The New York Islanders have acquired veteran goaltender Tim Thomas from the Boston Bruins in exchange for a conditional second round pick in either the 2014 or 2015 NHL Draft, as seen on the Islanders' official site.
According to ESPN, Thomas still has no intention of playing during the 2013 season despite being traded to a new team. He'll remain suspended by the Islanders, a move that was first made by the Bruins, which will allow the Islanders to hold his rights all without actually having to pay the 38-year-old.
The move – one that's pretty surprising – appears to have been strictly motivated by salary. By shipping Thomas off to the Islanders, the Bruins can officially wipe Thomas' contract off the books, effectively giving themselves room to add another piece to their lineup if they so desire. According to Cap Geek, with Thomas now off the roster the Bruins will have approximately $7 million in free space.
As for the Islanders, the situation is the exact opposite. Thomas' contract will count towards the Islanders' payroll, helping the club stay above the salary cap floor even though they won't actually be paying Thomas unless he has a change of heart and decides to suit up.
The move is one that makes the NYI goaltending situation pretty interesting. The Islanders have been rolling with Evgeni Nabokov and Rick DiPietro between the pipes in 2013. DiPietro still has a whopping eight years and $36 million left on his contract following the 2013 season. Nabokov is set to become a free agent following 2013. Thomas joins the club on the final year of his contract, meaning that the Islanders will have to decide between the two veterans heading into the 2013-14 season.
In summary, DiPietro isn't going anywhere – well, maybe to the bank but the odds of another team picking up his contract are miniscule. Considering the Islanders just acquired Thomas, it's safe to say that barring another massive injury to DiPietro, Nabokov is the odd man out.
Islanders GM Garth Snow said, “We have acquired an asset for our organization. This acquisition allows us flexibility with our roster moving forward.”
At age 38, just how big of an asset can Thomas be for the Islanders? Are they really planning on rolling with him, or a mix with DiPietro, when the netminder hasn't seen any NHL action since April of 2012?
Flipping back over to Boston, the trade officially ends the Tim Thomas era with the Bruins. The speculation over whether Tuukka Rask will have to relinquish his grasp on the starting job if/when Thomas returned is over. The Bruins still have plenty of decisions to make considering Rask and backup netminder Anton Khudoblin are in the final year of their current contracts.
Don't be surprised if the Bruins make a big move now that they have a bit of wiggle room under the salary cap.