Before Thursday night’s Flyers game, General Manager Paul Holmgren announced that the team had signed veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen to a one year contract extension through the 2013-2014 season. Timonen is currently in his sixth season with the Flyers and the three time Barry Ashbee award winner, given to the team’s top defenseman, is still considered by many to be the team’s best blue liner. Even with Timonen’s calming presence, leadership and puck moving ability, there was some surprise that an extension was done this early in the season.
There was some question as to whether Timonen would even be returning next season, and it was though that would be a decision that would be made after this lockout shortened season had ended. So when news broke that a deal was struck on a one year, $6 million extension, there was some surprise among the fan base. The Flyers are going to be up against a tighter cap number next year and it was thought that Timonen’s money could be allotted to another, possibly younger defenseman, and possibly toward a contract extension for Captain Claude Giroux.
There are a few problems and risks with waiting for the offseason to sign Timonen. One issue is that there is a very thin restricted and unrestricted free agent market for defenseman this summer. One by one teams have been locking up young defenseman in an effort not let them hit the open market or have to match an offer sheet as Nashville was forced to do with Shea Weber. Timonen, despite being 37 years old and having obviously lost a step or two over the last few seasons, was going to be one of if not the best free agent d-man on the market. The Flyers and Homer can see into the future and on the free agent market, the options are few.
The Flyers also did not want to get into the same situation they ended up in with unrestricted free agent Matt Carle. The Flyers did not lock up Carle during his existing deal with the team and the Flyers were outbid in the open market. If it was decided that Timonen was certain to return, it made a lot of sense not wait.
A lot of people will look at the price tag for Timonen and think that it may have been too high. It is widely thought that Kimmo could have easily gotten $6 million on the open market and his cap hit on the one year deal will actually be slightly less that his cap number for this season. It is a very real possibility that there is no better allocation of that money than to reinvest in what is right now the team’s top defenseman.
Now, I am not saying that Timonen is not a good player, as his resume certainly shows otherwise. While father time has certainly caught up with the 37 year old, he is still a proven leader, great puck handler and savvy veteran who can make up for some of the skill set he has lost. This season Timonen has been paired with young defense Luke Schenn and having those two continue to work together for another year is a bonus for the Flyers blue line going into the future.
Timonen also provides a veteran voice and presence in what has become a very young locker room. While Giroux will certainly provide leadership in his new role as team captain, it is good to have a guy like Kimmo around to guide him through any rough patches he may have in the next season and a half.
Obviously, with the lockout forcing a shortened season, Timonen may be able to get a little more out of another year than was previously thought coming into this season.
With the Flyers losing out on Ryan Suter and Weber last summer, and players like Tobias Enstrom and P.K. Subban staying with their current teams, the Flyers made the move they had to make in order to sure up their blue line beyond this season, and they didn’t have to look far to make that happen.Tags: Claude Giroux, Kimmo Timonen, NHL, Philadelphia Flyers