Like it or not, Flyers make the smart move and bring back Kimmo Timonen for another year

Like it or not, Flyers make the smart move and bring back Kimmo Timonen for another year

Will he retire? Is he coming back? He said he’s done, right? Wait, he said he’s thinking about returning? Did he make up his mind yet? What’s the deal?

Those questions about Kimmo Timonen’s future were answered today, and the answers to those questions are good news for Flyers fans.

After stating prior to its start that this past season would be his last and then publicly going back and forth on it throughout the season, the 39-year-old defenseman has agreed to return to the Flyers on a one-year contract, the team and new general manager Ron Hextall announced earlier today.

Financial terms of the contract were not released by the team, but ESPN’s Craig Custance tweeted that Timonen’s base salary will be $2 million and the deal can reach near $4 million if bonuses are achieved.

If those salary numbers are indeed accurate, it’s a smart move by Hextall, whether you agree or not.

You may recall that Timonen made $6 million last season. There was no chance that the veteran defenseman on the tail end of his career was going to make anywhere near that much again this upcoming season.

But a $2 million base salary for the Flyers’ best defenseman for the majority of last season is a good deal for both parties, especially when you consider Timonen would likely have only returned to the Flyers and it could be considered a below-market deal.

Sure, he was out of gas during the playoffs and was outskated all over the ice by the Rangers in that first-round playoff series, but so was every other defenseman, and almost every other Flyers player for that matter.

He clearly isn’t what he used to be and nowhere near what he was when the Flyers acquired him from the Nashville Predators in the 2007 offseason. But as stated above, he was still the Flyers best defenseman for the majority of last season when he scored six goals and added 29 assists in 77 regular season games.

As it currently stands, the Flyers defensive corps can be described as patchwork at best. Mark Streit and Luke Schenn stepped their respective games up toward the end of the year, but Timonen was the only defenseman that you could say was consistent both on the defensive and offensive sides of the puck all season.

Streit may have had more goals but Timonen was better all-around. He stabilized that blue line when it could have easily been a bigger mess than it already was.

Unless Hextall is blown away by a trade offer or the right free agent defenseman is willing to take right deal, don't expect drastic change on the Flyers' blue line this offseason. Why blow a ton of money or give up on a promising player if the team is trying to build from within, as Hextall says it is?

Therefore, bringing back the team's best overall defenseman is the smart move, especially at the discounted price. Imagine that blue line as it stands without him. There's no denying he makes them better and is the backbone of the unit. With this defense, there's no reason to think he won't be the team's best defenseman again.

Timonen draws the opposition's best players night in and night out still plays well. In fact, he's only finished as a minus player once as a Flyer and that was in 2009-10.

The Flyers need Timonen back with as thin as they are on the back end and the uncertainty of when long-term solutions like prospects Sam Morin and Shayne Gostisbehere will make the big club. And Shea Weber… LOL.

That said, don’t expect Timonen to play every single game this year or near the 77 he played last season. Expect him to get the Teemu Selanne treatment where he sits out games of his choosing to keep him fresh for the stretch run and the playoffs. Selanne played 64 games for the Anaheim Ducks last season.

It has to be that way, especially after what we saw against the Rangers in the first round and the physical toll an NHL defenseman takes during the season. The Flyers will need him when it matters most. So expect a depth defenseman signing sometime in the offseason.

It’s been said here a million times, but it isn’t fair that Timonen has to be the Flyers’ top defenseman at his age. But that those are the cards he’s been dealt. It’s not his fault. But, unless someone steps up along the blue line this year on a consistent basis both offensively and, more importantly, defensively, he’s back for another year of it.

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Shayne Gostisbehere’s fist pump was so vicious and mighty, the celebration was probably felt back in Philadelphia.

This was an exultation the entire Flyers felt, too.

When it started to look like the bye week wasn’t the break they needed, the Flyers reached down deep and got one Sunday night at the Barclays Center in the form of a 3-2 overtime victory over the Islanders (see Instant Replay).

“It allows you to take a breath,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s one thing for sure.”

A sigh of relief for a team beaten and bruised — losers of three straight by a combined score of 15-4, not to mention 3-9-3 in its past 15 games. The Flyers had lost the day prior on home ice to the Devils, 4-1, with a performance not exactly inspiring confidence following five days off.

On Sunday, they trailed 2-0 in the second period.

“We've got to get better at dealing with adversity when something goes wrong,” general manager Ron Hextall said bluntly before the game. “We need to get back on the horse and get back going. Big deal, a team scored a goal. We need to react better to it.”

Finally, the Flyers reacted the way their GM had been hoping.

They flipped the deficit into a victory when Gostisbehere skated behind the net and put the puck on Claude Giroux’s stick for the game-winner with 1:40 left in the extra session. Gostisbehere whipped his arm through the air and embraced Giroux, along with Jakub Voracek, who started the play by stripping Islanders captain John Tavares.

“On a lot of different levels, it’s an important win,” Hakstol said. “It’s huge. And more importantly for us, a great effort. Thought we deserved the two points. Sometimes maybe that’s what it takes to get over the hump — a tremendous effort for 60-plus minutes. I thought we got that out of everyone tonight.”

