Tim Thomas, in net for Boston's 50th win of the season last night, yesterday agreed to a multi-year contract that will keep him with the Bruins for at least four more seasons. General manager confirmed the signing late this afternoon, and the club will formally announce the deal at a 10 a.m. press conference Saturday morning at TD Banknorth Garden.
While the Bruins did not reveal terms of the deal, a front-office member of an NHL team told the Globe's Fluto Shinzawa that Thomas signed a four-year, $20 million extension. Thomas will make $6 million in 2009-10 and 2010-11, $5 million in 2011-12, and $3 million in 2012-13, the source said.
The deal for the 34-year-old backstop is in the salary range of the $5.2 million per year earned by New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, age 36, who last month became the game's all-time winningest goalie.
Thomas, signed as free agent in 2002 by former Bruins general manager Mike O'Connell, is on the books this season, the last of a three-year deal, for $1.1 million.
Thomas -- who played in his second career NHL All-Star Game this past January -- is currently the league leader in both goals-against average (2.11) and save percentage (.932). He has established a new career high in wins with 33 and has helped lead the Bruins to their first 50-win season since 1992-93.
Thomas was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. According to a source in the Bruins front office, part of what was driving the club to get the deal done now is that fact that Thomas will turn 35 years old on April 15.
When a player signs a new deal after his 35th birthday, per the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), although he can be bought out (at a two-thirds reduction in pay), his cap number can not be deleted from the club's salary commitments.
For next year, and for either two or three more years, Thomas will be on Boston's books for some $5 million a year. But because he has signed the deal before age 35, the Bruins have the safeguard -- that they would want to execute it -- to be able to buy him out at any time, cut their dollar commitment by one-third, and be able to spread the payments over twice the remaining term of the deal. It is a significant safeguard.
With Thomas's deal now done, the Bruins have just under $47 million committed in 2009-10 payroll. The league's cap figure, now $56.7 million, is expected to drop next season to approximately $53 million-$55 million.
Chiarelli, who negotiated the the Thomas extension, now must decide how much he can pay star young forwards Phil Kessel and David Krejci, both of whom will be restricted free agents July 1.