Will Kimmo Timonen pick retirement or Flyers?

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Will Kimmo Timonen pick retirement or Flyers?

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.”

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Jonathan Bernier
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Last team: Anaheim Ducks
2016-17 cap hit: $4.15 million

Scouting report
After being drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier was a highly-touted goaltender coming up in the Los Angeles Kings system and performed well in a backup role for five seasons in L.A.

But with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was blocked from getting a viable opportunity to be a No. 1 with the Kings. In June 2013, they shipped him to Toronto.

Bernier did not capitalize on his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, however. He never established himself as a high-end starting goalie in three seasons despite a strong first year.

In 2013-14, Bernier was 26-19-7 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .923 save percentage with the Leafs but that save percentage continually dropped the next two years.

Toronto decided to cut ties with Bernier after the 2015-16 season and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He spent last season backing up John Gibson.

Appearing in 39 games last season for the Ducks, Bernier posted a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

One note about Bernier: Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was an assistant GM in Los Angeles when the Kings drafted him in 2006, so there is a connection there.

Dougherty's projection
I don’t think Bernier is the best option available for the Flyers but the most likely. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the Hextall connection here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Bernier fits what the Flyers appear to want in a goalie going forward: a short-term veteran option who can share the net with Michal Neuvirth in a platoon situation.

Hextall isn’t looking for the Flyers’ goalie of the future this summer. He believes he has that in the system already but needs to bide time for Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.

But he will be looking for a goalie who he can trust playing around 40 games or more next season and give the team quality in net. In that role, Bernier would be a solid fit.

He hasn’t panned out as projected and we could use him as one example of why we don’t see many goaltenders drafted high in the first round. They’re tough to project.

With that said, Bernier has found success in the past, including last season in Anaheim, in either a platoon or backup situation. He’ll come at a reasonable price, too.

A tandem of Neuvirth-Bernier would not be the worst thing in the world for the Flyers; it wouldn’t be the best, either. I think it would give them enough in net to compete.

If I had to predict which goaltender on the market will be here next season, it is Bernier.

Hall's projection
I see Bernier as one of the least realistic options for the Flyers.
 
The 2006 11th overall pick hasn't quite lived up to the hype, but he still has some cachet, probably too much for the Flyers in this spot.
 
He turns only 29 in August and in a backup role last season, his 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage still ranked in the top 15 among NHL goalies that played 39 games or more.
 
The role and price in which the Flyers will offer shouldn't attract Bernier much. From the sound of Hextall, I expect him to be judicious in adding a goalie. This sounds much more like a stopgap, temporary position than anything future oriented.
 
There's a connection with the Flyers' GM here, but that might be it when it comes to the Bernier scenario.

Paone's projection
I find Bernier to be an intriguing option for the Flyers.

First and foremost, there is plenty of familiarity with Bernier within the Flyers' organization. Hextall and current Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh were both parts of the Kings' organization when Bernier was drafted in 2006 and worked with him during his development into an NHL goaltender. They not only know the type of player and competitor they'd be getting, they also know the type of person they'd be getting and that plays a role, too.

Bernier had a very strong campaign for the Ducks last season. That certainly makes him an attractive option for the Flyers. He did his best to prove he can be a reliable option again after things soured for him in Toronto. But, hey, a lot of things went sour in Toronto during those times.

But that strong campaign with Anaheim last season will have Bernier wanting opportunity and more of it. With Neuvirth entrenched here, how much opportunity would there actually be for Bernier here? Would the Flyers present the type of opportunity he's looking for after last year's showing with the Ducks? My guess is no. He'll likely want an opportunity to take on much more of a workload.

So while the option is intriguing for many reasons and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, I ultimately feel this is an option both he and the Flyers pass on.

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

One day after extending qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents (see story), the Flyers re-signed Mark Alt, who was unrestricted.

The Phantoms' defenseman agreed to a one-year, two-way deal on Tuesday that will play him $125,000 in the AHL and $650,000 in the NHL.

The 25-year-old has played four years with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. 

He had one goal and 11 points last season in 40 AHL games.

Alt's only NHL appearance was his debut as a Flyer on March 28, 2015, at San Jose.

Alt has 68 points (12 goals) in 237 AHL games.