In an ideal world, the Flyers would fight their way to a Stanley Cup victory this June, raising the iconic trophy in front of the Wells Fargo Center crowd and parading down Broad Street. That way, Kimmo Timonen could retire with no regrets.
But what if the Flyers don’t win the Cup this season? What happens to Timonen then?
The 38-year-old defenseman’s contract expires at the end of this year (he signed a one-year deal in 2013). He will be an unrestricted free agent, though there’s been plenty of speculation he will choose to retire. At the Flyers’ morning skate ahead of Tuesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils, Timonen confessed he’s no closer to a decision on his future than he was a year ago. That will come this summer.
“There’s a lot of different options why I leave that door open,” Timonen said. “Winning the Stanley Cup, that’s obviously the biggest one. But I still want to play at a high level, and I have to figure out during the summer if I’m still in good shape.”
After almost 15 NHL seasons, Timonen still averages 21:41 on the ice every night. He’s been an All-Star four times, received the Barry Ashbee Award as Flyers top defenseman four times, and is still a key piece of the Flyers’ blue line.
But he’s never won the Stanley Cup.
“That’s why I’m still here,” he said. “It keeps you motivated every night, thinking about that I still have a chance to get it. Hopefully it’s this year. These next 18 games are really huge for me and our team to get into the playoffs. Anything’s possible. That’s my opinion. … It doesn’t matter how many points you got during the regular season. We have to get in [the playoffs], then anything’s possible.”
Timonen famously put together an Iron Man streak of 248 consecutive games played that was snapped in 2012. His durability has declined since then, as tends to happen to players of his age and size (he’s listed generously at 5-foot-10).
He missed time earlier this season, most recently to rest after winning the bronze medal with Finland in the Olympics last month. But, Timonen said, right now he feels perfectly healthy.
“I feel great,” he said. “It’s not just how I feel now, it’s just that if I’m ready for the next season to play 82 games, that’s it. That’s the long one. But I’m going to put that behind now and think about it in the summertime.”
Coach Craig Berube agreed, adding he believes Timonen could absolutely play another NHL season, so long as he decided to.
“He looks good,” Berube said. “He looks like he’s got a lot of life out there and a lot of jump.”
If Timonen chooses to end his career, his $6 million cap hit will also leave the Flyers’ books, clearing space for the team to go after a new top-pairing defenseman. But he will have to consider a lot before coming to that conclusion. His son will be leaving home soon, for instance. Is that enough to pull him off the ice? What will be do after he retires? Is there something else he might be drawn to? What comes next?
“It’s never easy to leave the game,” Timonen said. “But sometimes it gets to the point where you have to say, 'OK, that’s enough,' and move on and do some other stuff in your life and focus on your family, because this job takes a lot of time away from your family. But winning the Stanley cup is the ultimate goal, and hopefully we can do it this year and move on.”