[2008 IHWC: Koivu to Selanne to Kloistinen and through the side of the net.]
Anaheim calling to the hockey world...
For a few offseasons now, we've heard the rumor: Selanne to Montreal. Apparently, between calls from Paul Kariya, Teemu fields impassioned pleas from his countryman, Saku Koivu, to come join him in French Canada. But as of TSN's report yesterday (a translation of an unnamed Russian paper), it seems that Koivu is done with the Canadiens, who are moving on and offering his contract and captaincy to Kovalev. It stands to reason that Saku might consider this an opportunity to go play with Teemu.
Daniel, you recently suggested we write about the free agent market, but I said the waters were a bit murky this side of July 1st. I was, however, willing to say I wanted Koivu if he was a free agent, and this report would seem to guarantee he will be. So, let's start the Koivu to Anaheim rumor. Give me your upside/downside of a Saku Koivu signing.
Now that you've confirmed your brilliant hockey sense once again, I've gotta say I'm only kind of a fan of this prospect. There's no doubt that Koivu could shore up our second line scoring. He's a natural center, and it would let us move Ebbett to the wing where his size would be less of a problem. I do like an Ebbett, Koivu, Selanne, line. It'd be two guys who have great play making abilities, which means you have two guys who can work the puck between them until Selanne is open to finish. I think that line would be a lot more deadly than people realize. Especially since Koivu and Selanne know each other well enough, in terms of playing together, that training camp will probably be enough for them to gel as linemates. The only real problem is that he lacks size and that might affect the cycle game that we like to play. It would not be a line that plays the puck possession style we like. It would be a faster line looking for transition opportunities. Not that that's bad, just it wouldn't fit perfectly into our scheme.
I think the real concern, though, has to be injuries. I'm not saying he's fragile, and certainly part of it had to do with the fact that he battled cancer in the middle of his career, but he only played 65 games last year. In fact, he's only played more than 70 games 5 times in his 13 seasons. Granted, 4 of those have been in the last 6 seasons, but I think the injury concern needs to be factored in to any contract he gets. Otherwise, I think it's a smart move. If he plays next year, it will probably be Selanne's last. We owe it to him to get someone who can keep up with him and play on the rush with him. That guy could definitely be Koivu. I think our physical style of play makes Koivu's susceptibility to injuries a greater concern for us. You've said it yourself, small guys have to protect themselves, and it causes problems. But with Koivu we have to worry if our physical game ends up taking him out of the line up.
I'm going to disagree that cycling is a concern for the second line. Selanne's recent lines have all played a speed and short-pass style, which has allowed him to play with centers like McDonald and Ebbett. Here's my Upside/Downside:
-Selanne would be happy. Teemu hasn't agreed to play next year, and can you blame him? He took a pay cut again, and we signed Brendan Morrison. We owe him this, and if Selanne's happy, you have to think he and Koivu might sign to play additional years with the Ducks. That's right, I said it. I want Selanne to play until he's arthritic in both hips.
-Instant Chemistry. Koivu is one of two veterans that knows how to play with Teemu, how to receive a Selanne pass and how to cover for bad Selanne plays. They would make each other better.
-Quick on the Draw. The Ducks have had trouble in the circle without McDonald (and then without Sammy). Koivu was 54.1% on the dot this season, 13th amongst NHL centermen who took 1000+, and he was 52.3%/21st the year before.
-Best on the market. As far as Top Six centers in this year's potential free agent market, Koivu's probably the best pickup we could make. I might've said Connolly before the Sabres resigned him, but the veterans are all retirement candidates and there are no young guns that warrant the risk of a multi-year deal. If Murray's intent on not going "0 for 3" as he put it, this is the best pickup short of a trade.
-Inconsistency. I agree that his injuries may catch up with us, but you also have to consider that in his most recent and most productive complete season, he posted a minus-21 on a 75-point campaign. Granted, the East is not about defense, but will he be able to score and still play consistent defense in the West?
-Salary. Ideally, Koivu comes in at a discount (3/3.75M) on a one-year deal to play with Selanne. A multi-year contract or a big one-year contract would be out of the question for the Ducks.