Center Saku Koivu re-signed with the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3 million to return for his 17th NHL season.
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The 37-year-old Koivu scored 38 points in 74 games for the Ducks last season, his third in Anaheim. Although he had the lowest-scoring full season of his NHL career, the former captain of the Montreal Canadiens is a valuable two-way player and faceoff specialist for the Ducks while centering a line with Teemu Selanne, his longtime friend and fellow Finn.
Koivu would have attracted attention around the league as a veteran free agent, but he emerged from meetings with the Ducks brass with high hopes for the franchise’s future after Anaheim missed the playoffs this spring for the second time in his three years.
”I’m confident and really optimistic,” said Koivu, who made $2.5 million last year. ”I didn’t need more time to wait and see where this is going to go.”
Koivu spent his first 13 NHL seasons in Montreal, including 10 years as the Canadiens’ captain, before joining the Ducks in 2009. He played in his 1,000th career NHL game on March 12, becoming just the fifth Finnish player to reach the milestone.
After a slow start last season, Koivu provided the same gritty, speedy play that has defined his career. The Ducks couldn’t recover from their own awful start to the season to make the playoffs, yet they were among the NHL’s best teams since January, showing promise under new coach Bruce Boudreau.
Koivu and Ducks general manager Bob Murray both seemed inclined to stay together when the season ended last month, and they made it official well before free agency opened.
”I told them I wanted to be back, and it was the same thing with them,” Koivu said. ”Winning is my No. 1 priority, and talking with Bob, I’m confident that they’re going to make a push. When you have a core group of young players as we do, the future looks bright. If I didn’t feel confident and strongly about their view and their willingness to make the push, then I would have looked for somewhere else, but it was very clear they want to get a team to make the playoffs and make a push at the springtime.”
Koivu is an alternate captain and an important veteran leader for the Ducks. He survived a bout with lymphoma 10 years ago, and has been active in charity work against cancer.
Selanne, the Ducks’ leading scorer last season, hasn’t announced whether he’ll return for his 20th NHL season. While Selanne probably will make his annual decision right before he turns 42 on July 3, Koivu wanted to finalize his future before his kids get out of school in Orange County and the family heads back home to Finland for the summer in early June.
”I’m sure he’s going to sit down with his family and see how he feels, but we’d love to have him back,” Koivu said of Selanne. ”He was a huge part of our offense. You can’t replace a player like that.”