Saku, Saku, Saku, I really don't know what to say. Anaheim fans love you. Your work ethic is inspiring. You were, hands down, the most consistent Duck this year. You were the best man in the circle, handled countless late game situations with wins on the line-- although not as many as we would have liked --and contributed 52 points in 71 games. Those six game winners were a big help, too.
I know the OC Register is reporting that talks haven't begun, but let's get real. Those contract talks are coming, and fast. Before I start talking stats and scenarios, let me make one thing clear that wasn't as clear as it should have been last post. The offers in this column are meant to be a starting point for negotiations with the player. The contract presented is meant to be one that is both doable for the organization and beneficial to the player. As you will see at the end, I've made a change to the contract offers I make in order to allow more flexibility and input from you all. So, let's get into it.
As I've said, Koivu was our best player last year. Something like that is hard to quantify through statistics, but I'm going to take a shot. Koivu led all Anaheim skaters in +/-. I am not a huge fan of the stat, but it still has its uses. This means that Koivu was our best even strength player in terms of that statistic. A +14 shouldn't be ignored. Pavel Datsyuk is a Selke candidate and he was only a +17. Of course, Saku Koivu kills penalties and Datsyuk doesn't. In fact Koivu was third among Anaheim forwards in Shorthanded TOI per game at 2:05 and was fifth among Anaheim forwards for Power Play TOI per game at 2:29. Nobody who averaged more Power Play time than Koivu averaged more shorthanded time than him. Koivu was fourth on the team in even strength points, sixth in Power Play points, and tied for the lead in shorthanded points. I hope everyone is starting to get the picture. Koivu was all over the place, doing everything he possibly could to help the Ducks win.
Koivu's goals per 60 minutes played was tops among our regular centers. His off ice +/- per 60 minutes was third among our forwards at -.38, meaning that when he was off the ice, more goals were scored against than scored for per 60 minutes. Only Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan were better, and not by much. He also had the top adjusted shooting percentage among regular forwards. He doesn't shoot much, but he does so effectively. In light of the next series of statistics, "effective" might be the best way to describe Koivu.
Saku was the top faceoff man for the Ducks. Only MacGregor Sharp and Ryan Carter had better win percentages, but neither of them played in even half of the Ducks games. Koivu was tops in shorthanded faceoff wins, power play faceoff wins, and while he didn't lead the team in even strength faceoff wins, at least he won more than he lost. I'm looking at you Getzlaf.
I think I've sufficiently proven that Koivu needs, or at least deserves, a serious contract offer. However, there's a catch. Nicolas Deschamps has been tearing up the QMJHL. He was tied for the league lead in points. He might not be NHL ready next year, but he might be NHL ready the year after that. The Ducks cupboard is starting to fill out. Getzlaf isn't going anywhere, and if Koivu gets the security of a new contract, he's probably looking for 3-4 years. At that point, we might have a surplus of seasoned (read unhappy) young forwards. Not a lot has been heard from Koivu other than he wants to re-sign here in Anaheim. Apparently he enjoys his anonymity as much as Selanne and Lupul. I have to believe that Koivu recognizes this might be his last good contract. If he likes Anaheim that much, maybe we get a good discount. Still, I believe that security in one location is his top priority. People are going to hate me for it, but it might be time to break out the no-trade clause. Here are some of the options I would present to Koivu.
1) 2 years, 7.5 million, Full No-Movement Clause: It's two years of a guaranteed 3.75 million. We can't move him unless he asks, thus fulfilling any need he has to be on a winner if he, all of the sudden, realizes that the "core" he believed had so much potential takes a turn for the worst. Otherwise, he can enjoy his anonymity, Disneyland, and sunshine without the worry of being shipped out if he doesn't want to leave. Koivu has always been a class act, and I don't think we need to worry about him giving up on the team and not playing hard. It might not be the amount of years he's looking for, but the money is good to stay where he wants. As the years go on, GMs will be less inclined to give out NMCs. It might be worth it to jump at this one.
2) 3 years, 12 million, Limited Movement: This is the nice 4 million number that second line centers seem to be worth. Well, unless that second line center is Evgeni Malkin. Let's face it, for all he does, Koiu is worth this kind of money. To us, he might even be worth more. Limited movement might be 5-10 teams he lists that are trade approved, as well as certain contenders that are approved, should he feel there's a better chance at the Cup somewhere else. I like this one the most. It takes Koivu to his 38th birthday. At that point, he might not be worth much more than a one-year contract that a contender takes for a depth center who has the heart to change a dressing room and make a Cup run. He still gets to stay here for a while, with pretty strong stability. We can move him if we have to, but only in an emergency situation. Another option is a deteriorating NMC. He can have a full NMC the first year, limited in the second year, and then we can send him anywhere, if we have to, at the trade deadline of the final year.
3) 4 years, 14 million: I've been giving out the NMC to hopefully sweeten the lower year contracts. I strongly believe that Koivu wants a 4 year deal in the neighborhood of 15-16 million. Maybe by offering shorter terms with NMCs we can get him to live with a shorter contract, or look more fondly at a longer deal that saves us money. I'm not trying to be mean to a guy who has played his heart out; I'm just trying to think a little further down the road. The 3.5 cap hit isn't a huge raise. After everything he's done, I really don't see us moving Koivu anytime in the near future. This 4-year deal will probably take Koivu all the way to retirement as a Duck. I don't know if he wants that, but it's not a scenario to which I am opposed. The 3.5 gives us a little flexibility now and down the road. It's a very manageable number. Sure, we could move Koivu, but as I've said, I just don't see that happening. I think this is the best scenario for everyone. Koivu gets the contract security he's seeking for some pretty good money.
These are the contract offers I would put to Koivu in a negotiation. He's certainly proven his value to the organization. Heart and soul guys are extraordinarily valuable, especially when they can put up 52 points a year. Koivu is a Duck. I'm sure he will see these offers as fair, and ultimately sign one, probably one similar to option 3.