The Islanders are tied for 10th place in the Eastern Conference. Evgeni Nabokov (4-4-1, 2.99 goals-against average, .903 save percentage) and oft-injured Winthrop native Rick DiPietro (0-1-0, 4.14 GAA, .852 save percentage) are their two goalies.
The Islanders have options. They could try to convince Thomas to play this season. They could trade Thomas prior to the trade deadline to a goaltending-hungry contender that believes it could change his mind about playing this season.
Or the Islanders could toll Thomas’s contract forward another year. Thomas would then owe the Islanders a year of service in 2013-14. Nabokov will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Thomas’s cap hit also gives the Islanders additional cushion above the $44 million cap floor. If the Islanders fade, they can trade players such as Visnovsky, Nabokov, or Mark Streit to contenders for picks and prospects.
Thomas concludes his Boston run with a 196-121-45 record with a 2.48 GAA and a .921 save percentage. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s best goalie is arguably the sharpest puck-stopper in club history. Thomas could be a Hall of Famer, once a pipe dream for a player passed over by 29 other teams when he was recalled to Boston on waivers.
On Wednesday, Chiarelli delivered the news to the ex-University of Vermont star via phone. Thomas was walking his dogs, according to Chiarelli.
“He sounded,” Chiarelli said, “like he was in a good spot.”