GM Chuck Fletcher is making good on his promise to build around center Mikko Koivu
Thursday afternoon, the club announced that it had signed a seven-year extension with the team captain, assuring that the 27-year-old is locked up until the 2013-14 season.
"It's a milestone day in the history of the Minnesota Wild
," Fletcher told the team's website. "When you have your franchise player commit to you, really for the next eight seasons. He's our best hockey player. He's our captain. And he's still just 27 with his best hockey years ahead of him."
It is a proposition that excites Koivu, who has called the Wild home since being drafted in 2001.
"I'll be a Minnesota guy for the next eight years, and it feels good," Koivu said in an evening conference call. "Everybody has treated myself and my family and friends always first class. I really feel Minnesota is my home. That was the biggest point when we started. I'm happy to be there and to be a member of the Wild."
According to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, Koivu's pact is the richest in the history of the franchise, totaling $47.25 million. Russo also reports that the deal comes with a full no-trade clause.
The club is scheduled to have a conference call with Koivu later this evening.
This past season, Koivu, a first-round pick of the club, had a career season with 22 goals and 71 points in 80 games. He led the team in points, assists (49) and multi-point games (20)
Koivu also took on more of a leadership role, accepting the team's captaincy on a permanent basis this past October.
"Mikko possesses all the qualities you want your leader to have," head coach Todd Richards
said at the time Koivu was named captain. "He is passionate, has a great work ethic and competes for everything. The way Mikko plays defines him as the leader of our team."
In fact, that competitiveness is what drew Fletcher toward Koivu when Fletcher took the team's reigns. He saw a win-at-all-costs player that plays the rarest of forward positions -- power center. AS a result, a long-term commitment between player and team seemed to be a no-brainer.
"I don't think I realized how competitive he is on the ice," Fletcher said. "He is not a flashy player, but he truly is a dominant power center in the NHL."
In five NHL seasons, Koivu has 79 goals and 255 points in 362 NHL games. He also starred for Finland at the 2010 Winter Olympics, winning a bronze medal.
Now, his immediate goal is to get the Wild back into the postseason after a two-year absence from the postseason. That quest will appropriately enough begin overseas, in Helsinki, Finland, as the Wild play as part of the 2010 Bridgestone Premiere series.
"Now we can focus on the next season and getting ready for the preseason and Helsinki after that," Koivu said. "I'm excited and I can't wait to get started."
And, Koivu added that he will be fully healthy by the start of the 2010-11 season. In fact, he says he will be 100 percent when the Wild open camp on Sept. 17. He underwent surgeries on both his knee and shoulder after the season, but says his recovery is ahead of schedule.
"I'm very confident I'll be ready to go when camp starts [on September 17]," he said.
While Fletcher wanted to get Koivu inked to a multi-year deal from Day One, Fletcher had to wait well into this summer to make his dream a reality.
But, he believes the wait will be worthwhile for both himself and the Minnesota franchise.
"When I took the job, my primary goal was to sign Koivu," he said. "After 15 months of planning how to go about this, today we were able to accomplish that. It speaks to the commitment Mikko has made to us. He showed strong interest in signing with us and both parties are excited about moving forward together."
The Koivu signing continues a busy week for Fletcher, who signed backup Josh Harding
to a one-year deal on Wednesday.