Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

Also find Russo on Facebook.

Email Michael to talk about hockey.

If Kaptain Koivu's out long-term, then what?

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: February 19, 2011 - 10:40 AM

 10:30 a.m. Saturday: Cody Almond recalled. He brought way more than one suit, I'm told

(edited, updated at 1 a.m.)

This morning, I didn't think the Wild would make a trade with Marek Zidlicky back tonight and Guillaume Latendresse likely back very soon (Wild's expecting him to be cleared for practice Monday).

Now? I think they have to.

Mikko Koivu injured his left hand tonight when he blocked Todd Marchant's shot in the first period. The Wild said they didn't know the extent of the injury. And yeah, this is my first year covering professional sports.

From doing a lot of Sherlock Holmes'ing, I hear it's a finger, and I hear it's serious enough to be a long-term thing and may even need to be surgically repaired. How long that puts him out? I don't know. Nothing is official, but I heard it's not good and options will be discussed the next few days. 

Koivu was very upset after the game, declining to comment when he spoke with his brother, Saku Koivu. I talked briefly to Saku, and he said Mikko wasn't sure the extent.  It's wait and see time.

GM Chuck Fletcher told me in an email tonight that an update won't be known until "Monday at the earliest," and Koivu at the very least won't play Sunday against Detroit.

The Wild did a tremendous job tonight rallying together and routing the Ducks 5-1 to move within a point of 8th-place Anaheim, 6th-place Dallas, 7th-place Los Angeles and 9th-place Calgary.

Centermen Matt Cullen, Kyle Brodziak and John Madden were awesome filling the skates, and everybody stepped up. Guys like Marty Havlat penalty killed. Guys like Eric Nystrom played the power play, and Nystrom actually scored for the first time in 42 games in one of the feel-good moments of the season. He uttered, "Finally," on the ice, and afterward told his teammates how guilty he's felt this season for not chipping in offensively.

Teams rally together all the time to make up for the loss for bigtime injured players. But this is Mikko Koivu, the Wild's No. 1 center, big-minute forward, No. 1 option on the power play and penalty kill, the engine.

If Koivu's going to be out a long time, and the fact a guy that's missed five games in three years didn't return to the game is an indication of that, Fletcher is going to have to trade for a center beyond just calling up a minor-leaguer like Cody Almond.

I mean, what if Cullen, Brodziak or Madden get hurt?

The Wild, remember, did also add Jed Ortmeyer, who's played 300-plus games, Jan. 1 (a move that was thought to be nothing at the time but may wind up at least providing a cushion).

Saturday morning update: The two internal options would be to move Pierre-Marc Bouchard or Nystrom to center, but depending how long Koivu is out, I still would think a trade will be necessary for more depth. Remember, Fletcher's M.O. when Josh Harding went down. He had Anton Khudobin but still added Jose Theodore. I think he'd do the same thing here at least in terms of investigating.

The problem is the trade options are limited. Likely, the West isn't trading with the West because you think L.A, a team the Wild's tied with, is going to help out by sending them Michal Handzus or somebody? Think the Ducks will send over Todd Marchant, although Lord knows they should as compensation for Marchant shooting a puck off Koivu's mitt?

Whatever happens, this team is still going to have to rally together and fill Koivu's skates if he's out long-term because I can promise you that even if Fletcher can execute a trade, it's not going to be for anybody like Koivu.

This doesn't change anything. There's few centers available out there and he's not going to mortgage the future to acquire a replacement. The few tradable commodities the Wild had before Koivu's injury didn't change after it.

Who's out there as possible free-agent rental centers (maybe)? It's beyond slim pickings.

-- New Jersey's Jason Arnott. He's not the same Jason Arnott he once was and who knows if Jersey would even trade him now since the Devils never lose anymore.

-- Buffalo's Tim Connolly

-- Buffalo's Rob Niedermayer, whom Chuck Fletcher has a long history with (frankly, Fletcher made him rich) and Niedermayer is a clutch playoff performer

--Washington's Brooks Laich (doubt they're trading him)

--Chicago's Ryan Johnson (history with Fletcher, as I reported the other day, Wild considered signing last summer)

Everybody else? Either centers on West teams that won't be doing business with the Wild in a playoff race or like $600,000 depth guys. Honestly, check out the sites that have free-agent centers yourself.

Like I said, if Koivu is out awhile, and signs are pointing that way, there's no way of just replacing him. The type of trade Fletcher will likely make will be just a move to bring more NHL depth, like a Niedermayer move I'm thinking, that won't cost a lot.

That's just reality. So, as Matt Cullen said after the game, the Wild will need a "group effort" to replace Koivu.

For now, I'd think Almond or Ortmeyer comes up.

That's it for me. I've been in this arena chair for 15 1/2 hours. As for the rest of the coverage, check out the game story and notebook.

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT