Thomas might have to stay

The Bruins lived with a $5 million back-up goaltender last spring and through the playoffs. Now it looks like they might be doing that again in the 2010-11 season.

Through three hours of “Free Agent Frenzy,” teams once thought to be suitors for Boston’s No. 2 netminder have found cheaper ways to fill their crease.

First San Jose lured Antero Niittymaki away from Tampa Bay for a two-year deal worth $4 million. And then Dan Ellis inked a deal to replace Niittymaki with the Lightning at a friendly $1.5 million per for two seasons. Ellis is a good friend of Lightning incumbent goaltender Mike Smith and is looking forward to working with him.

Philadelphia became a less likely destination as well, because they spent their money in other ways by acquiring $4 million-per-year blueliner Andrej Meszaros from Tampa Bay and then re-signed Braydon Coburn as a restricted free agent. For Philly to add $5 million for a goaltender, there’d have to be some major money moving.

So with Evgeni Nabokov, Marty Turco, Chris Mason and Jose Theodore still available as free agents, where could Thomas land. Washington might re-consider it’s goaltending situation, and Atlanta is still chasing someone to man its crease. But the pickings are slim. Thomas just might find himself right where he started the summer when fall rolls around.