VOORHEES, N.J. -- Kimmo Timonen has been thinking about it for a while.
It was on his mind long before the Flyers clinched a playoff spot, and long before the New York Rangers cut his season short.
The veteran defenseman’s contract, a one-year deal worth $6 million that he signed after last year’s lockout-shortened season, is up. He’s now at a crossroads, forced to choose whether to return for a final year or hang up his skates for good.
At 39, he’s already lasted years longer than most defensemen -- especially most defensemen his size. He has a lot to be proud of when looking back on his 15-year NHL career. But he isn’t yet ready to make a decision about his future.
“I’m going to take a few weeks here and see how I feel,” Timonen said. “I feel like, injury-wise, I’m in pretty good shape. It’s not like I can say, ‘OK, I have to go do this surgery’ and that kind of stuff, but I’m going to take my time here and see.
“You have to be motivated to work out, get into shape, go through those 82 games again, and for myself, I put the highest standard for where I want to be when I play the game. I have to think about if I can still be there, and if I find that I can be there, then I don’t see why I’m not coming back.”
Timonen still has plenty to play for. He’s a five-time All-Star who, despite appearing in 1,092 NHL games, has never won a Stanley Cup. That drove him to return for 2013-14, and might just be enough to pull him back next season, too.
And if he does return to the league, he’ll return to the Flyers. Coach Craig Berube said after the Flyers’ Game 7 loss to the Rangers that he wants Timonen to return. General manager Paul Holmgren wants him back, too, but leaves the decision up to Timonen entirely (see story).
Holmgren said he’s happy to give Timonen as much time as he needs to decide whether he wishes to return, but would ideally like to know before the draft, June 27-28. The two have already had a conversation about it. Timonen expects to have his mind made up within the month.
“This is my place,” Timonen said. “If I get back here, this is where I want to be. I like our team. I like the team moving forward because we can get some young guys, young forwards, who can be faster.
“I won’t get any younger, that’s for sure, and probably not faster, but I feel like I can still help the team. But again, I want to take my time and see if I can get to the level that I want to be.”
Timonen would most likely return for a lesser salary and a lesser role, if he chooses to play next year. He averaged 20:20 on the ice this season as part of the Flyers’ top pairing, but would likely take a cut in ice time and responsibility.
The issue, though, is that right now the idea of coming back another full season is exhausting. There’s the offseason training regimen, training camp and 82 regular-season games before he’d even have the chance to play in the postseason -- if the Flyers make it at all.
It’s a grind, and he knows it.
“It feels hard now, because it’s going to be another 10 months to get the point where we were,” Timonen said. “It’s a long way, so we’ll see."
Timonen elected to return for this season because he couldn’t bear retiring after a 48-game season. It wasn’t about making more money or earning any new honors. He wanted a chance to fight for the Stanley Cup.
Should he return for 2014-15, what drives him to succeed will be exactly the same.
“This year coming in, I wanted to make the playoffs and play well,” he said. “And we made the playoffs, but exited in the first round, and I’m still missing the Stanley Cup. That’s something that’s still in my mind.
“Let’s put it this way: If I won the Stanley Cup earlier, I probably wouldn’t be here and talking to you guys. I would say, ‘OK, that’s it.’ But I haven’t won it. That’s the only thing that keeps the hopes up. It’s not money, it’s not anything else. It’s the Stanley Cup.”