For Giroux, it was his first goal since Dec. 21.

For Steve Mason, his first win since Dec. 21.

And for the Flyers, their first road victory since Dec. 14, as they went 0-6-3 in the previous nine games away from home.

Yeah, “it was needed,” as Wayne Simmonds said of the win.

“We’ve been fighting it lately and I thought that was a good game from start to finish,” he said. “I thought everyone played well. I think we made bounces go our way tonight instead of hoping and waiting.”

Simmonds scored what might have been the biggest goal of the game. The Flyers, down 1-0 in the second period, came up empty for 33 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play and the proceeding 5-on-4 advantage. The Islanders then padded the lead to 2-0 moments later, putting the Flyers’ backs against the wall.

But Simmonds kept his team from uncoiling with a goal at 14:10 of the period, giving the Flyers life at second intermission. If not for that score, who knows how the Flyers come out in the third period, trailing by multiple goals yet again.

"I think we were plying well,” Giroux said. “We had a lot of chances and [the puck] wasn't going in. Everybody on the bench was frustrated. When Wayne got that first goal, I think [there was] a little relief on the bench. I haven't seen a team celebrate so much just for a first goal. It was kind of a relief and we had a little boost out of that.”

Ivan Provorov scored the equalizer 1:47 into the final period when he maintained possession from the blue line to the circle, adeptly skating around two Islanders to put the puck on net. Provorov’s pass to Travis Konecny hit off the skate of New York’s Adam Pelech and into the net.

“I came off the bench and I saw [Brayden Schenn] was going into the zone, so I took a few hard strides, got the puck from him and I saw it was kind of an odd-man situation,” Provorov said. “I held on to the puck a little bit, saw T.K. going backdoor, passed it there and it went off their D skate.”

Just as important as the timely goals was the Flyers’ discipline. Against the Devils, the Flyers compiled 19 penalty minutes, forcing them on seven penalty kills. This time, the Flyers sharpened up, not allowing the Islanders a power play until midway through the third period. In total, they had just four penalty minutes and killed off both power plays faced.

That gave them a chance.

“We just kept saying it the whole time, ‘Keep going, keep going, guys,’” Simmonds said. “We just need one [goal] and from one comes two, and Mase held the fort.”

Mason made 17 of his 36 saves in the third period and overtime combined.

Now, the Flyers at least go into another important back-to-back — starting Wednesday at the Rangers before welcoming the Maple Leafs Thursday — with some confidence instead of a lost weekend.

“I thought the focus was purely on going out and playing well,” Hakstol said. “And you know, that’s harder to do than you might know — when you start to feel some of the pressure without a win in a little bit. I really liked that side of it. Even in that situation, all the guys played well. Hopefully that puts our entire team in the right direction.’’

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored two goals, Sidney Crosby added his league-leading 28th and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth straight game, 5-1 over the Boston Bruins 5-1 on Sunday.

Pittsburgh led 2-1 through two periods before breaking out in the third with three goals in a span of 2 minutes, 57 seconds.

Sheary scored his 17th and has nine goals in nine games. Bryan Rust added his 12th and Patric Hornqvist his 11th for the Penguins, who won a season-high seventh straight at home. Pittsburgh the NHL's best home team, is 13-0-1 in its last 14 home games.

Evgeni Malkin had two assists for a season-best seven-game point streak. Crosby added two assists for a three-point game. Matt Murray made 44 saves to win his fourth straight game.

David Krejci scored his 11th for the Bruins, who have lost four straight and five of their last six (see full recap).

Rangers shut out Red Wings in 1-0 OT win
DETROIT -- J.T. Miller scored at 1:56 of overtime to lift the New York Rangers to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves for his second shutout of the season and 61st of his career. The Rangers managed only 19 shots in a game that featured few memorable chances by either team.

The winner came when Mats Zuccarello and Miller swooped in alone on Detroit goalie Jared Coreau. Zuccarello made a simple pass to Miller, who lifted the puck over Coreau for his 16th goal of the season.

Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall played for the first time since Jan. 4, returning from a lower-body injury. The Red Wings put forward Drew Miller on waivers (see full recap).

Atikinson lifts Jackets over Senators in wild OT win
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Cam Atkinson's second goal of the game at 1:09 of overtime lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets a 7-6 win over the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.

Atkinson had a breakaway after a shot by Senators captain Erik Karlsson missed the Columbus net and went around the boards out to Atkinson, who was at center-ice.

The Blue Jackets trailed 5-3 after two periods before Lukas Sedlak and Matt Calvert scored 31 seconds apart to tie it less than 2 1/2 minutes into the third. Atklnson then gave Columbus a 6-5 lead with 9:10 remaining, before Kyle Turries tied it for Ottawa on the power play less than 2 minutes later.

Nick Foligno, Scott Harrington and Zach Werenski also scored for the Blue Jackets, and Joonas Korpisalo finished with 28 saves.

Zach Smith and Mike Hoffman each had two goals and Mark Stone also scored for the Senators. Mike Condon had 22 saves (see full recap).