GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed that Tim Thomas has approached the Boston Bruins about sitting out the 2012-13 season, taking a sabbatical from the NHL that would leave the team with some difficult decisions about his future.
"Tim came to me toward the beginning of May through his agent, and said he is seriously considering taking the year off," said Chiarelli. "The reasons why, I'm not exactly sure. He gave us some reasons regarding his family, spending more time with them, which I can respect.
"I almost have to operate under the premise that he isn't coming back."
Chiarelli said the Bruins were prepared to go into next season with Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin as the team's goaltenders, without seeking a veteran replacement for Thomas.
CSNNE.com reported on Thursday that Thomas' family relocated to Colorado during the season. Chiarelli said he was surprised and "more than a little disappointed" in Thomas' apparent decision, that "when someone talks about their family, you have to respect that."
If Thomas doesn't play, he'd be suspended by the Bruins.
Thomas' $5 million cap hit would remain on the cap, but Chiarelli said that Marc Savard's $4 million long-term injury exception would cover most of that under next season's cap.
Thomas' no-movement clause expires on July 1. Chiarelli said moving Thomas would be something the team would look at, with teams seeking to reach the salary cap floor, but that there's been no deadline set for Thomas to make a decision on his future.
The Bruins also have the option of tolling Thomas' contract, meaning that they'd have the decision on whether the last year of his deal would be in 2013-14 or would expire in his suspended season. If they push the final year of his deal to 2013-14, Thomas' $5 million hit would count next season and the following season.
Chiarelli said the possibility of a contract extension wasn't discussed with Thomas. He said Thomas indicated that he wanted to play in the 2014 Winter Olympics for the U.S., after having served as Ryan Miller's backup in the Vancouver Games in 2010.
The Bruins GM noted several times that other NHL players have taken time away from the NHL, including Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne, to determine if they wanted to play again. Alexei Yashin of the Senators sat out the 1999-2000 season due to demands to renegotiate his contract.
"These things come up, they happen, and that's what's happening with Tim right now," said Chiarelli.
"I've seen this stuff happen with players, at this particular point in their career, have taken time to decide if they want to come back. Tim has pretty much said that he's not, but other people change their minds."