Goalie Watch 2011: On Short-Term Solutions and the Flyers 'Targeting Tim Thomas'

Goalie Watch 2011: On Short-Term Solutions and the Flyers 'Targeting Tim Thomas'
June 1, 2011, 6:18 pm

The 2011 Flyers Goalie Watch continues, this time with an interesting item posted at ESPN.com over the Memorial Day weekend featuring a name that will be painfully familiar to all Flyers fans—Tim Thomas.

Veteran hockey scribe Jay Greenberg pens this story, parts of which are somewhat subtly presented while others are notably more direct. The article is immediately declarative in stating the Flyers' interest in Thomas, with its pointed title reading, "Philadelphia targets Tim Thomas."

No question mark at the end. No "likely to," "may," or "should."

Without giving too much away about what's behind the pay wall of this ESPN Insider story, much of the discussion on the Flyers' interest in Thomas is viewable without the subscription, and it boils down to: They want him, because if Boston again makes him available, he'd be a good fit with the timing of the Flyers' plans.

The article mentions the well-discussed Thomas-for-Jeff Carter trade proposed last year, which the Flyers reportedly declined. There was a different perception of Tim Thomas then though, and I admit, even if Carter had not been the Bruins' target at that time, I was hoping the Flyers wouldn't wind up pinning their hopes (and salary cap space) on Thomas. Whether or not he would have been the difference in 2010-2011, I was wrong about Thomas, who provided a good lesson that a goalie's performance in any given season will not definitively tell you what to expect in the next. The Bruins themselves were willing to deal a goalie that would ultimately earn a 2.00 regular season GAA and take them at least to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Would they be willing to again this summer? If so, would they trade him to the Eastern Conference power franchise they've faced in consecutive postseasons?

That part is obviously unknown at this point, but Greenberg's stated reasoning on the Flyers' current interest in Thomas makes sense given what the organization has already publicly said since their ouster early last month. Although the team is likely looking to add another goalie, they don't want to bring in a long-term guy. According to Ed Snider in previous interviews, the team thinks Sergei Bobrovsky is the long-term answer in goal. GM Paul Holmgren had previously said that he believes Bobrovsky "will be the number 1 goalie" but isn't sure when, very much leaving open that it could still be next season. Given the confidence in Bob but uncertainty as to his developmental timing, combined with Snider's insistence that there won't be another goalie carousel next season, a veteran goalie who is not necessarily looking for a long-term deal would presumably be a good fit.

Thomas, 37, has two years remaining on his existing contract.

Greenberg's article additionally discusses a few other goaltending options, the salary cap issues that must be overcome to add a big piece, and other well-traveled Flyers Goalie Watch roads. There are a few interesting items that I'm leaving out because I don't want to provide everything that appears in his article, as well as information that was viewed beyond a pay wall.

But what's also of interest to me is what isn't there. There are no statements regarding the source of the information. Not Holmgren or another Flyers source (no surprise given that, ya know, Thomas is still playing), or even a softly placed "Sources close to the team" or "NHL sources say." And yet, it doesn't read as though Greenberg is just throwing a popular name out there and attaching it to the Flyers, which is often the case this time of year as we've discussed in previous posts. Upon first read, due to the firmness of its few statements as to the Flyers thinking, it leaves the impression he does have some kind of source.

Who that source is, we don't know, but Greenberg is no stranger to the organization. He has been a hockey writer for more than three decades, including 14 years covering the Flyers for the Daily News and the Bulletin from 1975-1989, after which he was on staff at the New York Post. In 2000, Greenberg published a book on the history of the Flyers called Full Spectrum, and he's recently contributed to CSNPhilly.com.

Perhaps that's just the craft of the experienced writer convincingly building a stable narrative on a speculative topic. But in articles like these in which major outlets discuss a team's intentions, a source is often named or alluded to. In this case, I don't think the lack of a mention means there is a lack of a source, and that's what grabbed my attention as much as the subject being Tim Thomas.

We won't know for sure whether the Flyers will try to trade for Thomas or at least kick the tires with Boston again until the postseason ends and the player movement window opens, and perhaps we won't even know after that. The article doesn't state that Thomas is the only option the Flyers are targeting, nor even the first; several other possible options are mentioned. But the prevailing notion I tend to agree with in the report isn't so much the team's interest in Thomas, but their interest in a short-term but stable answer. It's been on my mind since first hearing the comments of the GM and the Chairman on Bobrovsky. If Bob is believed to be the goalie of the future, why sign an expensive free agent to a long-term deal? Gambling on a goaltender's future performance is scary enough.

Meanwhile, I could also imagine Ed Snider saying the same thing most of us were as the Flyers got swept out of the second round by the Bruins… What's it going to take to get THAT guy in our net?

We'll hold off on delving into whether or not a deal for Thomas is the right fit for the Flyers until we hear more, and possibly until the information comes from a named source. The evaluation of any such deal would heavily involve what the team had to give up both to pry Thomas loose and free up any needed cap space. The "Insert Thomas" part has its obvious advantages.

For now, we're just adding another name to the 2011 Flyers Goalie Watch, but also taking a look at the Flyers' possible short-term line of thinking when it comes to the acquisitions market.

Photo: Greg M. Cooper-US Presswire

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