My wife works for a fairly well-known technology company as a member of tech support and every 3 months her shift changes at her job. The announcement for what your future shift change will be is always fraught with anxiety and a sliver of hope that you get to work at a time where we can both spend time together. Sometimes the best has happened and at others its been the opposite, where one person works while the other is waiting to work and vice versa. It is during those times when she is placed on the ‘opposite’ shift is where the 3 months really seem to crawl.
News of that schedule is met with resigned frustration. That was kind of how I felt when I heard the news about the Minnesota Wild re-signing Mikko Koivu to a 2-year, $11 million deal that also included a ‘no movement clause.’ In full disclosure, I have never been a big fan of ‘El Kapitan’ and have felt his presence has often dictated our team’s style of play and any linemates that he may be the center for. The no movement clause makes any argument about cap flexibility a bogus one as the team has yet another player who has all the leverage about whether a move is made. This team better not complain about the constraints of the salary cap when they keep giving players no movement clauses.
Yes he is the franchise’s all time leading scorer and assist man, but is that because of greatness or is it simply because of longevity and being unchallenged for that prime ice time? 614 points (179 goals) in 11 seasons is reasonable but its not likely he’s going to be pushing for the Hall of Fame. Yet the team has paid him handsomely as he finishes off the last year of a 7-year deal that has paid him $6.75 million a season. Over that deal he has never topped the 20-goal plateau even once despite being paid like a #1 center. And before someone says ‘what about Joe Thornton?’ yes he’s never cracked the 20-goal plateau in that same span but he’s put up seasons of 60+ points 4 out of those 7 years and he’s 4 years older. Did I mention that Koivu never once cracked the 60-point plateau over that same span?
Yet the 34-year old Koivu took only a small pay deduction and still compelled the team to surrender ‘cap flexibility’ by giving him a no movement clause. Really? While the length of the contract is sensible, the no movement clause makes me wonder what they were thinking. Well we found out what they were thinking as Wild General Manger Chuck Fletcher tossed out this gem to the The Athletic‘s Michael Russo.
So we are to believe that without Mikko Koivu, the team was never going to be able to attract Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. Really? Or did it have more to do with two guys who wanted to play closer to home knowing they’d have an organization meeting their every demand ala Joe Mauer? I mean this is the same organization that continues to ask after nearly ever home post-game interview, “what is it like to play in front of these great fans?” Besides, I thought it was the chance to play in a ‘hockey market’ and the team’s excellent stockpile of young prospects (then Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker and Jonas Brodin) that really won them over. Interesting how we only hear about how Koivu was a ‘flag in the ground’ to Suter and Parise now, 5 years after the fact.
The revelation seems a little convenient to me. If you want an article trumpeting this deal as great you can read this article from Hockey Wilderness.
So what was fan reaction like to Koivu’s new deal? Mixed.
Keeping Koivu for the next two years means the team doesn’t have to rush Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin to anchoring its top two lines. While that is probably a smart move to give these youngsters time to grow physically and mentally into such big roles, but will an aging Koivu be able to take this club on a long playoff run? So far, the team has been past the 1st round twice in the last 7 seasons but never beyond the 2nd round since its miracle run in 2003 which was before Koivu was on the team.
If there is a silver lining to Koivu’s deal, it at least eliminates what would’ve been a whole year of ‘will he, won’t he’ speculation that would’ve grown annoying pretty quickly. The team will still have plenty potential offseason drama with Zucker and Mathew Dumba who are set to be restricted free agents. The question is whether Koivu’s deal makes it too tough for the club to re-sign them both. A part of me would like to see those that defended Koivu’s re-signing if it cost the team either one of those players because they simply didn’t have the cap space. Fletcher insists there is room but that may simply be wishful thinking because there are not a lot of contracts coming off the books and even with the ‘discounted’ Koivu it certainly won’t give Minnesota the money it needs to tie those two down.
This Tweet by CapFriendly.com (awesome site, you should check it out) really kind of hit home in regards to how the team overpaid what will be a 35-year old player by the time the extension kicks in.
Just look up how ‘well’ Daniel Briere did for the Canadiens and what Mike Fisher managed in his last two years with the Predators statistically and you’ll see why its unwise to pay out big money to older forwards like that.
Maybe I ought to just stop, take a deep breath and remind myself its just 3 more seasons, or watch this Mikko Koivu highlight reel instead. What do you think? Was it a good move to re-sign Mikko Koivu? Did the Wild overpay? Share what you think in the comments below or let me know on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist!
Spoiler Alert: I asked this question to my friends on Part II of Wild Fans Speak (a few days before news of the extension broke) so you can hear what they thought too.