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Tolling Tim Thomas, fighting rises, and sacred goalies

Tim Thomas' time with Boston came to an end when the team shipped the exiled goalie to the Islanders for a conditional second round pick.  (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Tim Thomas' time with Boston came to an end when the team shipped the exiled goalie to the Islanders for a conditional second round pick. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Some Friday musings for your dining and dancing pleasure:

ALL GOOD THINGS COME TO AN END

When Tim Thomas was traded to the New York Islanders Thursday, there were reports that the Islanders would be able to “toll” Thomas’s $5 million cap hit in perpetuity. But the NHL certainly doesn’t see it that way.

The Islanders effectively made the deal for cap reasons, to give themselves some breathing room with respect to the cap floor of $44.3 million. By acquiring Thomas, they get that relief, but with Thomas in his self-imposed NHL exile, they get that relief without having to pay a penny of his salary and without having to give up the second round pick in 2014 or ‘15.

If Thomas were to want to continue his career next season, he would owe the Islanders the final year on his contract, but the Islanders would also have the right to decline that option, which would make Thomas an unrestricted free agent. It was thought that if Thomas continued to sit-out the Islanders would be able to carry that $5 million cap hit to next year and years beyond, effectively getting them $5 million closer to the salary cap floor without having to spend any actual money.

I couldn’t believe the NHL would allow such a thing, so I asked deputy commissioner Bill Daly whether the Islanders could carry Thomas’s cap hit into subsequent seasons.

“It’s a fair question,” Daly told thn.com via email. “I don’t believe we would carry the cap charge past this year.”

FIGHTS GALORE

Logic would have dictated that, with the importance of each game being magnified, fighting would have gone down, or at least not gone up, this season.

But as always, the NHL defies logic once again. Fighting is actually up and we’re not talking a little tick here. It’s up substantially.

According to hockeyfights.com, there have been 95 fights in the first 152 games of this season for an average of 0.63 fights per game. Logic would dictate fighting would decline as the season progresses, but once again, we can’t assume logic will apply here. If the current rate of fighting continues, there will be 450 fights in 720 games.

Projected over a customary 1,230-game season, that would give the league a total of 769 fights, which would put it more than 200 fights ahead of the figure from last season. It would also represent the most fisticuffs since 2003-04 when there were a total of 789 fights, or 0.64 per game.

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GOALIES SHOULDN’T BE THIS SACRED

Fighting isn’t the only thing that is up statistically this season. If you think you’re seeing more goaltender interference calls than previous seasons, you’re right.

Through the first 140 games this season, there were 41 goalie interference calls made. In the same period last season, there were 34 and through 140 games of the 2010-11 season, there were 32.

Last Sunday, the Ottawa Senators had a goal disallowed when Jakob Silfverberg made the most subtle, most incidental contact with Carey Price. What made matters worse is that Price was clearly outside the crease at the time. The Senators ended up losing the game 2-1. So if they miss the playoffs this season by one or two points, they can in part thank the call in that game for it.

It seems to me this has gone a little too far in favor of the goaltenders. The referees on the ice will always err on the side of caution when it comes to contact with goalies, but they also have to apply the rule as it’s stated in the NHL rulebook. In it, Rule 69 states, “Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.”

That doesn’t look like what’s happening now. Increasingly, too, I’m seeing defensemen push opposing forwards into their own goalie, then getting the benefit of the goaltender interference call if a goal is scored.

I can see why the NHL doesn’t want to open the floodgates on this one, but let’s have some common sense here. There was a time when referees called a goal back if an opposing player’s DNA was in the crease, but then the league realized applying that rule in such a way didn’t make sense. It’s time it did the same thing with respect to incidental contact.

Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column. To read more from Ken and THN's other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Ken on Twitter at @THNKenCampbell.

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