By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON -- While there have been several different trade rumors involving the Bruins that have bubbled up over the last couple of days, sources indicated to CSNNE.com that Boston's top trade priority heading into the draft is unloading veteran goalie Tim Thomas and his $5 million salary cap hit.
Thomas lost his starting job to rookie Tuukka Rask last season and is seeking to become a No. 1 goaltender elsewhere. Itís apparent he's willing to waive his no-trade clause in order to do so.
Sources also indicated both the San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning are in the mix in discussions with the Bruins for Thomas, and the Philadelphia Flyers are also a potential suitor if they can shed some salary cap baggage leading up to the July 1 free agent deadline.
"They've got to move the salary," one source with knowledge of the situation told CSNNE.com. "They donít have a whole lot of choice. The challenge is finding a place willing to take him and the salary that goes along with him."
There was some question about whether teams would be scared away by the hip surgery Thomas underwent after the season was over, and there was uncertainty about whether Thomas would be willing to waive the no-trade clause he owns in two of the three remaining years on his deal.
But several sources indicated Thomas' surgery was minor in nature and general manager Peter Chiarelli said last week Thomas would be ready at the start of training camp. A second source indicated the likelihood is that Thomas will waive the no-trade if the right kind of deal comes along after putting up a perfectly serviceable 2.56 goals-against average and .915 save percentage along with five shutouts last season.
"He's a goalie and he wants to play. He's a competitive guy and the most important thing for him at this point in his career is to go to a player where he can play,Ē said a second source. "He's not going to be happy if heís sitting."
With Evgeni Nabokov and the Sharks possibly ready to part ways after the goalie couldn't quite get a talented team over the hump and into the Stanley Cup finals, Sharks GM Doug Wilson could view Thomas as the missing piece to the puzzle.
The Lightning make even more sense with Antero Nittymaki (an unrestricted free agent) and Mike Smith (on the books for one more season at $2.2 million) both more suited for a backup spot.
Adding a bit more sweetener to the pot is the close relationship between Lightning star forward Marty St. Louis and Thomas, who were teammates at the University of Vermont.
In any case, it appears the market for Thomas has kicked up following Montreal's trade of Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues. Many of the teams who lost out on Halak are now coming to Chiarelli and Cam Neely calling for Thomas.
A deal could even be in place for the two-time All-Star and Vezina Trophy winner before the Bruins make their selection with the No. 2 pick at the Staples Center on Friday night.
Expect the Bruins to be very active in the trade markets with Thomas and others leading up to Friday's first round of the NHL draft.
Joe Haggerty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Joe on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HackswithHaggs