Debate: Will Thomas sit out next season?

BOSTON -- Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli confirmed Friday that goalie Tim Thomas is considering taking next year off for family reasons.

The news was earlier reported by ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun.

"Tim came to me via his agent toward the beginning of May and said he was thinking of taking the year off," Chiarelli said in a conference call Friday. "The reasons are ... I'm not exactly sure, but he did give reasons why regarding the family, which obviously I respect."

The GM said Thomas, 38, hasn't indicated when he will make a final decision. As a result, Chiarelli must proceed as if the two-time Vezina Trophy winner won't be with the team in 2012-13.

"I almost have to operate under the assumption he isn't coming back," Chiarelli said. "I've had some discussions with Tim and he's told me that he wants to play in the Olympics the following year, so I'll have more discussions with him later on. But we've got two very capable goalies in [Tuukka] Rask and [Anton] Khudobin, so I'd be more than satisfied if that's who we have to go with."

Rask is a restricted free agent and still unsigned. Khudobin has one year left on a one-way deal. The Bruins also signed goalie Niklas Svedberg to an entry-level deal earlier this week.

Chiarelli would not comment on negotiations with Rask except that the Bruins intend to sign him. When asked if he would consider signing a veteran free agent goalie, the GM reiterated he's happy with the netminders currently on the roster.

Thomas is entering the final season of a contract that will pay him $3 million and will cost the Bruins $5 million against the cap. Chiarelli said if Thomas hasn't made a definitive decision on whether he will play by the beginning of next season he would suspend the goalie.

But even if the Bruins suspend Thomas, the cap hit still would count against the team for next season. However, the Bruins would gain $4 million of that back by placing injured center Marc Savard on long-term injury reserve.

"If he wasn't playing I would have to suspend him," Chiarelli said of Thomas. "His cap number would still be on the cap. We would have relief through Savard being on the cap, so it would almost be a wash that way, and that's the way we would proceed through the year. We're not seriously cramped from the cap perspective. As I've said, we've got Marc Savard on LTI and he's at $4 million, and Tim's at $5 million, so do the math and we're maybe a million short. So we're not seriously disabled there. It's something that I'll approach delicately with Tim."

If Thomas is suspended, Chiarelli also has the option to toll the contract into 2013-14. The team would maintain Thomas' services with the same $5 million cap hit, but Chiarelli stressed that no matter what, the cap hit remains for the upcoming season.

"I would be able to toll the contract, which would mean I would acquire the same terms of service in a subsequent year," Chiarelli said. "I would have the ability to decide if I want the contract to expire or for it to go another year."

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