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Kalman: Thomas Owes Bruins Definite Decision

By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
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Tim Thomas #30 of the Boston Bruins stretches between play against the Washington Capitals in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 19, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Tim Thomas #30 of the Boston Bruins stretches between play against the Washington Capitals in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 19, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

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Boston Bruins

BOSTON (CBS) – Running any organization, in sports or other fields, comes with several uncertainties.

For the Bruins, injuries, free agency, trades and the development of prospects are several of the things general manager Peter Chiarelli has to weigh and try to predict in order to make his club as successful as it can.

One certainty is supposed to be signed contracts. Tim Thomas is signed for one more season at a salary of $3 million and a cap hit of $5 million. Yet he has now joined the list of uncertainties.

Chiarelli Friday confirmed the TSN/ESPN report that Thomas is thinking about sitting out the 2012-13 season. The term Chiarelli used to describe Thomas’ decision – because Thomas hasn’t spoken for himself (nor, according to Chiarelli, does he plan to) – was “seriously considering” taking a year off.

Now Thomas is under no commitment to let the world know his reasoning. We’ve come to expect that Thomas is going to do everything he can to exercise his power of free will and be his own man. He doesn’t owe the public or the media any explanations, although one has to hope he has expanded on his decision to Chiarelli better than Chiarelli was able to vaguely describe it during a conference call while trying to not let slip any specifics of Thomas’ situation.

If Thomas has a family issue, small or big, or he’s worn down from the last couple seasons, or whatever it is that’s important enough to cause him to forgo $3 million, it’s his choice to take off. However, in the spirit of hockey as a team sport, Thomas owes the Bruins the certainty to know that he’s definitely in or out.

The Bruins, albeit a previous front-office administration, were the first to give him a legitimate shot at playing in the NHL. They signed him to two lucrative multi-year contracts even as his age continued to hint that he might not be able to play up to the money amount. To his credit, Thomas has rewarded the Bruins with several All-Star regular seasons and a Stanley Cup championship in 2011.

Publicly, Chiarelli is taking the high road about Thomas, expressing his respect for the goaltender’s decision and stating that he’ll approach this offseason as though he won’t have Thomas on his team. Maybe Chiarelli knows more than he’s letting on or perhaps he’s just putting on a strong face in the spotlight. Even when it comes to the ridiculous $5 million cap hit the Bruins have to carry if Thomas sits out, Chiarelli said he didn’t feel like he was in a jam and pointed to the relief the Bruins get from Marc Savard’s long-term injury as something that’ll help his team maintain its deep talent pool.

Regardless, until Thomas releases some sort of statement or makes his plans definite, he’s not doing the Bruins any favors.

For as long as there’s even a crack in the door for Thomas to return, the two-time Vezina Trophy-winner will be hovering over the Bruins’ situation. What if the tandem of Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin gets off to a rocky start? What if the Bruins find themselves with a high goals-against average come midseason and they’re mired in the middle of the standings? The questions about a possible Thomas return are going to arise. The more the Bruins say that the Thomas questions are a media creation that don’t distract the club, the more of a distraction those questions will create.

Thomas doesn’t have to offer specifics of his situation. He just needs to say one way or another whether he’s going to play or sit. The notion of him coming back for 2013-14, and making a drive for a spot on the Olympic team, can be reserved for a later time. We don’t know if the Bruins will even choose to retain Thomas’ rights once his deal expires.

For the here and now, Thomas owes it to the Bruins to commit to a season in the crease or on the sidelines.

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