With the 2014 free agent class of defensemen looking less than stellar (severe understatement), newly minted General Manager Ron Hextall decided it was in the best interest of the Flyers to retain a longtime Philadelphia stalwart: diminutive blueliner Kimmo Timonen.
Timonen, 39, arguably coming off his worst professional campaign since all the way back in 2000-01 (while with the Nashville Predators), had been debating over the past several weeks on whether or not he’d return for one last shot at that elusive Stanley Cup.
When the news broke that the 5-time Finnish Olympian and 5-time NHL All-Star had been re-signed the major question was: At what cost? After all, Timonen is coming off a campaign in which his 35 points and poor decisions under pressure didn’t quite match-up with his excessively high $6 million cap hit.
Initial reports, both national and local, pegged the agreement at 1-year and $2 million; a coup by Hextall, according to most experts. However, when the deal was officially announced it was, in fact, substantially higher. Though Timonen’s base salary came in at $2 million, his new contract includes an extra $2 million in bonus money, bringing the aging defenders’ actual cap hit to an excessive $4 million; Much like Jarome Iginla’s $1.8 million base salary with Boston last summer that actually came out to a $6 million cap hit with all the incentives included. Now that deal obviously worked out for Iginla as he reached the 30-goal plateau for the Bruins. But with Timonen clearly on the downswing $4 milllion is far too much for an organization that entered this off-season with just under $7 million in free space to begin with. This means someone like Lecavalier (good luck), Hartnell, C0burn, or possibly restricted free agent Brayden Schenn will have to be moved if Hextall hopes to make any significant additions.
There’s no question that Kimmo Timonen certainly brings value to a young and developing nucleus, but not $4 million worth. He is a warrior, however even the greatest iron men begin to show sizable chinks in their proverbial armor as time catches up with them. Just ask Cal Ripken.
#44 can still effectively run the point on the powerplay, but his decision making must improve because he no longer possesses the necessary recovery speed to prevent shorthanded breakaways. Kimmo is still an important component in the leadership department, however, his voice may not be as necessary with the development of younger player like Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, and the up-and-coming rookie, Scott Laughton, who captained both the Oshawa Generals and Canada’s World Juniors club.
Kimmo Timonen will go down as one the best Flyers defenders of all-time; up there with the likes of Mark Howe and Eric Desjardins, but it seems that once again this organization went with nostalgia over logic. With such a weak free agent crop it’s understandable that Hextall did not want to let go of an experienced blueliner, nonetheless, every athlete has a shelf-life and it just might be that this Philly legend has passed his expiration date.
Update: According to the new CBA parts or all of the $2million in bonus money can be counted against the 15-16 cap, instead of next season’s. That means that Timonen’s cap hit for 2014-15 could be anywhere between $2 and $4 million.