LOS ANGELES -- The free-agent class is deep in goal this summer, but the market for netminders isn't limited to unrestricted free agents.
Tim Thomas is under contract and being shopped around by the Boston Bruins, but whether the veteran goalie actually finds a new home is far from certain. For starters, he calls the shots with a no-trade clause. Secondly, he's got $15 million and three years left on his contract and it's expected goalies like Evgeni Nabokov, Marty Turco, Chris Mason, Dan Ellis and Martin Biron, among others, will come cheaper than $5 million a season come July.
On the other hand, he's a former Vezina Trophy winner whose numbers the past five seasons rank with almost anyone's.
The Bruins really want to shed themselves of Thomas' deal now that Tuukka Rask has established himself as a No. 1 goalie, and they've given permission to Thomas' agent, Bill Zito, to directly phone other NHL clubs.
"I do have permission to talk to teams," Zito told ESPN.com on Thursday afternoon. "But I'm not pounding the pavement looking for a team."
So where do things stand?
"What we agreed to with [Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli] is that he would see what's out there," Zito said. "Tim said he would look at whatever Pete brought to us and decide from there. But Pete hasn't brought anything to us at this point. I guess that could change at any point though."
L.A. goaltending storyJonathan Quick's name has somehow surfaced in Internet-fueled trade rumors involving the Los Angeles Kings goalie.
"Yeah, I read that the other day. There's no way. He's not going anywhere," Kings GM Dean Lombardi told ESPN.com on Thursday.
Is Michael Leighton staying or going?Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told ESPN.com on Thursday he's still willing to re-sign the potential UFA goalie. In fact, Holmgren and Leighton's agent, Mike Liut, met Thursday here in Los Angeles.
More goalie talkIn Tampa Bay, Antero Niittymaki may suddenly be available. A week ago, both sides were positive about the chances he would re-sign with the Lightning; but one source involved in the situation said Thursday he is more than likely headed to unrestricted free agency.
"We had discussions earlier, but there's nothing imminent right now," Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, not the source I cited above, told ESPN.com via e-mail Thursday.
If Niittymaki heads to the market, it just makes the free-agent group that much deeper, joining others such as Jose Theodore, Vesa Toskala and Johan Hedberg. It also means teams will have the upper hand in negotiations come July. A lot of goalies, but not enough jobs for all of them. When the music stops, you don't want to be the goalie left standing without a job in late July.
How will it all shake out? One NHL executive told ESPN.com on Thursday he wouldn't be surprised if Turco ended up in San Jose.
"He's played really well at the Shark Tank over the years," said the executive. "But he'd have to take a pay cut."
Turco told ESPN.com last week that his priority was joining a winning team, so San Jose certainly fits that criteria. So does Philadelphia. In both cases, however, Turco would have to take a pay cut from the $5.7 million salary he made this past season.
And finally ...• Turco's old team, the Dallas Stars, could be busy here over the next few days. They are deep up front and are hoping to move a forward, possibly Mike Ribeiro (three more years on his deal at $5 million per).
"Lots of dialogue. We'll see what happens here," Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk told ESPN.com on Thursday, declining to discuss specific names.
• One rumor making the rounds Thursday was that Ribeiro could land in St. Louis, where former Stars GM Doug Armstrong, who acquired the center from Montreal while in Dallas, is now running the Blues. But when asked about acquiring Ribeiro, a front-office source in St. Louis said it was "unlikely."
• And finally, the agent for Chris Higgins, UFA July 1, said Thursday the Calgary Flames aren't ruled out. "I'm meeting with [Flames GM] Darryl Sutter tomorrow," Matt Keator told ESPN.com.
• It wouldn't be a free-agency update without Tomas Kaberle talk. One Leafs front-office source told ESPN.com early Thursday afternoon that "things were heating up." Stay tuned!