KIMMO TIMONEN has worked out almost every day since September, mostly at the Flyers' practice facility. Some days, he's played tennis locally.
His possible return to the ice after being diagnosed with multiple blood clots in August took one step further yesterday, when he was fitted for a new pair of skates.
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall offered no real update on Timonen yesterday, though meetings about his return continued with team brass, doctors, lawyers and league headquarters. In the 13 days since Timonen underwent a CT scan that revealed one clot remaining in his leg, no one has ruled out a return.
"Things are moving along," Hextall said. "You guys know the world we live in now. There's a process with a number of things, getting doctors and trainers together, and Kimmo and the league. There's a lot of different avenues that we've got to explore here. We've got to dot all the i's and cross all the t's. It's going slower than I probably would have hoped and maybe even envisioned."
Timonen will still be taking his blood-thinning medication for a few more days, Hextall said. After that, with proper approval, nothing would theoretically prevent him from returning to practice next week.
With defensemen Nick Grossmann (right shoulder) and Braydon Coburn (left foot) also progressing toward returning, the Flyers will need to clear salary-cap space in order to afford Timonen's $2 million salary.
The NHL's salary cap is calculated by day. To simplify the outlook, however, the Flyers would have $71.333 million on the books with Timonen on the roster with Grossmann, Coburn and the current crop of call-ups. The limit is $69 million. The Flyers are spending $77.7 million in real dollars this season, by far the highest in the league, squeezing under only with the injury exceptions for Timonen and Chris Pronger.
"There's implications there, for sure," Hextall said. "We'll have to make a move if Kimmo comes back. Maybe it's just sending guys down and we'll keep a short roster, but we'll figure it out."
The untold concern for the Flyers is Timonen's impact on next season's salary cap. His return could trigger bonus pay, which would be applied retroactively to next season's limit. All told, Timonen could hit the Flyers with another $1.25 million in "dead space" next season.
His base pay is $2 million, applied to this year's cap. According to a source, Timonen will earn an additional $750,000 with 10 games played, an additional $250,000 on top of that at 20 games played, and $250,000 on top of that if he makes it to 30 games. There was another $250,000 on the table for 40 games, but that is no longer possible.
There are 33 games remaining on the Flyers' schedule. He seemingly would not be able to appear in 30 games. Still, there is a possible $1 million up for grabs, which would ding a team with $62.2 million already committed to next season and a salary cap as low as $71.7 million.
The best-case scenario for the Flyers capwise would be to move Timonen before the March 3 trade deadline - or even before he hits the 10-game mark. His desire has long been to play for a Stanley Cup contender.
If he returns and looks like his former self - admittedly, two big "ifs" - the Flyers could well grant him that wish with a swap to a team like the Predators. Nashville, his only other NHL home, is coached by Peter Laviolette, sits in first place in the Central Division, and could well use an extra and experienced body for the Stanley Cup playoffs. There would be no shortage of interested teams, who would then be responsible for his bonuses on the cap.
Ron Hextall revealed rookie Scott Laughton has turned the corner in his recovery from an apparent concussion. The Flyers have not officially confirmed that Laughton, 20, did indeed suffer a concussion when he was rocked by Washington's Matt Niskanen with a clean hit on Jan. 14.
Laughton skated for the first time yesterday, though he did so by himself. The next step is returning to practice with teammates, most likely in a non-contact environment, before testing himself with hitting.
"He took a real turn [on Tuesday] and things are looking up," Hextall said. "We're going to take our time with him."
Steve Mason said he "felt great" waking up yesterday morning after being thrown back into the fire on Tuesday night, making his first appearance in 17 days after not so much as practicing. He said short of strengthening the muscle around his right knee injury, there isn't much else he needs to do.
"We're glad this is probably behind us now and just looking looking forward to a strong stretch run here," Mason said. "Other than that, you don't want to continue to think about it. If you're changing things just because of it, you might be thinking about it when you're on the ice."
The Flyers host the Winnipeg Jets tonight. Despite a 13-5-4 mark against the Eastern Conference this season, the Jets are 0-1-2 against teams from Pennsylvania. The Flyers knocked them off in overtime back on Dec. 21 in Winnipeg in Rob Zepp's NHL debut . . . The Flyers are a surprising 8-6-3 against the West . . . Zepp was returned to AHL Lehigh Valley yesterday . . . Michael Raffl (illness) did not practice again . . . Forward Petr Straka, who played 10:08 in his NHL debut on Tuesday, is expected to remain in the lineup. Straka did not take a shift in the final 5:47 of regulation and overtime . . . Nick Schultz sat out practice with a maintenance day . . . Nick Grossmann (right shoulder) skated for the second practice in a row but is ruled out for tonight's game . . . Braydon Coburn (left foot) has not yet begun skating since re-injuring himself on Jan. 12 against Tampa Bay.