Thoughts on Koivu, Skoula, free agency

Posted on June 30th, 2007 – 2:29 PM
By Michael Russo

The Wild re-signed Mikko Koivu to a four-year, $13 million deal with a $3.25 million annual cap hit.

Martin Skoula signed a two-year deal worth $3.6 million.

OK, sorry for the delay on blogging, but I had to write for tomorrow’s paper because we have early deadlines on Saturday and, the real reason, I’m in Atlanta and there’s a BBQ in my honor at a friend’s house tonight.

I’ve gotten a few emails wondering how the $50.3 million cap as opposed to the expected $48-49 million cap affects the Wild’s spending in the coming days/weeks.

In my opinion, it doesn’t.

With Mikko Koivu and Martin Skoula re-signed, the Wild now has 15 players signed at $39.15 million. P-M Bouchard will get around $3 million, Nick Schultz around $1.3-2 million. Kurtis Foster will get around $850,000. Derek Boogaard around $600,000. These are all extremely quick, and inexact, guesstimates.

That puts the Wild around $45-46 million at 19 players. Twenty-three are usually on a team. That leaves only about $2-3 million left for three or four guys because after last year, the Wild wants to leave itself some breathing room to, well, get injured.

With Skoula back, the Wild is likely out of the defensemen game. That leaves forwards. While the Wild will look at reasonably priced guys, remember, the team also wants to give guys like Danny Irmen, James Sheppard and Matt Foy viable chances to make the team. So don’t expect impact signings at all in the coming days.

So, see why I’ve been writing the past month that it was imperative the Wild unloaded Manny Fernandez’s $4.33 million salary?

Koivu was ecstatic when I reached him in Finland. And understandably. The Wild gave him $2.7 million, $3.3 million, $3.3 million and $3.7 million the next four years.

I have a lot more in tomorrow’s paper, but GM Doug Risebrough said, “This is a young guy, but we really believe in the upside of him. It’s important for the player to know that and it’s important for the fans to know that we’re trying to stabilize positions with young players who we plan to go forward with for a long time.”

Koivu said, “I’m going to work hard, and I hope I can give something back the way they’ve given to me. … Hopefully the way we played last year gave us as a team a huge step forward as a team and organization. We know we can beat good teams, we know we can reach our goals. The guys in the locker room all care about this team. Last year, I got the feeling we really connected and I think we have a big future.”

As for Skoula, I know a lot of you Russoville residents aren’t big fans. But because the Wild has such little flexibility and because the going rate for quality defensemen has skyrocketed (Bryan Allen just got $2.9 million for five years from Florida!), the Wild felt getting Skoula back at $1.8 per was too good a deal.

Plus, Jacques Lemaire loves the guy. He played him 20-plus minutes a night, and the more minutes Skoula got, he actually played better. Look no further than those three games in January when Kim Johnsson got hurt and Skoula was playing 29 minutes a game.

Sure, the guy committed three huge turnovers to cost the Wild points in December, but his game did steady from there. 

Wes Walz and Todd White look like they’ll become free agents today. White definitely will because the Wild hasn’t called his agent. The only way Walz won’t is if he settles for a one-year deal.

White, one of the nicest guys in hockey, will likely wind up back in the East, maybe with Florida, where his old coach Jacques Martin is, or Carolina. Whitey just had his third child and first son Thursday, Ryan Todd, who weighed in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces.



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