Thomas/By S. Bradley

With summer at its peak, I’ll spend numerous posts over the next couple weeks answering my readers’ questions.

So check back often to see if I answer your query.

Here’s a first dose of the mini mailbags:

Dave Poitras wrote: Assuming Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas can stay healthy, what do you think the best approach would be in terms of splitting duties? With two years left on his contract and Thomas entering the year as a 37-year-old, does it still make sense to give him 70 percent of the games, especially when Rask becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the 2011-12 season?

Matt Kalman: Well, for the record Dave, Thomas started 67 percent of the games in last year’s regular season. But I know what you’re saying. And I don’t think the plan was ever for Thomas to start that many. But his play, and that of Rask, dictated it. If head coach Claude Julien has proven anything about his relationship with his goaltenders it’s this: he’ll always go with the guy that’s playing better, sometimes to the team’s detriment.

I suspect an open competition again this fall, and to start the season you’re going to see a lot of sharing just like always. There’s no way anyone’s contract status will come into play, nor will the Bruins ignore Thomas’ age and his ability to play better when he gets a rest here or there (but never too much). I was one that didn’t like Thomas getting those week-long breaks last season, but it just goes to show you what I know – it turned out he was perfectly ready for the postseason and his amazing run.

Now based on the current labor deal, Rask will be a RFA, and the Bruins will have to figure out how much salary they can devote to two goaltenders. My bet is that they wait and see where the cap goes and what the CBA rules are after this season. Should things tighten up too much, general manager Peter Chiarelli might have to make a difficult decision as far as moving one of his star netminders.

But hopefully it doesn’t come to that and the plan plays out the way Boston wants it to. Rask could take a reasonable No. 2 goalie’s salary for the short-term knowing that when Thomas is done, the job is his and the he could break the bank down the road, all the while staying in the only NHL city he’s known. That’s the way the Bruins dream of it, and maybe he does too.

Joburg94 wrote: I’d like to know: 1. Why is a player’s yearly cap hit averaged over the length of his contract and not set at his actual received salary?; and 2. Why are performance bonuses counted toward a team’s cap hit even when not paid (e.g. Tyler Seguin can’t actually have been paid anywhere near his $3.5 million cap hit)?

MK: Thanks for the technical questions joburg94. I’ll try to answer this best I can. First off, I think the average-salary portion of the Collective Bargaining Agreement was designed to allow teams, particularly small-market clubs, to retain and acquire players easier. If a team is willing to frontload a deal, technically it might have a better shot at a player. The averaging out allows that team to enjoy a smaller cap hit and then add other players. Of course, all that’s done is open the door to all the circumvention (punishable and non-punishable) that we’ve seen go on the last couple years.

Second, the performance-bonus clause makes sure that you don’t just sign a bunch of players to cheap, bonus-laden deals. Seguin didn’t make $3.5 million last season, and because there was a cushion that carried over to 2011-12, he didn’t count that much against the cap for the Bruins. This year, he will count for that much because there’s no more cushion. Of course, we don’t know what the CBA will look like after this season, so it’s difficult to explain how Seguin’s contract will affect the Bruins this season. They’ll have a little less room to work with than last year in terms of Seguin, but as far as lessening their overage penalty next season, etc., we just won’t know until the new CBA is ratified.

Bojangles wrote: There doesn’t appear to be much room for any kids on this year’s roster, but in 2012-13, Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton, Joe Corvo and Johnny Boychuk all turn UFA and Benoit Pouliot will turn RFA. That’s a lot of spots. Looking at the kiddy corps, who do you see on the Bruins’ future roster, and who gets lost in the mix or traded for picks?

MK: Well, on the back end we know what the Bruins’ vision is for this year and next with a group built around Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid. Then it’s up to the kids to fill in for Corvo and Boychuk, or even force them out down the line. Heck, if a couple of the likes of Steven Kampfer, Matt Bartkowski, Yuri Alexandrov and Dougie Hamilton work out, they could push for Ference’s and McQuaid’s job by the 2012-13 season. Of course, we know that you can never have enough defensemen, so the Bruins will be patient to make sure the younger guys are ready before jettisoning the vets.

Up front, we already know that Seguin’s going to cut into someone’s (Peverley, Kelly?) minutes next season. Jordan Caron could also thrust himself into the mix and make someone like Paille expendable sooner than when his deal runs out. I think with Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner coming up as well, you’ll probably see all the forwards you mentioned, except Thornton, play out their deals and get replaced by younger, cheaper players – which will allow Boston to get long-term deals done with the likes of David Krejci and Rask. As for Thornton, I suspect he’s going to be a Bruins player for life, even if he signs a series of one-year deals to keep returning as the club’s spiritual leader and designated “man about town.”