The NHL lockout may affect no team more than the Minnesota Wild, with the positive buzz surrounding the offseason signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter being put on hold for now as the league and player’s association work out their issues.
There is some good news though, as center Mikko Koivu plans to stay in Minnesota right now and practice with his teammates rather than go play in Europe. Koivu does own part of a Finnish team that he theoretically could play for, but that does not look to be an option right now though that could change. Koivu played in just 55 games last season due to a shoulder injury, but he was still productive with 12 goals and 32 assists when he was on the ice. Even with the high profile additions that were made in July, Koivu’s health and productivity are perhaps the biggest keys to the Wild reaching their goals during the 2012-2013 season, whenever it starts.
On the other hand, goaltender Niklas Backstrom has reportedly signed with HC Dinamo Minsk in the KHL and will play there during the lockout. Backstrom has ties to Dynamo Minsk’s goalie coach, Ari Hilly, so his choice to play there with the uncertainty in the NHL right now is not all that surprising. There will be no issues in terms of Backstrom returning to the Wild when the lockout ends, as the KHL mandates that contracts for incoming NHL players have get-out clauses.
The longer the lockout lasts, Wild players like Koivu, Parise and Dany Heatley may all have no choice but to think harder about playing in Europe. Koivu would likely be the first to jump ship given his roots, but Parise, Heatley and other key players like Devin Setoguchi and Kyle Brodziak could clearly benefit from playing against strong competition overseas.