Now that the odds his 2010-11 Bruins squad will feature a No. 2 goaltender making $5 million and a No. 1 taking home a little more than $1 million increased, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has to accept the market for a 36-year-old Tim Thomas just might not be what he thought it would be heading into the offseason.

With teams like San Jose, Atlanta and Tampa Bay addressing their goaltender needs in free agency today, there are fewer potential homes for Thomas. So Chiarelli is already wrapping his mind around a potential second season of Thomas and Tuukka Rask being together in Boston.

“I’m comfortable with our goaltending duo,” he said. “There’ll be an intense competition. That’s the way we had planned it and I’m comfortable with it. I’m not saying it’s going to end up that way, but I’m certainly comfortable if it is.”

What else is he going to say? Right now, he’s the victim of an NHL where GMs think cheap goaltenders are this summer’s Pokemon cards.

The Chicago-Philadelphia Stanley Cup Final, which featured less-heralded netminders Antti Niemi and Michael Leighton (relieved by Brian Boucher), convinced many general managers around the league that a team doesn’t need to spend upwards of $5 million on goaltending to be successful. That’s why teams pounced on somewhat unproven goaltenders like Antero Niittymaki ($2 million per year) and Dan Ellis ($1.5 million per) in free agency.

Chiarelli is not buying the “cheaper goaltender” approach.

“It is trendy. If you back – I know this year the two finalists had cheaper goalies – but I mean if you go back in time and the finalists and the winners had expensive goalies. It’s just how the cards were played this year, how the teams ended up in the Final,” said the Bruins general manager.

Chiarelli, however, shouldn’t give up on moving Thomas. Washington’s hesitancy in signing one of the remaining free agents could mean the Capitals want to stick with Semyon Varlamov or they could be considering what Thomas would look like in red, white and blue. There might be a mystery team or two out there as well, depending on what other trades go down.

By all accounts, Thomas, who hasn’t asked to be traded, would be a good soldier and show up at camp and play the backup role again if that’s what the Bruins want from him. Chiarelli could then revisit a trade of Thomas at the deadline, but we know how unpredictable that marketplace can be. The best-case scenario features Chiarelli getting Thomas onto another roster to free up his own cap space and allow a guy who has risked life and limb for the Bruins (on sometimes less-than-worthy teams) and deserves a chance to play elsewhere.