A Stanley Cup champion, Conn Smythe winner and two-time Vezina Trophy winner (2009, 2011), Thomas left the Boston Bruins after the 2011-12 season, handing the crease to Tuukka Rask. He vowed, through a Facebook message, to return after a year off from competitive hockey.
In February, the Bruins traded a dormant Thomas to the New York Islanders for a conditional second-round draft pick — a move used to help the Isles reach the salary-cap floor.
Thomas’s contract expired in July and he became an unrestricted free agent.
If Thomas is only seeking a No. 1 role, prime NHL candidates for his services include the Florida Panthers and now the Calgary Flames.
The Flames announced the retirement of No. 1 netminder Miikka Kiprusoff on Monday, and last week new president of hockey operations Brian Burke said the club was prepared to spend to the cap.
Heading into training camp, the Panthers, another team with cap room, are set to start Jacob Markstrom in net. The 23-year-old Swede is not yet a top-tier netminder, going 8-14-1 with a 3.22 goals-against average in 2012-13.
Panthers veteran backup Scott Clemmensen had arthroscopic knee surgery last week. He, too, had a rough 2013, going 3-7-2 with a gaudy 3.67 GAA.
“We’re looking at every possibility, the waiver wire, trades, free agents, whatever we can do to improve,” Panthers GM Dale Tallon told the Sun-Sentinel. “There will be a lot of transactions during this training camp.”
The Avalanche are an interesting option as well (purely hypothetical here). Semyon Varlamov is entering a contract year and must bounce back from a 2012-13 campaign in which he went 11-21-3 with a 3.02 GAA. He’ll be closely watched by new head coach and VP of hockey operations Patrick Roy, who already brought goalie guru Francois Allaire into the fold.
Thomas moved his family to Colorado after he left the Bruins.