Blood clots could end Timonen's career

Posted: August 07, 2014

ONE CALL, one suggestion from a doctor to check out severe calf pain, may have saved the life of Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen.

Timonen, 39, was diagnosed with multiple blood clots in his native Finland on Monday, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall announced yesterday. Embolisms were found in both of his lungs and his right leg.

According to Hextall, Timonen is "resting in stable condition and doing well" in a Finland hospital after the shocking diagnosis.

"I got a call. Kimmo was with his buddy and he had pain in his calf for 3 days," Hextall said. "He talked to his buddy who is a doctor and the buddy told him to go to the hospital. They did an evaluation and found the blood clots."

Hextall said he had not yet spoken to Timonen, but he "seemed very frustrated" in a text message.

"I think we are happy for him and his three children that he's doing fine," Hextall said.

With Timonen's return to the ice in doubt, Hextall quickly responded by signing free-agent defenseman Michael Del Zotto on a 1-year deal last night.

Del Zotto, just 24, broke into the NHL as a 19-year-old in 2009 with the Rangers and experienced success as a first team all-rookie selection before falling out of favor last season. He was dealt to Nashville in January for veteran Kevin Klein but did not impress enough in a 25-game audition to earn a new deal.

Del Zotto's signing was necessary because the Flyers know so little about Timonen's condition. Timonen will be closely monitored by doctors in Finland for the next 2 to 3 weeks, at which point he can travel back to Philadelphia to be under the care of team physicians.

In 2008, team doctors found a blood clot in Timonen's left ankle on the eve of their Eastern Conference finals matchup with Pittsburgh, which caused him to miss the first four games of that series. He returned for the Game 5, series-ending loss, but did not have any known lingering effects with clotting until now.

Combining the factors of his medical history, age and risk, Timonen is a decided longshot to return to the Flyers' lineup this season - if ever again. With their predisposition for sustaining cuts on the ice, it is extremely dangerous for any hockey player to be taking blood-thinning medications while playing, for risk of excessive bleeding.

The five-time Olympian signed a 1-year contract in June for $2 million guaranteed, which could rise to a total of $3.5 million if games-played bonuses are reached. He could be added to the long-term injury exception list in October, along with Chris Pronger, and their combined $6.94 million salary-cap hits will come off the books.

Hextall said he was much more inclined to bring in a veteran, even a young veteran like Del Zotto, rather than press one of the impressive and developing defensive draft picks like Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin or Robert Hagg into NHL duty.

With the lefthanded-shooting Del Zotto, the Flyers have seven healthy defensemen on their roster, including Braydon Coburn, Nick Grossmann, Luke Schenn, Andrew MacDonald, Mark Streit and Nick Schultz.

According to TSN's Darren Dreger, Del Zotto will earn just $1.3 million next season with the Flyers. Although some may view Del Zotto as an emergency signing or a reclamation project, he is not far removed from the promise he showed with the Rangers 2 years ago.

He netted an impressive 37 points in 80 games as a rookie in 2009-10 - and watched Brian Boucher stop Olli Jokinen in a shootout on the last day of the regular season to advance the Flyers to the playoffs. Del Zotto struggled in his second campaign, but bounced back with 41 points in 77 games in 2011-12 and finished 12th in Norris Trophy voting for the league's top defenseman.

He posted 21 points in 46 games during the 2013 lockout-shortened season, but was heavily criticized for play in his own zone. Del Zotto's headstrong play, sometimes described as cocky, didn't mesh with new coach Alain Vigneault and led to his trade and subsequent fall from grace.

Nashville let him walk as an unrestricted free agent this summer after he was due $2.9 million in a qualifying offer when his 2-year, $5.8 million deal expired. Nonetheless, Del Zotto can skate well, quarterback the second power-play unit, and help get the puck up the ice more quickly.

Perhaps after dangling on the market for more than a month, Del Zotto will be willing to patch the other holes in his game to turn a tough situation for the Flyers and Timonen into a positive.

Slap shots

According to the Regina (Saskatchewan) Leader Post, well-respected hockey man John Paddock, fired by the Flyers in June after 6 years with the club as assistant GM, assistant coach and AHL head coach, will become the next head coach of the WHL's Regina Pats this week . . . Flyers second-round pick Robert Hagg picked up an assist this week for Sweden at Team USA's World Junior camp scrimmages in Lake Placid, N.Y. . . . First-round picks Samuel Morin and Travis Sanheim are both competing in Team Canada's camp this week in Montreal, and their exhibitions vs. Russia and Czech Republic can be watched on HockeyCanada.ca.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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