The Islanders acquired a Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Thursday. But Tim Thomas, currently on indefinite leave from playing hockey, almost certainly will never dress for the Isles and will never earn a dime from his new team.
The deal for Thomas, in which the Islanders gave up a conditional second-round pick in either 2014 or 2015 to the Bruins, is purely a salary-cap transaction. As of Friday, the 20th day of the league season, all teams must be cap- compliant, which means over the $44.3-million floor.
The Islanders activated Lubomir Visnovsky yesterday after he passed his physical, which made them compliant. The move for Thomas, who carries a $5-million cap hit despite his being suspended by the Bruins, guards against Visnovsky's possible departure to tend to his son, who is due to have surgery in Slovakia this weekend. Thomas' cap hit still counts because the four-year, $20-million contract he signed in 2009 is an over-35 deal, which means the cap hit still is active even if the player is not.
"This move gives us roster flexibility," general manager Garth Snow said.
The draft pick in the deal is conditional on Thomas playing a game for the Islanders, which is unlikely to happen. Thomas is due $3 million in salary this season but wasn't earning any of it, having been suspended by the Bruins after he announced he was leaving the team to focus on "friends, family and faith."
Thomas won the Vezina Trophy and the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2011, leading Boston to its first Stanley Cup since 1972. However, his 2011-12 season was clouded by controversy surrounding a refusal to appear with the rest of his teammates at a reception given by President Obama in Washington in January.
So this could end up being an entirely electronic transaction, freeing up $5 million in cap space for the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins and ending with no assets changing hands once Thomas' contract expires at the end of this season.
The NHL had no issue with the deal, given that Thomas still is under contract and has not announced his retirement. "[Thomas'] contract remains a hockey asset," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said via email.