TORONTO - Kimmo Timonen has faced the New York Rangers 51 times in his career and another seven Stanley Cup playoff contests.
Tomorrow night may even be a little more significant than April 11, 2010, when the Flyers beat Henrik Lundqvist in a shootout to advance to the playoffs - at least on a personal level.
Timonen, 39, is expected to make his debut after missing the first 62 games of the season with a blood disorder that caused clots to develop in both his lungs and right leg in early August.
"I'm close," Timonen said yesterday morning after skating for 70 minutes at Air Canada Centre. "If they want me to play Saturday, I think I'm good to go. I could play."
Timonen last played in an NHL game on April 30, 2014, also against the Rangers in Game 7 of the Flyers' first-round series. He turns 40 on March 18.
In order to make room for Timonen on the 23-man roster, defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo is expected to be placed on waivers at noon today. The Flyers could also made a trade to clear space. Braydon Coburn and Nick Grossmann are players who could be on the move.
Aside from the roster complication, the Flyers will also face a significant salary-cap hurdle with Timonen's easily reachable performance-based bonuses.
Timonen has been paid his $2 million salary all season. According to sources, he is due another $750,000 on his 10th game played. If he plays in all 20 of the remaining games, Timonen will earn another $250,000 on top of that, bringing his total to $3 million.
That hurts the Flyers because their bonus overages will apply to next season's salary-cap figure since they are already exceeding this year's cap limit in real dollars. The only way they squeak by on a daily basis is by operating with long-term injury exceptions.
The NHL's salary-cap figure for next season is in flux. With the Canadian dollar plummeting, commissioner Gary Bettman said last month the limit could rise to $71.7 million next season if the dollar remained at 80 cents compared to one American dollar. It traded at 79.9 cents yesterday and has dipped to 77 cents at varying points.
One NHL general manager was quoted this week as saying he's planning on the salary cap remaining the same at $69 million.
The Flyers already have nearly $64.5 million committed to 11 forwards, seven defensemen and Steve Mason next season. Adding another million, or even $750,000, in dead space for Timonen could be problematic. Scott Laughton also has performance-based bonuses that could carry over if he hit them already.
Timonen told the Daily News yesterday his contract structure never came up in conversations with general manager Ron Hextall.
"That's not really my concern," Timonen said. "I'm a player. I play. That's all I worry about it. That's out of my control."
His bonus structure, aside from his willingness to play for a contender, is one reason why it made sense for the Flyers to move him prior to Monday's trade deadline. That seems unlikely now, given he'll only play in one game. Instead, Timonen said he is focused on just being ready to play.
"I'm sure it's going to be emotional," Timonen said. "In my case, it's a huge, huge step for me."
The Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets pulled off a big coup about an hour before puck drop last night in a fascinating trade that is entirely salary cap driven.
Toronto sent maligned forward David Clarkson to Columbus in exchange for forward Nathan Horton, who is expected to never play again because of a debilitating back injury. That's right: The Leafs traded a healthy player for one who will never play again.
Like the Flyers have done with Chris Pronger, Toronto can bury Horton's $5.3 million salary-cap hit for the next five seasons by using a long-term injury exception.
Columbus approached Toronto with the idea because Horton's contract is not insured, forcing the small-market Blue Jackets to pay his salary in full each season.
In exchange, the Leafs will have to pay the $26.1 million due to Horton, but they're freed of Clarkson's $5.25 million cap hit over the next five seasons. Clarkson netted just 15 goals in 118 games with Toronto. The Blue Jackets, at least, get a player they t can use since they're paying him anyway.
The deal worked out for both sides - with the money due to both players ($26.1 million and $27.5 million) essentially equal. The big-money Maple Leafs, by far the NHL's richest franchise, ended up saving $1.4 million in the long run and gained a ton of flexibility moving forward.
Naturally, many thought the Flyers would've been an interesting candidate for a similar proposal with the Blue Jackets - to acquire an unmovable Vinny Lecavalier or R.J. Umberger. The big difference is Lecavalier, for instance, is due just $10.5 million over the next three seasons in comparison. That would be $15.6 million extra in real money spent for a deal that is up in 3 more years, not 5.
The only Flyer with similar term and dollars owed is defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who has 5 years left at a total of $25.75 million. Unlike Clarkson, MacDonald is a much more valuable player, plus the Flyers likely wouldn't be interested in dealing him solely for salary-cap relief. To our knowledge, the Flyers were never contacted.