By Michael Russo
UPDATE: Kurtis Foster has signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay.
UPDATE: Got to ask Saku a few questions on his presser. Quotes below, but as you’ll see, short of the Wild trading Mikko Koivu, the Wild had no shot in the end. Saku decided he just didn’t feel comfortable playing with his brother.
As you probably saw on the previous blog or my Twitter, Saku Koivu has indeed signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal with the Anaheim Ducks — proof positive there’s nothing the Wild could have done to sweeten that pot.
If somebody doesn’t want to play here, he doesn’t; there’s no use chasing your own tail and throwing money and term if there are other factors at play. He could’ve gotten a better deal in Minny — sources say the deal would have been in the $4 million annual range on a two-year deal, in the $3-million-plus range on a three-year deal.
As I warned you before last weekend, the Wild started to get the impression things were heading south with negotiations with Koivu. To me, this contract with Anaheim shows two things — 1) he wants to play with buddy Teemu Selanne and only signed for one year because Selanne claims this time he will really retire in one year; 2) there were serious concerns amongst the Koivu Bros. about playing together.
Now you know why I wrote that July 1 column saying the Koivu’s parents wanted them to play together, but “if only it were that simple.”
Where does this leave the Wild? Exactly where GM Chuck Fletcher said he’d be the other day with Koivu did not sign (here’s the link). He’ll continue to look at the trade route for a No. 2 center, and if that can’t be done before the season, the internal options remain James Sheppard, Benoit Pouliot or Eric Belanger — or moving Pierre-Marc Bouchard to the middle.
I briefly talked to Bouchard today, but I was driving at the time. I hope to speak to him on the record later this afternoon, but he was a natural center before the NHL and I think he’s willing to give it a try again in training camp.
The Wild will not look at the free-agent route now at No. 2 center. Contrary to Internet rumors, the Wild IS NOT signing Mike Comrie, I’ve been told.
As you saw in the blog below, columnist Jim Souhan sat down with Marian Gaborik this morning for a one-on-one. That’ll be in tomorrow’s paper, as well as a Koivu/maybe Bouchard story. Also, the Wild will announce later it’s signed Jaime Sifers and Jamie Fraser to two-way contracts. Both have played some NHL games but are likely Houston-bound.
Update: Here are quotes from Saku on Minny:
On not signing in Minnesota: “We spoke to Minnesota a few times. All the talks went very well, but it was more personal reasons. I didn’t feel comfortable. I kind of felt that Minnesota’s Mikko’s place at this point. I wanted him to have his own privacy in a way and make his own name and career. And I just felt there were too many risks for us as brothers and as family members to join on the same team and kind of compete for the same ice time. And I felt we’re better off playing somewhere else.”Did Mikko understand this because it seems like he was intrigued by being teammates: “I think Mikko was really excited about the possibility for us playing on the same team and I can’t deny, if you really think about the possibilities and only the positive side, it would have been a pretty exciting thing. But I looked at it in, I guess, a more negative way and I was thinking, ‘what if this happens or what if things won’t work out?’ And right now, we have such a great relationship and I was too afraid to challenge that. You never know what is going to happen. For me, this was a safer option and I felt myself, I felt more comfortable.
“When I spoke to Mikko today, he understood totally. I guess I looked at things as more of an older brother and I wanted to protect him in a way and I felt there were too many risks for me to sign there.”
But isn’t it riskier taking a one-year than the multi-years the Wild offered? “I felt that the fit for the team in Anaheim and for myself, it was perfect for a one-year deal. We’re going from one extreme coming from Montreal to a very different lifestyle, different weather and hockey not being as big as it is in Montreal. At this point in my career, being an older player and with my family, I felt I wanted to have control for our future. Obviously I’m hoping and I’m confident things will work out and hopefully I play many years in Anaheim. I felt it was an easier decision for me to take it a year at a time at this point and see how everything works out, how we like it there. And then if everything works out well, then we can spend many years hopefully to come. “
SIFERS, FRASER BIOS FROM PRESS RELEASE
Fraser, 23 (11/17/85), played one game with the New York Islanders in 2008-09, making his NHL debut April 4 versus Tampa Bay. Fraser posted 21 points (7-14=21) and 30 penalty minutes (PIM) in 66 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League (AHL). The 6-foot-1, 200-pound native of Sarnia, Ont., played junior hockey with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Brampton Battalion and Sarnia Sting. He was originally signed by the Islanders on Feb. 22, 2007.
Sifers, 26 (1/18/83), recorded two assists and 18 PIM in 23 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2008-09 season. He also posted 20 points (4-16=20) and 47 PIM in 43 games for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound native of Stratford, Conn., played collegiately at the University of Vermont, where he was an ECAC Second All-Star Team selection in 2005. Sifers was signed as a free agent by Toronto on July 20, 2006.