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.

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).