The narrative has remained unchanged since the Minnesota Wild executed a free-agency coup that triggered a July 4 celebration. The marquee trumpeted the arrival of a dynamic duo over and over: Parise and Suter; Suter and Parise.
Instantly, the Wild had a new face and big plans, which is understandable given Zach Parise's and Ryan Suter's elite talent, stature within the NHL and marketing appeal. But something -- or someone -- went missing in the hoopla.
"Number 9?" Wild coach Mike Yeo said.
Oh, yeah, No. 9, Mikko Koivu, team captain and all-star center. Remember him?
Until July 4, Koivu served as the unofficial face of the franchise. He was the Wild's best and highest-paid player and a rock inside the dressing room. The Wild was his team.
And now? Well, he's not necessarily the team's best player anymore. Or its highest paid. Or its marketing face.
But Koivu remains the captain and most important player on a team that begins a condensed season on Saturday with unbridled expectations. Nobody should view him as a third wheel.
"If I have questions, I go to him," Parise said. "It's his team. He's the captain."
As a leader, Koivu is intensely prideful but purposefully low key. He's fiery on the ice and occasionally terse with reporters. He doesn't mind sharing the spotlight because that's never been his thing anyway. He just wants to win. His ego can survive the love that greeted Parise, Suter and rookie Mikael Granlund.
"We're getting lots of publicity here, and that's a good thing," Koivu said. "It's about the team. I don't have a problem with that at all."
General Manager Chuck Fletcher wasn't concerned about how Koivu would internalize the heroes' welcome bestowed upon his new teammates, but he wanted to explain the financial component to Koivu before he signed Parise and Suter. Koivu is entering the second-year of his $47.25 million deal that includes five annual signing bonus installments of $1.89 million. That represented the richest contract in franchise history.
Fletcher called Koivu and informed him that the Wild had a chance to sign both free agents but that it would require "massive deals." Both players ultimately doubled Koivu's contract with $98 million deals. They also received $10 million signing bonuses. Fletcher initiated the conversation because he didn't want Koivu "to be caught off guard" by those figures.
Nobody should view Koivu as Wild's third wheel
Minneapolis Star Tribune | Jan 19