PHILADELPHIA (CP) - The Philadelphia Flyers have picked up a couple of players who were expected to be hot commodities on this summer's free agent market.
The Flyers acquired the rights to defenceman Kimmo Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell from the Nashville Predators on Monday and re-signed both players. In return, the Predators received a first-round pick in this week's draft - the same pick they traded to the Flyers in exchange for Peter Forsberg last winter.
Timonen signed a six-year deal worth US$37.8 million while Hartnell's deal is also for six years and worth $25.2 million.
Hartnell and Timonen were set to become unrestricted free agents July 1.
"We are very excited in acquiring the exclusive rights to negotiate with Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell," Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said in a release. "Both of these players are going to be unrestricted free agents on July 1. This was an opportunity to get our foot in the door a little sooner. We are extremely excited about adding these two players to our roster."
The Flyers still hold the No. 2 pick in the 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) en route to finished last in the 30-team league.
It's the first time uncertainty over the Predators' future ownership has affected the roster of a 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.
The team could be on the move after Hamilton's city council has approved an agreement that would allow Copps Coliseum to become the Predators' home if the franchise ever relocated. Balsillie's camp has stressed that there's a lease in place in Nashville and he termed the agreement in Hamilton a contingency plan.
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.
"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 Monday in a release. "That being said, we received a first-round pick for the exclusive right to negotiate with two players who ultimately could have hit the market in two weeks."
The Flyers had a 48-hour window from Saturday at noon to Monday at noon to get the deals done.
Timonen, 32, had 13 goals and 42 assists last season and will become the top blue-liner for the Flyers. Hartnell, 25, had 22 goals and 17 assists and brings versatility to the Flyers as he can play either wing.
One of the league's top puck-moving defencemen, five-foot-10, 195-pound 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 Timonen is a tremendous two-way defenceman," said Holmgren. "He is a very good skater, he moves the puck extremely well and he will help us in all areas of the ice."
The six-foot-two, 208-pound Hartnell was the sixth overall pick by Nashville in 2000. He has 93 goals, 118 assists in six seasons with the Predators.
"Scott Hartnell is a big, power winger who has shown steady improvement over the course of his career in Nashville," said Holmgren.
In all, Philadelphia used a team-record 49 players last season, including 15 rookies.