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G Thomas open to return after 1-year layoff

Veteran goalie Tim Thomas is interested in resuming his career after taking a season off.

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The player's agent, Bill Zito, confirmed on Monday night that Thomas asked him to explore what teams might be interested in the two-time Vezina Trophy winner once the NHL's free agency period opens Friday.

``We talked this morning and he asked me to see if there's any options,'' Zito said by phone. ``So I'll be exploring his options to see what could be out there.''

Zito stressed that Thomas wants to gauge any interest before determining whether he'll return to play.

Thomas, now 39, spent last season as a member of the New York Islanders in name only. The Islanders acquired Thomas in a trade with Boston after the Bruins suspended him for failing to report to training camp.

The Islanders traded for Thomas to have the final year of his contract count for $5 million against their salary cap to meet league's mandated $44 million minimum.

As it turns out, Thomas' apparent intention to resume playing comes at the same time the Islanders continue to shuffle goalies. An Islanders official confirmed the team will buy out the remaining eight years of Rick DiPietro's contract.

Thomas played eight seasons with the Bruins and had a 196-121-45 record, with a 2.48 goals-against average and 31 shutouts in 378 career games. He won the Vezina, then Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2011, when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.

Thomas made the surprise move of taking a year off last summer. He was in part worn down after he played every minute during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011, followed by playing another 49 games - and seven more in the playoffs - the next season.

In announcing his decision, Thomas also suggested he hoped to return for the 2013-14 season in a bid to compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. He's from Flint, Mich., and was a member of the silver medal-winning team at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

In trading Thomas, the Bruins acquired a conditional second-round pick in the 2015 draft. The move also freed up space under their salary cap.

Thomas' absence didn't exactly hinder the Bruins. Tuukka Rask capably handled the starting duties in helping Boston reach the Stanley Cup final, which they lost to Chicago in six games last week.

It's unclear what market there will be for Thomas. Other established goalies schedule to hit free agency this week include DiPietro, Ilya Bryzgalov, who's contract was bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers, Edmonton's Nikolai Khabibulin and the Islanders' Evgeni Nabokov.

The Buffalo Sabres are also open to trading Ryan Miller, who might not fit in the team's rebuilding plans. Miller is entering the final year of his contract and eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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