UFA Watch is a new series that will look at this summer’s unrestricted free agents.
After looking like a scoring star for periods of time in Montreal, Saku Koivu has settled into the 15-20 goal/50-60 point range. The last three seasons have seen him be remarkably consistent, always scoring somewhere in that area, and a move last season to the Anaheim Ducks didn’t change that. After a slow start, Koivu caught fire down the stretch (13GP – 7G – 11A – 18PTS, +9) to finish in the same range as the last two seasons.
Of course, Koivu also brings more to the table then supplementary scoring. He’s served as an NHL captain in Montreal – perhaps the league’s most difficult market to fill that role – and he plays a two-way game which makes him more attractive as a forward option. Koivu played significant minutes at both even-strength and on the power play and penalty kill, and he was also one of the Ducks’ best faceoff men, averaging a 51.4% success rate in the circle.
There are two concerns with Koivu: age and injury, and those concerns probably mean he’ll get a short-term contract. He’s 35 years old (he’ll turn 36 early next season) and has topped the 75 games played mark only four times in 14 seasons. That said, he’s been relatively healthy since the lockout, averaging 73 games per season.
Koivu may not hit the open market, however. At the end of the season, Koivu expressed an interest in returning to the Ducks, saying “At this point, I’m not even looking at really the possibility of becoming a free agent again. I’m hoping to get it done here before that. But obviously we need two sides for that.”
Ducks fans as a whole, seem to want Koivu back. Over at Anaheim Calling, they’ve laid out a few possible scenarios for Koivu to return to the fold, any of which would likely appeal to the forward. It seems likely that Koivu is a back-burner contract for the Ducks, who still have a full month to get a deal done.
All things considered, it’s a fair bet that Koivu returns to the Ducks (although it’s probably less certain than Selanne/Niedermayer doing so if they play another year) but if he does test the open market he’ll have suitors.