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Hartnell returns to Philly

Former Flyer Scott Hartnell, now with the Columbus Blue Jackets, misses the city as well as best friend Kimmo Timonen.

Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen celebrate goal during Game 5 of 2010 Stanley Cup finals in Chicago.(Associated Press)
Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen celebrate goal during Game 5 of 2010 Stanley Cup finals in Chicago.(Associated Press)Read more

STARING at a crossroads last June, trying to decide whether to continue his career at age 39, Kimmo Timonen leaned on best friend Scott Hartnell for advice.

If Timonen was going to keep playing, going to take one last shot at a Stanley Cup, he wanted to do it with Hartnell.

The odd couple of friends - a rambunctious and goofy ginger from Lloydminster, Alberta, and a super serious Finn who started their NHL careers together in 2000 in Tennessee - mapped out a final voyage. They looked at the schedule.

They charted Jan. 19, 2015, on Long Island, saying how special it would be for Timonen to share in Hartnell's 1,000th career NHL game.

All 1,000 of Hartnell's games would have been with Timonen on the roster - if everything went according to plan. It would have been an unbelievable story, considering it started with Hartnell as an 18-year-old first-round pick and Timonen as a 25-year-old, 10th-round pick just praying for a full-time NHL job.

Timonen signed his 1-year pact with the Flyers on June 13. Ten days later, the two were no longer teammates.

After it was made perfectly clear by new Flyers general manager Ron Hextall that he was no longer wanted in Philadelphia, Hartnell waived his no-movement clause to allow a trade to Columbus for R.J. Umberger.

"He was shocked. I was shocked," Timonen said. "We talked a lot this summer. We talked about finishing my career together. To not be able to do those things as mentioned, I know we were both disappointed. I go way back with him and it's been an amazing, amazing journey."

Of course, there was no guarantee that Timonen would have shared the ice with Hartnell in Philadelphia anyway this season, since doctors discovered blood clots throughout his body in August.

His medical condition doesn't lessen the sting of the harshness of business in the NHL, which will resurface tonight when Hartnell takes the ice at Wells Fargo Center for the first time in a long time as a visiting player.

"If I were healthy, this would have been a lot harder," Timonen said. "It would have been so weird coming to training camp and not seeing his funny face at the rink. We've done this for years. I know his routine, how he gets ready for games. He knows mine. Just all of the dinners and time we spent together on the road. It would have been hard."

Hextall on Wednesday reiterated the motivation of clearing salary-cap space as a big reason for making the move, which only hurts the Flyers in the short-term.

Umberger, 32, has two fewer seasons left on his deal which pays him roughly the same as Hartnell. The one difference is Umberger has three points in 14 games this year and Hartnell has 14 in 15 games as a Blue Jacket.

"Every trade is tough," Hextall said. "Scott is a popular guy in the room and the city. I knew that. It's not my job to judge popularity contests and make moves based on that. It was a move we felt that worked for us at the time and I still feel works for us."

Hartnell, also 32, admitted he had a hard time coming to grips with the deal. Like Mike Richards and Jeff Carter before him, Hartnell signed a long-term pact to be here. If he played out his second deal with the Flyers, it would have been 12 years and $53.7 million.

Even if Hartnell played in 90 percent of the potential games remaining on his contract, only Bobby Clarke (1,144) would have played more games in a Flyers uniform than Hartnell (910).

"I get it," Hartnell said, his voice dropping. "I've been around the league a long time. I understand that totally. It just hurts, I don't know if it's my ego or what it's called. I signed a contract in Philly to play the rest of my career out there. To change in a week was hard to take."

Hartnell believes coach Craig Berube "had a big opinion in whether to part ways or not," but he "wouldn't lose sleep over it." Berube laughed and said he has "no input in trades" and it's "not my job."

"I'm sure that in all trades, players think, 'Maybe this guy didn't like me' or 'That guy didn't like me,' " Berube said. "Players can think what they want. That doesn't bother me at all. Nothing bothers me."

It just so happened that another of Timonen's close friends - Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen, his first professional agent - was the man on the other end of the phone pulling the strings. Timonen still talks to Kekalainen regularly and said he's been "thrilled" with Hartnell so far, sensing he is more comfortable, too.

Hartnell said he's been excited for the "new chapter" in his life. He's continued his #HartnellDown charity work in Ohio's capital city, but pointed out the merchandise is "no longer orange and black." Even though he's off to a strong start, it is painfully obvious he never wanted to leave town.

"I'm a pretty emotional person, I think," Hartnell said. "Just to be in the arena and not going in the home dressing room and seeing all of the trainers and staff and coaches there that I love, it's going to be tough. As for the fans, I think I played my heart out every night that I put on a Flyers jersey. I hope they'll respect that."

Hartnell said "of course" he's going to hit former linemate Claude Giroux if given the chance. Timonen, meanwhile, will be left watching from the press box - neither having much say in the deal.

"The biggest thing I thought of was not seeing Kimmo every day," Hartnell said. "For all of my adult life, I've seen Kimmo every morning, every road trip, going for a beer and dinner or the movies or whatever we did on the road. He was always that consistent thing, your best friend."

Slap shots

Steve Mason doesn't sound like he's bluffing when he says facing his former team is "just another game on the calendar." He's long since moved on after his April 3, 2013 trade . . . Mason's save percentage has rocketed from .878 to .913 over the last four games (3-1-0) . . . The Blue Jackets, skating without nearly half of their roster over the last month, could get goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, center Artem Anisimov and left wing Matt Calvert back tonight . . . Columbus (0-8-1) is looking to avoid setting a new franchise record winless streak. The Blue Jackets haven't won since Oct. 23.