s our first win streak of the season and everyone’s feeling pretty good right now. We’re doing everything we can to keep things going.”

There have been different components to the four-game streak that have made it possible. Young players like Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Charlie McAvoy have stepped up and brandished their offensive skills while making things happen for a team missing some of their offensive playmakers, and the energy has been contagious. The Bruins have learned how to become closers in the third period where they’re squeezing the life out of opponents rather than giving them hope for stealing the game.

Anton Khudobin has ripped off win after win after win after win, and has made all the important stops to ensure that the Bruins take points out of each and every game. His .944 save percentage over the winning streak is exactly the level of goaltending needed for the Bruins to execute their game plan, and it’s why they have played with a lead for all but a couple of minutes in those wins over Los Angeles, San Jose, New Jersey and Pittsburgh.

The quick starts have allowed the Bruins to play with the kind of controlled aggression that brings out their best and quit chasing the game while closing things down in the final 20 minutes. It’s much closer to the way things were drawn up by the coaching staff prior to the start of the season before their personnel group was ripped apart by injuries. Friday’s performance was what Bruce Cassidy is looking for from his young, excitable Bruins team on a big stage against a high quality Eastern Conference opponent.

“I mentioned [the magnitude of Friday] before the game, because I think it’s exciting. You’re on NBC, you’re playing against the Stanley Cup Champions, and everyone is watching. . . let’s put our best foot forward. I know it’s one of 82, but it’s a bigger one of 82 the way I look at it,” said Cassidy. “I think they felt the same way coming out [of the starting gate]. Now, I also think with a young group you’re always a little more juiced up at home; they’re still in that stage of their career. So, I think that explained a lot of their start, and why we were better early on.”

So now the beat goes on for the Bruins amid their best stretch of hockey this season at a very opportune time. Perhaps now the B’s start wondering just how good they can be once they finally get their full lineup together for the first time during this entire hockey season. 

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