Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Philadelphia Beats The July 1st Deadline

Yesterday, the Philadelphia Flyers signed free agents to be Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell from the Nashville Predators. To do this, the Flyers traded back the 2007 1st round draft pick that they acquired from Nashville in the Peter Forsberg trade. The Flyers then promptly signed Timonen to a 6 year $37.6 million contract and Hartnell to a 6 year $25.2 million dollar deal.

For Nashville, this deal is getting something for nothing. They were going to lose both players as UFAs this summer. Given the uncertainty in the Nashville ownership situation, the Predators will not be in a position to bid to sign high profile UFAs (including retaining their own). For Philadelphia, this represents the chance to beat the other teams out of the gate to sign free agents.

Philadelphia paid a big price for these two players. For Timonen to be worth his money, he must not get old quickly. He is signed from age 32-37 (possibly to age 38 assuming a Flyer playoff run in the final season) for some big bucks. He must be one of the NHL's top defenders (which he currently is) through the length of the deal. Hartnell must continue to improve. He is signed from age 25 to 30 (and would turn 31 during the final season's playoffs). Most players play the best years of their career at that age, but how good is Hartnell. In this season where he was 24 (and turned 25 in April) he scored 39 points. He has scored 30 or 40 something points every season since his 2001/02 sophomore season and does not appear to be making forward progress offensively. This is a lot of money tied up in two players who may not be worth it over the lifetimes of their contracts (not to mention the loss of a first round draft pick as well).

Philadelphia will likely improve next year. They were bad this season, but it is hard to remain that bad. They have too many good hockey players to do so. Adding Kimmo Timonen to their defence helps to fix a gaping hole.

The other teams were likely stunned to learn that Philadelphia beat them into the free agent market with this deal, but given the size of the contracts, it might be a better idea to have abstained. Paul Holmgren is clearly a creative guy to have pulled this deal off, but I don't think it is particularly good for the Flyers hockey interests. They can save face a bit by demoting Timonen to the minors in his final years if he plays poorly enough (to save cap room), but this deal is unlikely to turn the Flyers into contenders. They need some young talent to blossom to become contenders (which is possible given the presence of Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Scottie Upshall, RJ Umberger etc. on their roster). In which case, Hartnell would likely be a high priced second line forward and Timonen there number one defenceman (though he will likely be a high priced albatross later in his contract). Philadelphia likely made a move that was needed to keep their fanbase happy, but I question whether that move makes much a difference to the fortunes of the club and I question whether the move does not become looked at as a mistake in the years to come.

Here is the TSN story on the Flyers dealings.

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