That is the question. Should Timonen, the anchor of the Flyers’ defensive core, set down his sweater for the last time or should he come back one more year. By considering the abilities that Timonen still possesses, the ability to replace him through the Flyers’ farm system, draft, free agency, and trades, it is clear that the Flyers could use Timonen’s services for the next year, even if it is at a lower level, because there really is no great way to replace him.
Timonen, an All-Star defenseman, former captain of the Nashville Predators, longtime assistant captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, still has some gas left in the tank. He showed that he is a complete competitor during the playoffs by throwing his body around, playing big minutes, and being one of the smarter Flyers’ during breakouts and zone entries. Timonen did look slower, as if he was a step behind from time to time, but his intelligence was able to keep him in the play, in the right position, and still be an optimal defender. While his minutes were smaller than they normally would be for a top defensemen, Timonen was consistent in his own end. His offense was a little lacking, but he was not one of the many Flyers who were plagued with turnovers. For this reason alone, I think that Timonen should return, for a smaller salary of course. He is a great locker room leader, he is a consistent player on the back-end, and he should be in the Flyers uniform next year. He needs to play in a more monitored role where he can be more effective in smaller increments, rather than trying to squeeze 25 minutes out of him every night.
One reason Timonen should definitely return for the Flyers is because there is really no way to replace him on the back-end. The most notable defensemen free agents this summer will be Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Nikita Nikitin, Willie Mitchell, Matt Greene, Anton Stralman, and Dan Boyle. None of these names jump out to the Flyers because they are either most likely to resign with their current team or they are on the Penguins and Rangers and are unlikely to leave for a divisional rival. In the Flyers’ farm system. the biggest names would be Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg, Shayne Gostisbehere, all of whom are current Flyers’ draft picks who could make the jump to the NHL soon. Of these players, Shayne Gostisbehere is the most likely to make the jump to the Flyers, after finishing up a successful collegiate career at Union College. He could fill in nicely for Timonen, but he has never played at the professional level, only dominated against college players. Morin is a few years away from the NHL most likely and Hagg has stated himself that he needs time to adjust to the smaller North American rink. In the Flyers’ affiliate, the only notable names are Brandon Manning, Oliver Lauridsen, Mark Alt, and Matt Konan. All of these players have played with the Flyers at some point. None has been overly impressive, but have stepped in and done well. They are not able to replace the leadership, talent, or intelligence that Timonen currently possesses. And finally, the only NHL ready blue-liner in this years’ draft would be the great Aaron Ekblad, who will most likely be taken with one of the top four picks in the draft.
Outside of a blockbuster trade, resigning Timonen is the Flyers’ best hope for maintaining a strong presence on their blue line. No one puts blockbuster moves past the trigger-happy Paul Holmgren, but it is unlikely that a top-tier defensemen will on the trading block. In conclusion, please stay, Kimmo.