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August 5, 2014 | 6:24pm ET
Flyers in predicament after Timonen setback
By David Strehle, TheFourthPeriod.com

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- A relatively quiet hockey summer in Philadelphia took a most unwelcome jolt when it was announced that defenseman Kimmo Timonen was being treated for blood clots in his right leg and both lungs in his native Finland.

In a statement released by the team, GM Ron Hextall said "Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen has been diagnosed with blood clots in his lower right leg and in both lungs. Kimmo is currently being treated for this disorder back in his home country of Finland. His return to play is yet to be determined."

The 39-year-old rearguard had returned to Finland this spring following the Flyers' first round playoff ouster, debating whether or not to return for a 16th NHL season. That question was answered in mid-June, when the UFA inked a one-year, $2 million pact to play come back for an eighth year in Philly.

This is not the first time Timonen has battled blood clots, as his initial bout came in the midst of the Flyers' 2008 run to the Eastern Conference Final. In between the club closing out the Montreal Canadiens and moving on to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was sidelined for the first four games Penguins' series with a blood clot in his left ankle after being hit by an Andrei Markov shot.

As is consistent with his warrior-like mentality, Timonen did return to help what was a bruised and battered blue line and played in the Game 5 loss.

Given his previous history with the disorder and the one that caused Pittsburgh Penguins netminder Tomas Vokoun to miss the entire 2013-14 campaign, it would not appear that head coach Craig Berube will have the luxury of Timonen being a part of his lineup in the upcoming season.

Hextall was available to the media shortly after the announcement and said he found out about Timonen's condition Monday.

"I got a call and what happened was Kimmo was with his buddy," the GM said. "He had pain in his calf for three days, and thought he kind of had a pulled calf muscle. He talked to his buddy who is a doctor, and his buddy told him he'd better go into the hospital. He did, and they did some type of an evaluation and found the blood clots in his calf."

"He was working out hard and getting ready for the season and this happened," Hextall added. "I think he was as shocked as anybody."

The GM said while he had not been able to reach Timonen by phone while the defenseman recuperates in the hospital, Hextall did receive a text and said 'Timonen seemed very frustrated'.

This will certainly hasten the approach in which the Flyers will take to improve their already suspect defensive corps -- which consists of Timonen's defensive partner Brayden Coburn, Mark Streit, Nicklas Grossmann, Luke Schenn, Andy MacDonald, and UFA signee Nick Schultz -- a unit Hextall said the team had already been looking at ways to improve preceding the news on Timonen, one of the best Flyers blue liners.

"There's no question this is a setback," he said, "but we will adjust. We'll do what we can to make the team better. We've been looking at a few things the last few weeks, so this will probably expedite something."

One prominent name that has made the rounds in Philly circles for some time is that of unrestricted free agent Michael Del Zotto, a mobile defender who showed a world of promise in his first two NHL seasons but has fallen out of the good graces of two organizations with the New York Rangers and Nashville Predators. Just 24 years old, Del Zotto could use a fresh start after a pair of subpar years.

Hextall said the Flyers will not rush one of their developing youngsters, which is a wise move for the long-term prospects of blue chippers Sam Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Robert Hagg, among others.

"I don't want to throw a kid into a situation he's not ready for," said Hextall. "So the way to protect yourself is to add a veteran, if possible."

Is there some point in the season next year in which he can envision a Timonen return?

"I don't have the answer to that," Hextall said. "I do know that he is in stable condition and he's doing well. Word is that he's supposed to be discharged tomorrow (Wednesday)."

Timonen did the Flyers a huge favor in June by signing at a relatively discounted rate, so if he eventually joins Chris Pronger on the team's long-term injured reserve list, it only frees up an additional $2 million for a Philly squad that has been tremendously muted this offseason by serious salary cap restraints.

Del Zotto's cap hit was $2.55 million in each of the last two seasons before his deal expired, so a similar number to that which Timonen had signed on for might be a very real possibility.

Neither the team nor the player have any kind of significant upper hand in this situation, so to speak, as Del Zotto seeks to make a return and the Flyers attempt to patch a gaping hole.

There's no doubt that Philadelphia will be crushed by the loss of Timonen's skills and playing abilities, but Hextall said the impact on the club goes much deeper than that.

"You can't take away not only the player, but also the experience -- the calm and the poise -- and the respect that Kimmo has in the locker room, and say you didn't take a step back."

As the club makes preparations looking forward to training camp next month, they can add to the list an examination of Timonen once he returns to the States.

"The plan right now for Kimmo is," Hextall continued, "he can't travel for 2-3 weeks, so as soon as that time period's up, he's going to come over here and get further evaluation from our doctors. We'll go from there at that time."

While that will be a major focus moving ahead, the Flyers are just relieved the beloved, classy Finn is doing well, and Hextall echoed a sentiment likely shared by the entire legion of Flyers' faithful.

"I think first and foremost we're worried about Kimmo Timonen the person and not Kimmo Timonen the hockey player."

David Strehle is the Philadelphia Correspondent for The Fourth Period.


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