NHL Free Agency: Minnesota Wild Scratches Seven-Year Itch, Extends Koivu

Blake BenzelCorrespondent IJuly 15, 2010

EDMONTON, CANADA - MARCH 5: Mikko Koivu #9 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the Edmonton Oilers on March 5, 2010 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

The last remaining drama of the Minnesota Wild’s off season is over.

The Wild have signed their franchise player, captain Mikko Koivu to a seven-year contract worth $6.75 million per season, plus a bunch of signing bonuses that add up to be about the GNP of a third-world country and a full no-trade clause.

I’ll be completely honest with my assessment here—I love this deal with the exception of the term.

As many of you know, I’m not a huge long-term contract type of guy. I would have preferred to see the Wild sign Koivu for four or five years as opposed to the seven that he got.

That being said, you won’t hear me complain one bit.

Here’s the deal. The Wild were going to have to pay to keep Koivu around.

Yes, he wanted to be here. Yes, he was convinced that the Wild are headed in the right direction. But the Wild still were going to have to pay.

But the thing is that this deal isn’t actually as outlandish as many are portraying it as.

Yes, Koivu has a larger cap hit than Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Backstrom, Jonathan Toews and Henrik Sedin. Yes, his stats may not necessarily define him as a “superstar” type player but, then again, neither have Toews’.

In fact, Koivu has put up better numbers than Toews over the last few seasons with less talent surrounding him—something that likely was at the forefront of these discussions when comparables were involved.

What Koivu brings to the squad, however, is so much more than just numbers-based value.

The fact of the matter is that the Wild would be lost without their captain. Koivu is the cornerstone of their team at even strength, on the penalty kill and on the powerplay.

The Wild’s offense not only runs through Koivu, but their forecheck and backcheck does as well.

As Fletcher said on his conference call, “To define Mikko by his statistics is to miss the point of what he’s all about.”

That is one-hundred percent true.

Of course, there are certain expectations that the Wild and their fans will likely have from Koivu that have to do with numbers.

He’s been the team’s best player over the last two years and has made huge steps in his development each year—something that will be expected to continue.

But, it’s not all sunshine and roses for the Wild after this signing.

The team is now faced with the stark reality that, with Koivu’s new contract in tow, Minnesota has just under $9 million in cap space heading into the 2011-12 season and just 17 players under contract.

Looking at their expiring contracts for next season, there are likely only two players that they’re going to want to look at retaining, both of whom are restricted free agents, but either way Chuck Fletcher will have to work some of his magic to improve the Wild—something that he’s quite familiar with from last season.

When it comes down to it, the Wild did what needed to be done to keep Koivu.

His camp wanted seven years, they gave him seven years. His camp wanted $7 million per year, they gave him $6.75 million per year. What’s more is that they got this contract done before the season started, not allowing the distraction of contract talks to loom over what will likely already be a difficult season for the team.

Keeping that in mind, it’s easy to see why the negotiations between the two sides were as amicable as they were all the way through.

Just like his brother, Mikko Koivu is a captain through and through and, apart from being one heck of a hockey player, is one-hundred percent pure class.

You can read more of Blake's work at his Wild blog, Wild Nation or at Hockey Primetime. Click Here to follow Blake on Twitter.