Is Mikko Koivu's contract worth too much money?

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mikkokoivu.jpgYesterday’s announcement of Mikko Koivu’s seven year, $47.25 million contract extension seemed to bring out a lot of exasperated and aghast reactions. Some folks still aren’t even aware of who Mikko Koivu is in some cases. The main reaction, however, was incredulity. “What?! How is he worth nearly $7 million a year?!”

I guess that’s the right question to ask here: Is Mikko Koivu worth that kind of money? Brian “Buddha” Reynolds over at Hockey Wilderness certainly believes so and vehemently at that.

What was really happening is that Koivu was (and of times still is) out against the opponent’s top line. It makes it more difficult to score when you are slated with preventing the other team from scoring. The top line for the Wild serves as a scoring /checking line. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are not out to shut down Sidney Crosby when he visits, but Koivu and Brunette are.

Oh, and his point total has gone up every season except the Mathias Ohlund cheap shot stick chop season.

Got it? To re-cap: Koivu has been hosed his entire career, and yet still puts up 60-70 points. Put him on a line with another great player. Then, and only then, can you tell me he doesn’t stack up with those other guys. Put the other guys on a line with Bruno (Andrew Brunette) and Mittens (Antti Miettinen) and let’s see how many points they put up.

I’m not sure that Reynolds wanted to have it look like he said the Wild had a rough going of things by saying that Koivu has been “hosed” his whole career, but out of context it could look like that. That said, if you can name a big, scoring winger that’s played alongside Koivu throughout his career you’re a better person than I am. For the record, no, Martin Havlat did not play on Koivu’s wing last year at all. Havlat was on a line with Kyle Brodziak and Guillaume Latendresse.

So you’ve got the view of the Wild fan on what they think of the deal, but how about someone a little bit separated from the situation who can view things for what they are? Thankfully, the statistical gurus from Behind The Net are here to help shed some light on things.

He literally does everything: he takes on tough competition, he wins faceoffs at a very high rate, he scores and he logs a huge amount of PP and PK time.  Even though Minnesota seemingly followed a strategy of conceding shots (but limiting the quality of each chance), they’ve consistently outshot their opponents when Koivu is on the ice.  The only potential downside for Koivu is injuries, but he’s been very durable over the last two seasons.

It’s likely that Koivu will actually even outperform his contract over the next few years – if you’re going to drop $50M on a player, it had better be one this good.

In other words, Koivu is worth it and then some. So how do so many fans fall asleep at the wheel on him? Chances are, if you didn’t know about Mikko Koivu before you do now. For my money, and for what the Wild do and how they seem to operate he’s worth every penny.

Home-grown guy? Check. One of the better players in the NHL? Check. Plays both sides of the puck well? Check. The only thing that Mikko Koivu is lacking that’s preventing him from being the next governor of Minnesota is being from Minnesota himself. To those of you fretting over this deal saying it’s a “comparison-buster” and other guys will use this deal as a starting point in future negotiations, you can just stop that right now.  There are very few players in the NHL that do what Mikko Koivu can do and do it well enough to be a first line talent.

Oilers recall D-man Oesterle from AHL Condors

EDMONTON, AB - FEBRUARY 23:  Jordan Oesterle #82 of the Edmonton Oilers warms up against the Ottawa Senators on February 23, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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The Edmonton Oilers made a move Sunday, recalling defenseman Jordan Oesterle from the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL.

In 18 games with the Condors this season, the 24-year-old Oesterle has three goals and 11 points.

The decision comes one day after Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson missed Saturday’s contest against the rival Calgary Flames because of a lower-body injury.

While he isn’t a flashy player, Larsson seems to have made a positive impression on the Oilers coaching staff during his first season in Edmonton following last summer’s blockbuster trade involving scoring winger Taylor Hall.

No surprise this development is leading to questions about the health of Larsson, with the Oilers set to begin the second half of a six-game home stand and sitting second in the Pacific Division standings.

Video: Reaves and Boll drop the gloves in heavyweight bout

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Heavyweight fighters Jared Boll and Ryan Reaves dropped the gloves during the second period of Sunday’s game between the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues.

Those were some thunderous right hands thrown there, both combatants landing their fair share of punches before officials finally intervened.

The Wild sit all alone in top spot of the Central Division

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The Minnesota Wild bested the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, and now sit in sole possession of first place in the Central Division.

Playing the second half of a back-to-back situation that involved travel from Dallas, where Minnesota won Saturday, the Wild fell behind Chicago courtesy two goals from Patrick Kane. Sure, the first goal on Devan Dubnyk was fluttered off the stick of Kane and under the arm of the Minnesota goalie.

But Dubnyk played the remainder of this pivotal game the way Wild fans have become accustomed to since he was acquired. He made 33 saves and was busiest in the second period. Outside of Kane’s second goal, Dubnyk was solid in the middle period and didn’t give up anything the rest of the way. The Wild came back for a 3-2 win. On the road. In hostile territory.

Minnesota, not far removed from a franchise-best 12-game winning streak, now sits at 61 points in 42 games, two points ahead of the Blackhawks and with four fewer games played.

Jason Pominville scored the winner early in the third period.

There are many reasons for the Wild’s success through the first half under coach Bruce Boudreau. Dubnyk’s play has been Vezina caliber. He has a .940 save percentage and a 1.77 goals-against average. Minnesota is second in the league when it comes to the lowest number of goals-against per game and only Washington is better in that category.

The Wild have been scoring plenty, too, fourth in the league with 3.19 goals-for per game, with contributions throughout their lineup.

Free agent signings can always be a risk — an expensive risk — but Eric Staal has rewarded the Wild by producing at just under a point per game rate. He could have his most productive season in several years — at the age of 32 and approaching 1,000 regular season games played.

They won’t have long to enjoy their view from the top.

The Wild host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday to begin a four-game home stand.

More bad news for Bolts: Callahan out four weeks with lower-body injury

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 10: Ryan Callahan #24 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts against the Chicago Blackhawks during Game Four of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center on June 10, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Four points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and about to begin a six-game road trip, the Tampa Bay Lightning face a tough task trying to climb the Eastern Conference standings.

There was more bad news for the Bolts on Sunday.

Forward Ryan Callahan, who hasn’t played since Jan. 7, will miss approximately four weeks because of a lower-body injury, the club announced.

Callahan made his season debut at the end of October. The start to his season was delayed due to the recovery from hip surgery he underwent to fix an issue from last season. Based on a report from Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday, Callahan is once again dealing with a hip injury, although the club didn’t elaborate, announcing it as a lower-body injury.

In 18 games this season, Callahan has two goals and four points.

The Bolts, Stanley Cup contenders that have gone deep into the post-season in each of the last two campaigns, are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. Right now, Toronto, Ottawa and Florida all sit ahead of the Lightning in the battle for third in the Atlantic. Now into the second half of the season, they will have to quickly get out of this funk in order to close in the post-season race.

“The results are all that matters,” Brian Boyle told the Tampa Bay Times. “We need to change our attitude a little bit, kind of find our mojo, carry ourselves with a little bit more confidence. We can score quick goals. We can come from behind, jump out to leads and bury teams. We’ve done that in the past with this group.”

The Bolts begin this six-game road trip Monday against the L.A. Kings.