Tim Thomas was the backup in Hamilton. He spent a stretch in Birmingham. Thomas starred in Finland, where he had made his peace that he might never play NHL hockey.
Tim Thomas is happy to be staying in Boston for the next four years. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
But Thomas's journey hit a big-bucks milestone yesterday when he signed a four-year, $20 million extension, validating the twisted career path he's taken to No. 1 status.
"In hindsight, I'd have to say everything worked out perfectly," Thomas said this morning. "Here I am in a great hockey town and in a great situation. I'm looking forward to the next four years, playing in that hockey town and for that organization. I'd have to say everything worked out as it should have."
* Perhaps the biggest concern of the extension for the 34-year-old Thomas is the term. Thomas, who turns 35 on April 15, will be 39 in the final year of his contract. "I've never really felt like it was close," Thomas said of the end of his career. "I still don't feel like it's close. I still feel like it's a long ways away." Peter Chiarelli said that Thomas has improved every season since he's been in Boston, and that he doesn't have much NHL mileage (216 career appearances), indicating that he still has several years of effective play left in his game.
* With free agency approaching this summer, Thomas had to consider whether he wanted to uproot his family and leave a good situation for his last multi-year payday. "You have to think about, 'Would you rather go someplace else, or would you rather stay in Boston?' After weighing things over, over, and over, the answer always kept coming back Boston," said Thomas. "It's a great place to play. Great teammates. Great fans. I'm very happy to be looking at the next four years in Boston."
* Because of the tight cap situation the Bruins will be facing heading into 2009-10, it's inevitable that some salaries may be moved this offseason. "I'd like to sign everyone, but we have to make decisions over the summer," Chiarelli said. "We'll look at the performance of players, then we do the math. We've been doing the math from the time I've come here. That's a large part of the job. What is important to the organization is that we have terrific goaltending for a long time. Sometimes you have to put aside the math -- not completely -- and make the decisions like we did with Tim."
* Thomas has a no-movement clause for each of the first three years of his new deal. There are no restrictions on his fourth year.