Saku Koivu signs with Ducks
Saku Koivu's days as Montreal Canadiens captain are over, as the Finnish veteran joined the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.
The free agent forward inked a one-year contract with the Ducks. Financial details were not released, but the deal is reportedly around $3 million US.
"What [I was] looking for is a team that has a legitimate chance to compete for the Stanley Cup," Koivu said in a conference call.
"[And] we wanted to see something else after all those years in Montreal."
Koivu, 34, ranked third on the team last season with 50 points (16 goals, 34 assists) in 65 games, but he became expendable after the Canadiens acquired Scott Gomez from the New York Rangers and signed free agent Mike Cammalleri earlier this month.
The move to Anaheim reunites Koivu with fellow Finnish forward Teemu Selanne. Both players helped Finland win a silver medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. A chance to team up with the fellow Finn was a big selling point for Koivu.
"Teemu obviously played a role [in the signing process]," said Koivu. "We've had a lot of success. I know the chemistry is there."
Ducks general manager Bob Murray lauded Koivu's signing as a big addition to the roster.
"Saku Koivu's character and leadership qualities are unquestioned," Murray said. "He is a skilled playmaker and we are thrilled to add him to our team."
The Minnesota Wild made a strong move for Koivu in a bid to have him become teammates with his brother, Mikko. But in the end, Saku didn't want to jeopardize the relationship he had with his sibling.
"I think there was a lot of risk [in joining Minnesota]," Koivu said. "I didn't want to risk our relationship as brothers. It's a safer choice and an easier choice to play on a different team."
A native of Turku, Finland, Koivu played his first 13 NHL seasons in Montreal.
He was named Habs captain on Sept. 30, 1999, and, along with Jean Beliveau, is the longest-serving captain in Canadiens history. His best season came during the 2006-07 campaign when he set career highs in goals (22), assists (53) and points (75).
Though Koivu had a feeling that the Habs were headed in a direction that would have him out of the picture, it still wasn't easy to hear the news from general manager Bob Gainey.
"It was something that [my family and I] expected a little bit, but, obviously, it was a shock when you hear that," he said. "Montreal was a second home for us for many years."
Selected by Montreal in the first round (21st overall) of the 1993 NHL draft, Koivu won the Bill Masterton Trophy following the 2001-02 season, presented annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
The honour followed his battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, as he returned to the ice just seven months after he was diagnosed in September, 2001. He received overwhelming support from the Canadiens faithful during his bout with cancer and throughout his tenure as a member of the Habs.
"I will never forget that," Koivu said, referring to the fan support he got when he was ill.
"[And] I will never forget the years that I spent there. I hope that the fans know how much I appreciate the support I got and how I feel about them.
"It's a great place to play hockey. Not an easy place, but an interesting place."