Former President of the United States George W. Bush got a little confused during a speech when he attempted to recall an old axiom as he said, “You know there is an old saying in Texas, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice (long pause)…you can’t fool me again.” Of course the axiom he was trying to say was “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” A few seasons ago former Wild General Manager Doug Risebrough was fooled by its star franchise player at the time Marian Gaborik and his agent Ron Salcer. Gaborik and Salcer played coy all summer long in 2008, and Risebrough took a very patient approach as he assumed the Slovakian sniper would jump at the offer he’d make just prior to the opening of training camp. When Risebrough finally made his pitch, a deal that would’ve paid Gaborik around $7.5 million per season on a six-year contract. Gaborik waited and Risebrough seemed to be in no hurry to make the prized scorer to sign a deal. Shortly into training camp Gaborik hurts himself and is lost for the majority of the season and does not return to the lineup until after the trade deadline robbing the team at least a chance at trading him for some heavy compensation in return. Risebrough desperately tried a late plea to keep him in Minnesota but Gaborik decided to test the free agency waters and ended up signing a similar deal with the New York Rangers. With that, the most prolific scorer the franchise had ever drafted left the organization for absolutely nothing in return and a loss the for the team that still reverberates until today. So in an effort not to suffer the same fate twice, the Minnesota Wild locked down its most complete player by signing team captain Mikko Koivu to a seven year, $47.25 million deal. The deal will compensate Koivu an average of $5.4 million per season, with alternating bonuses of $1.89 million every other season before the final year of the deal where he’ll make a whopping $9.18 million.
At 27, Koivu is entering the prime of his career and has been the team’s most complete player each of the last two seasons registering 22 goals and 49 assists in 80 games. The center told reporters in a conference call taken by Koivu from Finland that he did not want to play this season with this matter still up in the air, adding, “It was easy and very fast, and I think that’s the way we both wanted.” As a fan it is great to see this type of drama not drawn out and possibly turn ugly and anxious as it was when the team allowed Gaborik to leave as well as Brian Rolston. The deal does seem a tad bit high at first glance but he is the pre-eminent team player and as of right now the most valuable asset the team has and I have little doubt he’d score more points if he had more talented linemates. No offense to Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen but Koivu would easily have another 20 points if they were better finishers. Koivu will never be a Gaborik-like goal scorer but without question he possesses way more leadership and heart than the Slovak sniper ever did. Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher makes it sound like a huge weight was lifted off of his shoulders telling TSN.ca, “How many centremen are really better than Mikko, when you break it down? I think it’s a very fair contract. Let’s not kid ourselves. If he got to July 1, 2011, he would’ve had several teams making very lucrative offers to him. I’m not sure there’s been a centreman like him on the open market since we’ve had the new CBA.” Pretty confident praise from Fletcher, and while I agree that there are few players in the NHL that are as complete as Mikko Koivu in terms of his ability to contribute at both ends of the ice but I do think the Wild overpaid. Yet give Fletcher for being far more proactive than Doug Risebrough would’ve been.
Yet if you look at the responses from TSN on the deal you can see most fans felt the Wild paid way too much. To quote poster, tml2216, no doubt a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, “He’s going to regret signing for 7 years with the Wild, no matter what the pay (which by the way is ridiculously high).. This is definitely a panic move to keep at least one decent player willing to play for Minnesota secure.” Or this gem from a poster called HenrikHartRossSedin, no doubt a Vancouver Canucks fan, “Way too overpaid. He’s making more than the Hart/Art Trophy winner. Pavelski makes 4M and he brings the same if not more to the table.” Really, less than Pavelski? C’mon, Joe Pavelski who had just 3 more goals but far less assists (23 less to be precise) is a good player but Koivu provides a lot more in terms of leadership, and as a penalty killer. It was not all negative though as poster johnpaul, “He plays for an offensively challenged system, so take that into consideration. The team may also be doing this to send a message to star players that Minnesota is a team serious about success, not just a launching pad for players to succeed elsewhere.” It is an intriguing thought, and I certainly believe that could possibly be an alterior motive to the sizeable long-term contract offer to Koivu, but someone could say the same thing about Shane Doan. A player who is similarily important to his team but whose re-signing has never led to anyone really thinking it is a sign to other free agents that the Coyotes are serious about winning. I really believe that is reading far too much into it, and that really its nothing more than a franchise wishing to secure its most valuable player. Koivu is still under contract under to his original 4-year, $13 million deal he signed so he will be playing this season at a much more affordable $3.7 million ($3.25 million cap hit) salary before the new deal kicks in at the start of the 2011-12 season.
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Minnesota re-signs Josh Harding, Anton Khudobin and signs Joel Broda to a entry level contract
The Wild solved another roster issue by re-signing goaltender Josh Harding to a one-year deal worth $1.2 million. This is the 3rd one-year deal it has offered Harding, who has been a fairly reliable backup goaltender who is still young at just 26-years old, and wishing to get a shot as a starting goaltender. The team tried to shop him at the trade deadline but there were no takers and then a very saturated listing of goaltenders more or less again conspired to create little interest in the Regina-native amongst the rest of the league’s teams. Minnesota would be wise to give Harding some more starts to market him a bit to create interest before the deadline. He is a good, left hand catching goaltender who deserves a shot and in the meantime can give Minnesota a quality option as a backup. The Wild also re-signed Anton Khudobin. The Russian-goaltender made a dramatic entrance last year, going 2-0 and not allowing a single goal in the process. Small but athletic he is a player who has managed to find success at every level and he would be a good pick to become the backup if the Wild are indeed able to trade Josh Harding.
The team also signed 20-year old center Joel Broda to a 3-year entry level deal. Broda was originally a 5th round draft choice of the Washington Capitals (144th Overall) in 2008. You could consider him a classic late bloomer as he had pretty mundane seasons before this seasons where he exploded for 39 goals and 73 points with the Calgary Hitmen as an overager. The Prince Albert, Saskatchewan-native was an invite to this year’s prospect development camp which is going on right now and its clear he impressed Wild brass right away as they offered him a deal after the first day of camp. Broda played a key role in the Hitmen’s Memorial Cup run, scoring 14 goals in the WHL playoffs in route to winning the Ed Chynoweth Trophy. If I were to describe Broda’s game, it is similar to that of Wild winger Andrew Brunette where he is not the fleetest of skater, but he has good hands in and around the net and uses his body to protect the puck effectively; especially along the boards. Either way it is a good signing for a player who has a solid offensive skillset.