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Captain Come Back: Koivu Thrilled to Remain in Minnesota

Team, player accomplish goal of getting deal done before start of regular season

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- He may have been able to squeeze out a little more money. He may have gotten a little more term. In the end, Mikko Koivu just wanted to stay home in Minnesota.

The only permanent captain in franchise history, Koivu will call the State of Hockey home for at least the next three seasons after agreeing to a two-year contract extension with the club, one that will tie him to the Wild through the end of the 2019-20 season.

"Like I've said a million times, the way the people have treated myself and my family over the years, starting with the fans and the people around the rink, it's always been first-class," Koivu said. "It's been clear for myself and my family that we wanted to stay here."

Koivu, who is entering the final year of a seven-year, $47.25 million contract he signed on July 15, 2010, will be paid a total of $11 million, or an average of $5.5 million per season.

The deal keeps Koivu in Minnesota and provides the Wild with additional salary cap space starting next season while keeping arguably the franchise's best player locked up for the foreseeable future.

Video: Mikko Koivu on Extension with Minnesota

It also beats an artificial deadline to get a deal done by the start of the regular season. Minnesota, which opened the preseason against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday, opens the regular season two weeks from Thursday in Detroit. 

"That was always my goal," Koivu said. "I wanted to get it done before we started or not talk about it at all once the season started. I've never believed that it helps, either the player or the organization, if there's talks going on all of the time [during the season]."

Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said Monday evening that the negotiations with Koivu and his representatives have been some of the easiest of his career.

"A couple of phone calls and it was done," Fletcher said. "It says a lot about him and how much he wanted to stay in Minnesota that we were able to get this done so easily."

After one of the most productive seasons in his 12-year NHL career in 2016-17, Koivu was named a finalist for the Selke trophy, awarded to the League's top defensive forward. 

Long known as one of the better two-way players in the game, the honor was the first of Koivu's career.

"He's still an excellent hockey player as he showed last year," Fletcher said. "He's one of our offensive leaders and over the years, he's shown to be a top faceoff guy. He's just an extremely important player in all facets of the game for our team.

"It's very difficult to find players like him. They're incredibly valuable."

Nobody in Wild history boasts a more impressive resume.

The sixth overall pick in the 2001 NHL Draft -- and the Wild's second first-round selection in franchise history -- Koivu ranks first on the Wild's all-time lists in games played, assists, points, shots on goal, power-play points, shorthanded points and multi-point games. He's second in goals, shorthanded goals, game-winning goals and plus/minus rating. 

Koivu is the only player in team history to win at least 20 faceoffs in a game, a feat he has accomplished 11 times in his career. Koivu is also the franchise leader in career Stanley Cup Playoff games and ranks tied for the franchise lead in goals, is second in scoring and in shots on goal, and is fourth in assists during the postseason.

After nearly a decade of Minnesota rotating its captaincy, Koivu was named the first full-time captain in Wild history on Oct. 20, 2009, an honor he has yet to relinquish. 

Koivu, who has missed just four games total over the past three seasons, could approach the 1,000-game plateau as soon as next season, if he's able to remain healthy. He begins the 2017-18 season with 843 games played, having scored 179 goals, 435 assists and accumulating a plus-61 in his NHL career.

The move caps a busy summer for Fletcher and the Wild. In addition to acquiring forwards Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno from Buffalo, Minnesota re-signed restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter to multi-year deals. 

"Mikael, Nino and Mikko are all a critical part of our core, and it was important that we kept them in Minnesota," Fletcher said. 

Koivu, the longest tenured player on the roster who himself pre-dates Fletcher, has seen the franchise transform from the underdog, expansion club a decade ago to one that has made the Stanley Cup Playoffs each of the past five seasons. The Wild is one of only a handful of teams League-wide to accomplish that feat.

Remaining a part of it was important to him and his wife, Helena, and their children, Kasper and Sofie.

"You always want to be on a team that has a chance to win," Koivu said. "The last few years, you can see how the team has gotten better each and every year. And being a part of that and getting used to a winning culture and a winning team, I think you can see it all over the room and with our core group. 

"I know Chuck has been busy all summer getting the pieces together, and it's been fun to see that. I'm glad we can keep doing that and keep getting better as a team."

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