Flyers Fan Q&A: Will Kimmo Timonen return?

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Flyers Fan Q&A: Will Kimmo Timonen return?

In this edition of the Q&A, I tackle a question about the future of a veteran Flyers defenseman.

Have a question of your own? Hit me up on Twitter (@sbaickerCSN) or via e-mail (the address is below).

Q: Will 44 be back? And if not-should @NHLFlyers go after Niskanen assuming he's going to demand 5-6mil+? #FlyersTalk

-‏Brandon (@Brandonwal)

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.

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Derek Stepan also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots to help New York get past the first round for the fifth time in six years. The Rangers won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal and Carey Price finished with 20 saves. The Canadiens, winners of the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year, were bounced from the postseason by the Rangers for the second time in four years. In 2014, it was in the conference finals (see full recap).

Paajarvi's OT goal gives Blues 4-3 win to oust Wild in 5
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series, eliminating the Wild.

The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round.

Jake Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame.

Paajarvi's first career playoff goal gave Blues coach Mike Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago.

Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period (see full recap).

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

As the Flyers packed up for the offseason much earlier than they had hoped, the focus started shifting to the outlook for 2017-18.

There was some optimism provided by Valtteri Filppula.

It wasn't anything he said. Instead, it was what he did in 20 games.

Make that a full sample size and the Flyers are excited about the possibilities.

Filppula, a well-rounded, 33-year-old center, was acquired at the March 1 trade deadline in the Mark Streit deal. He added five goals and three assists in his 20 games.

"I felt like later in the year, we had more bullets in our gun," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week as the team held exit interviews and cleanout day. "(Jordan) Weal comes in and does a good job. Filppula comes in and really gives us stability. Really upgraded our top nine. So when you're talking 5-on-5 play, just to depend on five or six guys, all of a sudden you have nine guys you can count on."

The Flyers were 27th in the NHL with 128 goals at 5-on-5 -- a significant factor in their postseason absence.

But Filppula should bring more than simply a 5-on-5 boost.

The Flyers desperately needed depth at the center position to relieve some pressure from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Filppula, who came from the Lightning and played seven seasons with the Red Wings -- winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 -- is a sound matchup center and plays on the penalty kill, too.

"I think with Fil coming in this year, it really helped our depth," Giroux said. "He brings a lot to the team. He kills penalties, power plays, very good defensively and he's a smart player. When you bring a guy in like that, you kind of get excited a little bit."

From Filppula's first game on March 2 to the end of the regular season, the Flyers scored 56 goals, 12th most in the NHL over that span and 2.80 per game -- both improvements from their ranking of 21th on the full season and 2.59 per game.

"Now that we feel like we have nine guys that are legit top-nine forwards," Hextall said, "we've got good balance."

Couturier saw immediate benefits when the Flyers acquired Filppula. Couturier started playing with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn, which turned out to be the team's best line combination to finish the regular season.

"I think it just brought some depth to our lineup," Couturier said of Filppula acquisition. "I had the chance to play after that with Schenn and Weiser and we just found chemistry right away and things went really well."

It provided head coach Dave Hakstol greater flexibility.

"The addition of Val Filppula to our group up front made our group of forwards better," Hakstol said. "Not just his presence, which I think he's an outstanding hockey player, a good hockey player and a real good veteran, but it just allowed some of the others to come together. I think there's real substance there."

The Flyers hope it shows with a full season of Filppula.

"I think when Filppula came in, the balance that seemed to come with him entering our lineup helped us both with and without the puck," Hakstol said. "Will that cohesion help us generate more offensively on an 82-game basis, not just a short-term basis? I think the answers to those things are yes."