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.