As if there wasn't enough intrigue around the Lightning's search for a No. 1 goaltender, one more name might be in the mix: Boston's Tim Thomas.
There is no indication this is the way Tampa Bay wants to go, and no indication (other than sketchy reports out of Boston) the Bruins want to trade Thomas, the 2010-11 Vezina Trophy winner with one year left on his contract.
But practical arguments can be made both ways. The Lightning might see Thomas as a short-term fix while waiting for permanent options after next season. And the Bruins, with Tuukka Rask waiting to start, could get something for Thomas before his contract expires.
Clearly, Tampa Bay would rather find a long-term solution this summer, but there are no slam dunks among the presumptive targets.
Vancouver's Cory Schneider appears off the market, and Roberto Luongo — because of a contract that has 10 years left and pays $6.714 million the next six — is a nonstarter unless the Canucks want to trade for, say, Vinny Lecavalier and his 11-year, $85 million deal.
Los Angeles' Jonathan Bernier and Nashville's Anders Lindback have promise, but as backups they have just 86 NHL games between them. And Josh Harding, the most intriguing name in a down year for pending unrestricted free agents, hasn't been able to take the No. 1 job in four full seasons with the Wild and has a history of injuries.
Another year of experience wouldn't hurt Bernier or Lindback, and the potential pool of unrestricted free agents is a bit deeper in 2013, with contracts expiring for Detroit's Jimmy Howard, Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick and, dare we say it, Phoenix's Mike Smith.
Even Schneider is one year away from being unrestricted if he does not sign long term.
If that is Tampa Bay's thinking, it needs a bridge through next season, and that brings us back to Thomas. Yes, his $5 million cap hit is close to Luongo's $5.33 million. The difference is Thomas' 2012-13 salary is a manageable $3 million, which would leave the Lightning some flexibility to make needed upgrades on defense. Plus, the investment would be for one season, compared with a long-term commitment to Luongo.
There are road blocks, of course. Thomas, with a 2.36 goals-against average and .920 save percentage this season, is 38, and Tampa Bay was just burned trying to get one more season out of 42-year-old Dwayne Roloson.
Thomas also has a no-trade clause through June 30. He could waive it, but if not, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman would have to be creative. Yzerman's two first-round draft picks and four seconds, which could be used as trade bait, will be gone after the June 22-23 draft.
The Bruins say they want to keep Thomas, who backstopped them last season to their first Stanley Cup title in 39 years.
But let's say they are open to a trade and so, too, is Thomas, a teammate of Tampa Bay's Marty St. Louis at the University of Vermont. Asked if he would deal the No. 10 overall draft pick if the right situation came along, Yzerman, speaking generally, said, "I'm open to anything."