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Brian Duff's Blog: What's a Tim Thomas worth?

Tim Thomas leads the NHL in save percentage in .934. (Brian Babineau/Sports Action Photography)

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Tim Thomas leads the NHL in save percentage in .934. (Brian Babineau/Sports Action Photography)

Tim Thomas will win the Vezina Trophy this year.

And while it's not exactly breaking news, maybe it's time more people started reading that sentence aloud.

It's easy to look at the stats and realize he's a shoo-in to be at least a finalist, but the numbers don't tell the whole story.

Watch him.

Listen to him.

Feel the respect he has earned from his teammates, coaching staff and those who follow the team closely.

One of the great Thomas highlights of this season, for me, came back on Jan. 13, when the archrival Canadiens visited the Garden.

Boston's Aaron Ward got railroaded from behind by Andrei Kostitsyn and when the Montreal forward made his way to the front of the net, he was met with a cross-check to the back from Thomas. Kostitsyn got five minutes for the original hit, Thomas got two for roughing, and the Bruins beat the Habs again.

During all-star weekend in Montreal, Thomas put the spotlight squarely on himself during the draw for the Elimination Shootout by dealing Ilya Kovalchuk so he could face fan favorite Alex Kovalev. He wanted to play up the Boston/Montreal rivalry, and it worked.

Kovalev may have beaten Thomas on the first attempt, but ultimately Thomas prevailed on the next one, eliminating the Eastern Conference captain from the competition.

In Sunday's All-Star Game, Thomas managed to turn the jeers (for being a Bruin) to perhaps the biggest cheer (for a non-goal) with his incredible desperation save in overtime on Jarome Iginla.

Ironically, if it weren't for that save, Kovalev may not have won the MVP award and Thomas wouldn’t have walked away with an ASG victory.

As the soon to be 35-year-old Michigan native returned to regular season action Tuesday, there he was again in overtime, providing the NHL with one of its highlights of the night.

Thomas made a lightning quick right pad save on Nicklas Backstrom, who appeared to have the game clinched for the Caps. Five seconds later, the Bruins drew a penalty in transition and then won the game on the ensuing power play.

The Bruins are in a position to win the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time since 1990.

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Thomas is poised to become an unrestricted free agent this July.

How much is he worth? And for how many years?

It's a real tricky spot for the Boston organization because regardless of how well he's playing, his age has to be a major consideration. Should his game erode early on in a multi-year deal, there will be no way for the Bruins to buy him out because he'll be over 35. And let's not forget, salary cap mismanagement takes on even greater significance in difficult economic times.

Would anything less than a three-year deal be considered an insult for the Thomas camp and cause him to focus on greener pastures beyond the Massachusetts border?

Keep in mind, this is his one and only shot at the lottery.

GM Peter Chiarelli appears headed for a contract extension very soon.

When will Thomas get his?

YOUTH MOVEMENT
Staying on the goaltending theme, the most intriguing rumor around Montreal last weekend involved the Capitals and what their plan may be come playoff time. Various sources close to the team suggested Simeon Varlamov (16-5-0 with Hershey) will be recalled and assume the No. 1 role heading into the post-season.

ON FIRE
And lastly, is it time we start paying more attention to Miikka Kiprusoff and his quest to break Martin Brodeur’s record for most wins in a season? He came out of the break with 28. He’s 20 shy of tying the mark with 36 games to play and despite Mike Keenan’s intimations he will play Curtis McElhinney more, I suspect Kiprusoff will still see at least 31 starts. The Flames are good, but are they good enough to help their netminder achieve a magical mark?

Brian Duff is a host of On The Fly on the NHL Network. Like his minor hockey days (playing goalie, defense and forward) his broadcasting career has been all over the map. In radio and TV from Medicine Hat to Edmonton, Toronto to Ottawa and back, Brian has been with the NHL Network since 2007 and has been covering the game for nearly 15 years. Read more of his THN.com Blog HERE.

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