For the first time in 15 years, the Minnesota Wild will be preparing to embark on a campaign without Mikko Koivu in the fold.
On Friday, the Wild released a statement from general manager Bill Guerin stating that the first and only full-time captain in franchise history will not be returning to Minnesota for a 16th season. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Mikko Koivu was a true leader both on and off the ice during his 15-year career with the Wild. From being drafted sixth overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, making his NHL debut on Nov. 11, 2005, being named the team’s first full-time captain on Oct. 20, 2009 and wearing the ‘C’ for the last 11 seasons to becoming the first player to play all 1,000 NHL games with Minnesota on Dec. 1, 2019, Mikko’s legacy will live on forever in our organization.
His hard work, dedication and team-first mentality will be extremely difficult to replace in our lineup. Off the ice, Mikko’s impact in the State of Hockey was immeasurable as he went out of his way to make a positive impact on so many people in our community, including his charitable contributions to Children’s Minnesota.
We thank Mikko for everything he has done for our organization and wish him and his family the best in the future.
This move hardly comes as a surprise. It was reported last week that the 37-year-old would not be returning to the Wild for the 2020-21 season, and with Guerin wanting his team to get younger, the writing was on the wall.
Koivu leaves the Wild as arguably the greatest player in the team’s 20-year history. In 1,028 career games — all of which with the Wild — he currently ranks first in franchise history in games played, assists (504), points (709), plus-minus (plus-70) and shots (2,270). With 205 goals to his name, he also sits just 14 shy of trying the all-time scoring record presently held by Marian Gaborik.
While Koivu’s 2019-20 campaign was far from his best, he did create one of the most memorable nights of his career on December 1 against the Dallas Stars — his 1,000th game. Not only did he chalk up his 700th career point in the contest, but he also scored the game-winning shootout goal to give Minnesota the huge win on home ice.
Wash those filthy hands, Mikko! pic.twitter.com/xhQwRkKUqz— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 1, 2019
It’s unclear what’s in store for Koivu now that his playing career with the Wild is over. It’s possible he could opt to remain in the NHL and play for another team, but that seems unlikely. After all, he flat out admitted he couldn’t see himself wearing another team’s logo when he declined to waive his no-move clause at the trade deadline.
Perhaps the most likely option for Koivu would be to return to his home country of Finland and continue his hockey career in Liiga — one of the top hockey leagues on the planet. If not, though, there’s always the option to simply ride off into the sunset as a player and prepare for the next chapter of his hockey life (working in a team’s front office, perhaps?).
Regardless of what comes next for Koivu, he has cemented himself as a legend in the State of Hockey, and it’s very likely he’ll become the first player in franchise history to have his number retired. He may not have won a Stanley Cup, but he certainly left a lasting impact on countless fans for a very long time.
What a ride it’s been. Can’t wait to see what the captain does next.