In this edition of the Q&A, I tackle a question about the future of a veteran Flyers defenseman.
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Q: Will 44 be back? And if not-should @NHLFlyers go after Niskanen assuming he's going to demand 5-6mil+? #FlyersTalk
A: In truth, probably even Kimmo Timonen doesn’t know yet whether Kimmo Timonen will return to the Flyers next season. But that said, I have a sneaking suspicion he will be back for 2014-15.
My thoughts are based entirely off of the things Timonen and coach Craig Berube said back at the Flyers’ locker clean-out day in early May. Berube enthusiastically stated he wants the 39-year-old blueliner to return, and Timonen admitted he’s still driven by a desire to win the Stanley Cup -- something he’s never accomplished in his 15-year NHL career. His decision will have nothing to do with money, Timonen insisted, and if he returns to the NHL it will be to the Flyers.
What it all comes down to, he said, is whether he feels like he can go through one more offseason training regimen and one more 82-game regular-season grind before even having the chance to fight for the Cup. He isn’t yet sure he’ll be able to steel himself for the journey. I think he’ll give it one last try. Make no mistake, though; if Timonen returns, he won't be making $6 million next season. He would come back at a discount in both paycheck and role.
To address your second question, though, I think that even if Timonen returns, the Flyers will still need to find some top-tier defensive help this summer. Timonen won’t come back to the Flyers as a top-pairing guy -- which means the Flyers need one. Matt Niskanen is certainly one of the better-fitting possibilities out there, likely the best free-agent defenseman available, though he won't come cheap. However, if the Flyers decide to spend money during free agency (what little they have), then yes, it would be worth spending it on Niskanen. The challenge isn't deciding whether to go after him. The challenge is figuring out how to clear space to sign him.
The other problem, though, is that there's a lot of interest out there in Niskanen. Just a cursory Google search shows evidence of his possible fit with the Minnesota Wild, the Detroit Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche. All that attention could drive his price up. Way up. For a cash-strapped Flyers team, that's a problem. There's no guarantee he wants to come to Philadelphia, and he'll clearly have his pick of the litter this summer.