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.

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is all about trusting the process.

He manages to insert the well-known phrase into just about every interview, hashtags it on social media and soaks in the chants during games. 

While “trust the process” is commonly associated with former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s patience-required approach to building the team — which resulted in three years of dismal losing and suffering setback after setback — Embiid has his personal take on the mantra.

“I think I have my own process,” Embiid said Friday at practice.

Embiid is playing for the first time this season after waiting two years to recover from foot injuries. His long-anticipated debut was a focal point of “the process,” and his return to the court marked a new chapter in the organization.

“I went through two surgeries, lost my brother, thought about some stuff I shouldn’t have thought about, so that’s my own process,” he said. “And then the process of going through the rehab and finally getting back on the court and getting the chance to finally play in the league, that’s my process.”

Embiid is now synonymous with the word. He credits Sixers fans for the moniker, which he added to his Instagram profile. 

“I don’t think it came from me,” he said. “Fans just started and then I just went along with it.”

Wednesday marked the next step in the process, both for the Sixers and Embiid. His regular-season debut (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) was a long time coming and garnered buzz all over the NBA world.

“I was the third pick and then I missed two years,” Embiid said. “The excitement in the city, everybody’s happy to finally see me play. Even though it was weird because a lot of people kind of wrote me off a long time ago saying that I’d never play as a Sixer, I’d never play in the league. So it’s all fun. Everybody’s going to have an opinion.”

He’s just got to trust in his own.