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Koivu mulls future in Minnesota, his career and what could be next

Wild captain is an unrestricted free agent this offseason but has plenty to think about when it comes to the upcoming campaign

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

Mikko Koivu has never been one to tip his hand or show too much emotion. 

So when he was asked earlier this month about his hockey future, of course the Wild captain wasn't going to simply spill the beans.

With Minnesota's return to the bubble now over and club's offseason underway, one of its biggest questions it will answer will be just that: Does the only full-time captain in Wild history want to continue in the NHL? Or is the 37-year-old ready to call it a career after 15 seasons and 1,028 games, all with the team that selected him sixth overall in the 2001 NHL Draft?

"I think it's still too early right after the season to making decisions on and basically about the rest of my life," Koivu said. "I think you gotta be really careful or I need to be really careful, especially with the game and also what do I want from the future and then go from there. It's a such a big decision that, like I said, there's no way I'm ready to do that right now."

And the Wild is in no hurry to force a decision from Koivu either. 

While this offseason is expected to be at least a month shorter than a "normal" offseason, the business of making changes likely won't come until the end of September or early October, which means Koivu has several weeks to huddle with family, chat with Wild GM Bill Guerin and make an informed decision that he can live with. 

One of those family members that he said he will definitely reach out to is older brother Saku, who 1,124 games with Montreal and Anaheim over 18 NHL seasons, before retiring following the 2013-14 season. 

Video: Koivu: No timeline to decide career future

"He's been through it," Koivu said. "There's going to be some help from them and they know me as well. But then at the end, you have to make the decision on your own and how you feel, but for sure, the people that are close to you, the impact that they have, it's going to be big to have that support and trying to do the decision as good as you can for the future."

Koivu made clear during the season that he didn't have much interest in continuing his playing career in a different NHL uniform. 

In an era of constant player movement in all sports, Koivu is one of the few players in League history to reach 1,000 games all in one uniform. In the 102-year history of the NHL, Koivu became just the 55th player to play his first 1,000 games with a single team. 

But this past season offered challenges that Koivu had to deal with for the first time. He was relegated to "fourth line" duty, although he was still often counted on to win key draws or defend leads late in games.

But the lack of consistent ice time coupled with less time on the power play made for limited offensive productivity. The four goals he scored was the fewest he's had in a single season and his 21 points is the fewest since his rookie season. 

"I think as athletes, I think you understand once you get older it's for sure going to affect your playing time, and that's the way it should be I think," Koivu said. "But obviously you always want to play more, especially if you're feeling good. If you're playing good, for sure, it helps the player get more ice time; you get that confidence."

Still, he finished the season as plus player, as he's done in 11 of his 15 seasons in Minnesota. And while the statistic is imperfect, it shows the kind of value Koivu still brings on a nightly basis in the defensive end. 

There is definitely a place for a player like that in the League, now it's simply a matter of whether there is a desire for Koivu, who is an unrestricted free agent, to return and whether there is a match for that skillset in Minnesota.

No matter what he decides, Koivu says he wants to remain in the game in one way or another. It's all a part of some very big decisions Koivu will be making in the weeks ahead. 

"I think I do [want to remain involved in the game]. I think those are also things that, yes, you do think about it and try to think about the future and things like that. But at the same time, though, I'm fortunate that way that there is opportunities outside of hockey as well for myself," Koivu said. "I think it's going to be a decision that I'll make once you make the decision about hockey and if you're going from a player or not. 

"If the question is do you ever think about it, for sure you do and I think it's something that's it's natural to think about it too and it gets you prepared in some ways. Is it coaching, management, or is it outside of hockey, I don't really have an answer for that. But I'm sure it'll be more clear once you kind of put some more thought to it. 

"Staying in the game I think it's been part of my life my whole life. So I don't see myself not being involved with hockey in the future."

Will that future be in Minnesota? Only time will tell. 


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