Flyers Acquire Free-Agent Gems Hartnell, Timonen from Predators

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers acquired defenseman Kimmo Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell from the Nashville Predators on Monday, improving a team that finished last in the NHL.

The Predators get a first-round pick -- the same one they sent to the Flyers to acquire Peter Forsberg -- for Timonen and Hartnell, who were to become unrestricted free agents July 1 but are close to signing with Philadelphia.

Both players have reportedly agreed to six-year contracts with Philadelphia. Timonen's deal is for $37.8 million and Hartnell's for $25.2 million.

"We're extremely close to getting it done," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "We'll get it done in the next day or two."

Timonen had 13 goals, 42 assists and a plus-20 rating last season. The 32-year-old player will bolster a blue line that had significant problems last season. The versatile Hartnell had 22 goals and 17 assists. He can play either wing.

The Flyers still hold the No. 2 pick in the NHL draft that begins Friday night. They are coming off a woeful season (22-48-12) after years of success. The Flyers missed the playoffs for the first time since 1994 and set team records for most losses and fewest points (56).

In all, Philadelphia used a team-record 49 players last season, including 15 rookies.

One of the league's top puck-moving defensemen, Timonen has 79 goals and 222 assists in eight seasons with Nashville. He is minus-6 for his career, playing mostly on a team that struggled.

"Kimmo is a tremendous two-way defenseman," Holmgren said. "He's smart and he plays around bigger guys."

The 25-year-old Hartnell was the sixth overall pick by Nashville in 2000. He has 93 goals and 118 assists in six seasons with the Predators.

"He's a hard-nosed kid. He moves good, he's aggressive and he's a tough player," Holmgren said.

It's the first time uncertainty over the Predators' future ownership has affected the roster of the team that posted a franchise-best 110 points and finished third in the NHL this season. Craig Leipold has accepted a deal to sell the team for $220 million to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, a deal not expected to be considered at the NHL board of governors' meeting Wednesday.

A local group interested in buying the team reportedly is preparing to make an offer if Balsillie's falls through. A June 30 deadline has been set to complete the sale.

General manager David Poile has not been able to settle on his budget for next season, which made it difficult to re-sign Hartnell or Timonen -- the team captain and an All-Star this season.

"We expected both Scott and Kimmo to be among the most sought-after at their respective positions when the unrestricted free-agent marketplace opens on July 1, and it did not appear as if we were going to be able to sign either player before then," Poile said in a statement.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


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