Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu on Wednesday had his first loss in four playoff meetings against the Boston Bruins, and speculation will heighten in the coming weeks whether it will be the last game he played for the team.
Koivu, 34, will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He made $4.75 million US this season, his 13th with the Canadiens.
"I love the time in Montreal, and there's no reason for me to leave, but to be able to sign, you need both parties — the team and the player — to be on terms, and we'll see what happens," he told Hockey Night in Canada after the game.
Koivu is among a number of players who will be unrestricted free agents, a list that also includes Alexei Kovalev, Alex Tanguay, Mike Komisarek and Robert Lang.
"I don't think anybody knows what the future holds for me or Montreal right now," said Koivu. "There's a lot of other players as well that are unsigned, and we have to see what happens.
"I'm going to take some time off, get away from hockey for a bit, kind of review things, and I'm sure management will do the same thing," he added.
Koivu, who has spent his entire NHL career with the Canadiens, was named team captain in 1999 and overcame lymphoma in 2001 and 2002.
The native of Turku, Finland, ranks sixth all-time for the franchise with 450 assists and 10th with 641 points.
Habs 'battled hard' but didn't have enough depth: Koivu
It was a tough season individually for Koivu and for the team. He finished with 50 points — his lowest total in eight seasons — and missed 17 games to injury.
The team plummeted from first in the Eastern Conference last season to eighth, with a coaching change and plenty of off-ice controversy during the second half of the franchise's centennial season.
"There was a lot of high expectations at the beginning of the season," said Koivu, who admitted it had been a tough campaign. "We created that by playing well last year. With the centennial, people wanted this to be the year.
"[But] you have to remember there is 29 other teams that want to win and want to make the playoffs, and it's a very competitive league."
The Canadiens finished strongly in late March, but injuries exposed their lack of depth and thin scoring.
"We battled hard. We did make the playoffs, but when you lose four straight games, there's going to be some questions to be answered and, obviously, some doubts, but we have to give credit," he said. "Boston played well; they're a good team. They have a lot of depth, and we just didn't have enough this time."
It was the first time for Koivu losing to Boston in the post-season after three previous playoff victories in his career.
With younger brother Mikko playing for Minnesota, there has been speculation that could be a possible destination.