IF TIME IS FLEETING, Kimmo Timonen does not seem concerned.
In fact, that is all Timonen asked general manager Paul Holmgren for in his exit interview yesterday. Not a new contract. Not a position in the front office. Just a few weeks to collect his thoughts.
"Let's put it this way: If I won the Stanley Cup earlier, I probably wouldn't be here and talking to you guys. I would say, 'OK, that's it,' " Timonen said. "But I haven't won it. That's the only thing that keeps the hopes up. It's not money. It's not anything else. It's the Stanley Cup."
For Timonen, 39, making a decision about his status for next season will be something like a collegiate admissions process: Every criteria must be met before he will return for a 16th NHL season.
The first item on the checklist is that he's healthy.
"I'm in pretty good shape," Timonen said. "It's not like I can say, 'I have to go do this surgery' and that kind of stuff, but I'm going to take my time here and see."
The second is that the Flyers want him back. Even with his play declining, Timonen would still be a valuable piece in their lineup.
"He's a smart player," coach Craig Berube said yesterday. "Taking the Olympics out of next year, he might be even better. I think he's still an effective guy. He's smart; he can run a power play. He was still an all-situation guy for us this year."
Third is a decision from his family.
"We're going to stick around [South Jersey] for a couple more years, if I play or if I don't play," Timonen said. "My kids are older; my son is 15, and I'm sure he wants to stay here. He's been here all his life, so I don't see him going back to Finland or somewhere else. We're going to really figure out what we're going to do as a family."
The biggest test of Timonen's process will be how he feels when his foot hits the first pedal of the stationary bike or he lifts the first dumbbell in a couple weeks.
That will be a prominent factor in determining whether Timonen will return for one more shot at glory. One snag might be that Timonen himself sets a stringent, Harvard-like bar for himself. Anything less, and Timonen would probably not be playing.
"It feels hard right now, because it's going to be another 10 months to get to the [playoffs] and it's a long way," Timonen explained. "You have to be motivated to work out, get into shape, go through those 82 games again. For myself, I put the highest standard for where I want to be when I play the game. I have to think about if I can still be there.
"If I find that I can be there, then I don't see why I'm not coming back."
The words, by themselves, sound positive.
Timonen sounded in the beginning of last season as if he would not be returning. He is now on the fence - and says he will either play for the Flyers or retire. Earning his fourth Olympic medal in Sochi in February alongside 42-year-old Teemu Selanne seemed to rejuvenate him.
"I talked to a lot of guys, actually, already," Timonen said. "A lot of guys are saying, 'If you can still play the game, don't leave.' That's been the message. When you can still play and people want you back, that's obviously a good sign."
However, this is the first time Timonen has ever publicly wavered on his motivation level. Then, there is the obstacle of fitting Timonen under the salary cap and determining how many minutes he will play. Is he willing to play in a reduced role? He is an unrestricted free agent, and the Flyers cannot afford to pay him the $6 million he earned this past season.
Timonen has earned $54.4 million in his career. He says that money is not an issue, but veteran players do not always have the easiest time adjusting to putting in the same effort for a smaller paycheck - it becomes an exercise in determining diminishing returns.
For Timonen, a proud man, the biggest hurdle he will need to clear is in his own mind.
"I'm not 30 anymore," Timonen said. "I used to probably do things better than I can do now. I have to realize I'm closing in on 40 years old, and I can't do the same things. I'm probably the biggest [critic] to put pressure on myself. Nobody can do that-not coaches, not [the media]; it's me. I like our team, I like the guys, I like to be here. I just need to figure out if I can do it."
For at least the next month, up until the NHL draft, Holmgren will be holding a spot.
"I think he should take his time," Holmgren said. "He's been through a lot. He's a good person and a good man, so he deserves all the time he needs."
Team chairma Ed Snider jokingly called prospect Shayne Gostisbehere "got-to-be-here, because he's got to be here" . . . Paul Holmgren put an emphasis on the Flyers' being "bigger, stronger, faster" for next season . . . Holmgren said that adding a first-line left wing would be at the top of his priority list, which doesn't bode well for Scott Hartnell, who has 5 years left on his deal . . . Holmgren seemed down about re-signing free agent Steve Downie, who had a brutal season because of injuries . . . Craig Berube said that he started Ray Emery in goal in Game 3 against the Rangers because goalie Steve Mason (concussion) said he was not healthy after practice the day before and that he didn't want his goaltenders "stewing overnight, not knowing who was starting" . . . Holmgren said Phantoms goaltender Cal Heeter is not yet ready to be an NHL backup. He will continue to have discussions with Emery's agent about an extension, but needs a further medical evaluation.
* RW Steve Downie: Already underwent one surgery to improve hearing in his one ear, awaiting surgery on his other ear. Downie lost much of his hearing after a car accident as a child; his father died in the crash. His hearing at one point this season was down to zero in one ear, Paul Holmgren said. Balance and coordination problems can ensue from issues in the ear, which Holmgren said impacted his season, but could not pinpoint if any of the ear troubles were related to the severe concussion he suffered on Nov. 1.
* RW Wayne Simmonds: Holmgren said Simmonds visited a doctor yesterday to check on a knee issue but was hopeful he did not need surgery.
* C Sean Couturier: Likely to undergo surgery to repair a possible abdominal tear related to a sports hernia that became an issue in January. Flyers are waiting on a report from team doctor.
* D Nick Grossmann: Underwent surgery Tuesday to repair right ankle tendon damage. Recovery time is 8 to 10 weeks.
* Brayden Schenn (Canada), Erik Gustafsson (Sweden) and Oliver Lauridsen (Denmark) will represent their countries next week at the World Championships in Minsk, Belarus.
* Claude Giroux (Canada) and Mark Streit (Switzerland) were invited, but Holmgren said the Flyers did not allow either player to participate because of "issues." He did not elaborate on the issues, but hinted they were related to injuries.
Giroux, of course, was snubbed from Canada's gold medal-winning Olympic roster in February. When asked whether he would participate in the World Championships, as he did last spring, he responded, "Let's not go there." Hard to blame him, considering the circumstances, but Hockey Canada does have a completely new regime in place after GM Steve Yzerman.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"I like coaching," Craig Berube said. "There's ups and downs and tough times and good times. That's coaching. I like coming to the rink and working with the players. I like coaching games and being on the bench. It was very enjoyable. I'm very fortunate to have a job like that, especially here in Philadelphia."