Mikko Koivu, the Minnesota Wild's ultimate team player, has always played with a 'team first' attitude. That attitude which you cannot just bestow on any player, in any sport. It's an attitude which has to be developed, cultivated, and used to the best advantage of the team for which that player plays for.
And sometimes, even in this 'me, Me, ME' age of professional sports, the team actually agrees with the player, when he asks to be paid for his efforts on behalf of that team. It doesn't happen often. Especially in tight-fisted, 'small-market' Minnesota, where top-tier contracts are about as rare as Valentine's Day fireworks displays.
The Wild announced on Thursday that they have come to agreement with the 27-year-old UFA-to-be on a new, 7-year, $67.5-million dollar blockbuster contract, one which will protect both player and team, should a potential work stoppage (possible after 2011-12, due to the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement) interrupt the season.
Some have said that it was too much money. Some have derided the Wild as hamstringing themselves, due to the term and the no-trade clause included in the deal. To that I say:
If you want good players, you have to be willing to PAY for them. Mikko Koivu is a rare talent in today's NHL, a player who has the ability to actually lead his team, no matter what the situation. He consistently performs at the highest level possible (even when the rest of the team seems like they really aren't putting out). No, he doesn't score 50 goals per season, but that has never been his job. Never will be.
If you look at the list of wingers that Koivu has played with the last two seasons, he is always the odd man out, the forward who is responsible to be the first man back on defense. The last guy into the play offensively a good percentage of the time. It also doesn't help that your current two wingers (Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen) are not exactly known as snipers, either.
Some Wild fans can't seem to get it through their tight-fisted heads. If you want to get better as a franchise, you need cornerstones. You need the firepower, granted, but if those stars are not versatile enough to help out the grunts when necessary, the stars need to step in and save the day. Koivu has done this, time and again. (And let's face it: what Wild fan didn't relish every second of when Koivu scored the goal against Vancouver in GM Place, in Koivu's first game against the Canucks, after Mattias Ohlund tried his best Paul Bunyan imitation on Koivu's leg, breaking it?)
Chuck Fletcher knew what he had to do. So did Mikko Koivu. Both sides came to an agreement, and that was it. No trade deadline follies. No free-agency frenzy. Just an agreement which both sides can live with, for years to come.
Just the way they both wanted it.