Arthur, the Ducks have dropped three in a row, and their prospects for success this season are getting bleak. The Ryan-Koivu-Sexton line has cooled down now that other teams can focus on stopping them and allow the rest of the Ducks roster to be inept. Still, Koivu's play has been nothing short of extraordinary since he was teamed up with Bobby Ryan and Big Sexy. He is taking key faceoffs, killing important penalties, and generating offensive chances despite an overall lack of finishing. He has worked hard to adapt to the Western Conference, and I haven't detected an ounce of quit in him, no matter how horrible things seem to be going.
It's no secret that Koivu is one of the best character guys in the league, and that can only help some pretty young players who are still learning to be leaders. In addition to that, he is 35 years old and probably wants his next contract to be his last one. Arthur, it's probably time to start thinking about next season as opposed to this season, and with that in mind, do you think Saku Koivu should be in the Ducks' long term plans?
Out of respect to the veteran center, no, I don't think he should be. Saku's got one multi-year contract or a handful of one-year deals left in him. Any Cup contender can marginally outbid us, and any cellar team can blow our offer out of the water. As was the story with Teemu for the last few years, we can't afford Koivu without a discount. Murray just hasn't earned that.
And I think Selanne is the proper analogue here. He's come back twice on the promise that Scott Niedermayer would also be here, the guarantee that there would be a veteran gamechanger on the blueline to prevent this team from slipping into an instant rebuilding phase. There is no similar promise for Koivu, not even the promise he'll get to play with his friend. Murray's imploded this defense; there are A LOT of free agents that won't come to the bargaining table with the Ducks, and Koivu is just one of them.
Don't get me wrong, though. I don't think Murray will allow this team to rebuild through its cupboard; he's willing to develop a player about as much as I'm willing to make that chomping motion at a Sharks game. He can offer the promise that he WILL make moves, but his moves to date have squandered any goodwill he has with these players. They've seen what he can do. He'll empty our cupboard for some washed out players, and we'll repeat this cycle again. Saku, and frankly Ducks fans, shouldn't have to be subjected to that. If Murray's fired on the other hand . . .
Well, whether or not Murray is fired, I think the Ducks should consider keeping Koivu around and giving him that final deal. That is, if Murray can convince him the going rate is close to what he's getting now. His 3.25 should probably be expanded to 3.5, and if he'll take it for 3 years, then Koivu might be able to retire a Duck.
Wait. You think a 4M+ player takes a discount to play on a roster that he knows couldn't cut it WITH Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer and will probably have to go without both?
If he likes the organization and he likes playing with this roster, then yes, I do think that. I haven't heard anything from Koivu himself on how much he likes playing here, but playing with Ryan and Sexton, it looks like he is having a lot of fun.
I'm sorry. I just don't buy that Koivu would close out his career by not making money AND not having a shot at the Cup. I can't believe he would do that for ANY team. I mean, if we can get him to sign for a dollar and a pack of Newports to play on a rebuilding team, then of course we should keep him in our plans-- he'd have lost his mind by then.
Well, we don't have too many options up the middle. I don't think anyone on the current roster can take over as the #2 center next year, and there isn't much in the prospect pool. There has been some promise shown by Nicolas Deschamps and Nick Bonino, although Bonino took a rough injury in Boston. The Ducks also have the RFA rights to Petri Kontiola, who Hockey's Future predicted would be a #2 center, but I'm not really sure what his situation is, and he's not having a great year in the KHL. Peter Holland didn't exactly impress at camp, and I don't know if he can anchor a second line in the near future.
Free agent prospects aren't that enticing either. Despite his struggles, Olli Jokinnen would want top center money. Eric Belanger and Chris Higgins might be interesting alternatives, but they would probably want extra years for less money. I mean, they aren't going to get 3.5. Stajan is another alternative who might come at a similar price. He's dominant in the circle, but he's definitely not the overall leader and great guy that Koivu is.
I think Koivu would be a great stop-gap while Deschamps and Bonino get the time they need in the AHL. I've said that Deschamps might be ready next year and a great year in The Q isn't making me lean away from that position, but if we need an alternative, then the best one out there is Koivu and we should make a run at keeping him.