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Flyers hope Timonen, Hartnell can help lead turnaround @NHLdotcom

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Kimmo Timonen had the same question for Flyers management as all their fans who suffered through the most miserable season in the franchise's 40-year history.

"Can the Flyers rebuild really fast?" he asked general manager Paul Holmgren.

Timonen must have liked the answer.

Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell agreed to give up a shot at free agency to accept a trade from Nashville to Philadelphia, hoping to play a part in transforming the Flyers from the worst team in the NHL to a playoff contender next season.

"I really feel we're a playoff team," Timonen said on Tuesday. "If we can add a couple more players, a first-line center, maybe some experience, we're going to be even better."

Acquiring Hartnell and Timonen, a top defenseman and the Predators' captain, was the first major offseason move for Holmgren and more deals could be on the way. The Flyers need a No. 1 center, and Holmgren told both players he wasn't done bolstering the team's roster.

"The city, they want and deserve a winner," Hartnell said. "I think going there, showing Kimmo and I signed, it's a step in the right direction, for sure."

Hartnell and Timonen, acquired Monday from Nashville for a first-round pick, could have been unrestricted free agents on July 1. Instead, they traded their opportunity at the open market to accept a trade to the Flyers.

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

"I just thought the contract that we had was right at the top of probably what I would have got at the top of the market," Hartnell said. "It's looking like a great club and it was easy for me to decide."

Timonen had 13 goals, 42 assists and a plus-20 rating last season. He's expected to significantly upgrade a blue line that was riddled with problems last season. The versatile Hartnell had 22 goals and 17 assists. He can play either wing.

While Holmgren's promise to the pair that he'd reshape the Flyers into winners played a factor in both players accepting the deal, so did the Predators' cloudy future in Nashville. The organization simply couldn't offer the kind of contract needed to keep either one because the ownership situation is in limbo.

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, meaning free agent Paul Kariya also could be on his way out of Nashville. Peter Forsberg, whom Nashville traded that same pick to the Flyers in February, still must decide if he will return.

Timonen and Hartnell hope the entire team won't need a moving van. Timonen feared these moves signal the beginning of the end of hockey in Nashville.

"It looks like that and from my standpoint, it's kind of sad," Timonen said.

"I've been there since Day 1, and I've been through some tough years. It was a rebuilding process and the last two years, it's been fun. We've been winning games and now it looks like everything is up in the air."

Hartnell, the sixth overall pick by Nashville in 2000, also worried hockey might not last beyond next season in Music City.

"You look at Nashville and whoever thought hockey would work in Nashville, you know? Let's be honest," he said.

"It's come a long ways in seven years. They used to cheer a lot when you shoot the puck and hit the glass and it makes a loud sound. They'd cheer. Now they know what plays are good."


AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.

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