Did Mikko Koivu’s Family Tree Help With His Contract Extension?

Washington Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov (40) of Russia makes a save on power play shot by Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu (9) of Finland in the 1st period at the Verizon Center in Washington on November 13, 2009. UPI/ Mark Goldman Photo via Newscom

I hope Mikko Koivu gets his brother Saku something nice for the holidays this year.

I suspect the nice $47.25 million, seven-year contract extension Mikko got from the Wild, including a no-trade clause, is partially influenced by the work of Saku.

The Wild are notoriously responsible-to-conservative with contracts, so for them to go long-term, with a $6.75 million annual cap hit is a big deal.

Obviously, they knew they wanted to keep Mikko, but they had to have some reservations about committing that much cap space to a player entering just his sixth NHL season.

Mikko isn’t a huge goal-scorer. He’s never scored 30 goals in a season. He’s never scored 25 goals in a season. But he’s a guy that does a lot of little things right. He’s a fantastic two-way player. He gets the puck to guys in scoring position. He spends time on the powerplay and on the penalty kill. He takes important faceoffs.

Basically, Mikko does everything asked of him, serving as the team’s engine. Mikko is what makes the Wild go.

For that reason alone, the Wild didn’t put up much of a fight in giving him the extension, basically agreeing to Mikko’s offer that gave the Wild a home-team discount.

The Wild are banking on Mikko’s goal production increasing, although I don’t know that they project him as ever being a consistent 30-goal scorer. But his numbers could be problematic. A goal-scorer who goes from 50 goals per season to 40 to 30 to 20 over the life of his contract is still contributing. But if a guy like Mikko loses his edge over the duration of his contract, you’re suddenly paying a lot of money to a guy who’s basically a third-line center. See Drury, Chris.

And that’s where I believe Saku comes in.

Saku is durability. He’s entering his 16th NHL season and his numbers and performance are remarkably consistent. Even cancer didn’t really break his stride.

One look at Saku’s numbers had to reassure the Wild Mikko will be just as productive in 2012, when the extension starts, as he will be in 2019, when it ends. In fact, I don’t think this will necessarily be Mikko’s last contract with the Wild. Saku just signed on for another two years with Anaheim, and he’ll be 38 when that contract ends.

Small market teams like the Wild need to be very careful how they spend their money. Bad contracts can ruin teams like them for years. The Wild knew they wanted to hold on to Mikko, but I’m sure they were nervous about the money and the duration. My bet is that Saku’s durability helped assuage their concerns, showing the Wild that genetically it’s perfectly probable Mikko will be as effective at the end of his contract as he will be at the end.

And since it wouldn’t be a 2010 free agency post without some Ilya Kovalchuk news, the New York Post says the Mikko Koivu deal will help Kovalchuk get the money he’s asking for. The Post also insists the Devils will wind up with Kovalchuk.

I’m guessing Kovalchuk wishes he had an older brother in the NHL.