“Can the Flyers rebuild really fast?” he asked general manager Paul Holmgren. The Finnish defenceman must have liked the answer.
Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell agreed to give up an opportunity at securing a free-agent contract windfall to accept a trade from Nashville to Philadelphia, hoping to play a part in transforming the Flyers from the worst team in the National Hockey League to a playoff contender next season.
“I really feel we’re a playoff team,” Timonen said on Tuesday. “If we can add a couple more players, a first-line centre, maybe some experience, we’re going to be even better.”
Acquiring Hartnell and Timonen, a top defenceman and the Predators’ captain, was the first major off-season move for Holmgren and more deals could be on the way. The Flyers need a No. 1 centre, and Holmgren told both players he wasn’t done bolstering the team’s roster.
“The city, they want and deserve a winner,” Hartnell said. “I think going there, showing Kimmo and I signed, it’s a step in the right direction, for sure.”
Hartnell and Timonen, acquired Monday from Nashville for a first-round pick, could have been unrestricted free agents on July 1. Instead, they traded their opportunity at the open market to accept a trade to the Flyers.
Both players have already reportedly agreed to six-year contracts with Philadelphia. Timonen’s deal is for US$37.8 million and Hartnell’s for $25.2 million.
Timonen had 13 goals, 42 assists and a plus-20 rating last season. He’s expected to significantly upgrade a blue-line that was riddled with problems last season. The versatile Hartnell had 22 goals and 17 assists. He can play either wing.
While Holmgren’s promise to the pair that he’d reshape the Flyers into winners played a factor in both players accepting the deal, so did the Predators’ cloudy future in Nashville. The organization simply couldn’t offer the kind of contract needed to keep either one because the ownership situation is in limbo.
Craig Leipold has accepted a deal to sell the team for $220 million to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, a deal not expected to be considered at the NHL board of governors’ meeting Wednesday.
AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.