It’s a rare weekend off for the Hawks, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t much to talk about. As you know by now, during the game last night the Hawks gave up this year’s 2nd rounder and a conditional pick next year that can be a 4th, 3rd, or 2nd depending on how far they go this spring for Kimmo Timonen.
It’s a strange one, for sure. Rarely, if ever, do you see a player who hasn’t played all year traded for, and actually a team giving up tangible assets to do so. This came only a few days after the Leafs trading for Nathan Horton, who is likely to never play again. Let us not say that NHL GMs haven’t gotten creative.
If you’re new here or to the Hawks, and haven’t watched much other teams for a while, it would be easy to understand how you’d be confused at this move. Trading for a guy who will be 40 in March and hasn’t played all year certainly looks weird. But Kimmo Timonen is worth the risk.
Timonen hasn’t had less than 30 points in a season in 12 years but once, and that once was in the lockout season when he had 29 points in 45 games. Last year he had 35 points in 77 games.
Looking a little deeper, Kimmo’s numbers are even more encouraging. He’s been a positive possession player his last five years in Philly, and his relative Corsi (how much he’s above the overall team rate) has increased the past three years from 3.6 to 6.3 to 6.4. Some of that is the decline of the Flyers themselves, but Kimmo hasn’t gone with them.
Also, last season Timonen’s scoring chances against per 60 went down from the previous year and his scoring chances for per 60 went up. This is not a player who’s seen a huge dropoff even though he is in his late 30’s.
Those are the numbers. What you will see with your own eyes is a still very good skater, and he might be the smartest d-man on the Hawks right now. He’s also a very snappy passer, like Seabrook, where he seems to attach velcro to the puck because it just seems to snap to his teammates’ tape.
There are risks of course. Missing this much time at this age is a question mark. Timonen had to spend six months away from the rink on blood thinners due to blood clots, so there’s going to be a fair amount of rust. It’s going to take weeks to knock off. It might not come off at all. There are going to be some ugly moments in the beginning, and we’re all going to have to wade through everyone ready to declare this the worst trade ever. It’s also a switch to the West from the East, and that’s a jump.
However, Kimmo was a top pairing guy in Philly, and he might not have to be more than a third pairing guy here. Certainly that’s where he’ll start at first, especially when Oduya comes back (which can’t be before Friday against Edmonton). If he can regain anything close to his form of last year, this is what the Hawks have been screaming out for. Another d-man who can skate himself out of trouble, or into a passing lane to get the Hawks out of their zone cleanly. He can join the rush at times, but that’s not the main concern here. It’s zone exits, and someone who can open that up for them.
There’s also another aspect that may be kind of a stretch, but not totally worth ignoring. Here’s a guy who is coming back from a life-threatening condition at his age to take one more run at a Cup he’s never won. We have no idea what’s going on in the Hawks dressing room. We can deduce whatever it is, it contains a high level of bullshit. If Kimmo’s arrival doesn’t help snap them back to priorities, they may all be lost.