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The Wild made the right call giving a contract extension to Mikko Koivu

Bruce Boudreau used Koivu in a way we had not seen before.
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Mikko Koivu inked a two-year extension on Tuesday, keeping the captain in the State of Hockey through the 2019-20 season.

The 35-year-old center would have been a free agent after the upcoming season and Minnesota made the right call extending him.

Like so many other players, Koivu thrived under head coach Bruce Boudreau, and the bench boss used Koivu in a way that plays to his strengths.

Faceoff specialist 

Koivu is one of the best centers in the league in the dot. He won over 55 percent of his draws last season; only four other players had more success.

However, it was Boudreau's deployment of Koivu that made him so successful. Last season, Koivu started in the defensive-zone faceoff circle 63 percent of the time, which was by far a career high. 

Here's a breakdown of the percentage of draws Koivu took in the defensive zone.

  • 2016-17: 63 percent
  • 2015-16: 42 percent
  • 2014-15: 45 percent
  • 2013-14: 40 percent

It's tough to create offensive chances, if you don't win faceoffs and while he was in the defensive zone, Koivu took away offensive chances for the opposition. His 392 defensive-zone wins were the third most in the league last year.

And although he was used just 36 percent of the time in the offensive zone – which was a career low – Koivu won 60 percent of those draws, which was the second-best figure in the NHL. 

  • 2016-17: 36 percent
  • 2015-16: 57 percent
  • 2014-15: 54 percent
  • 2013-14: 59 percent

So on offense, less was more with Koivu – he didn't face off in the offensive zone as much, but when he did, he won them at a high clip.

That played a large part in the Wild scoring the second most goals in the league last season. Only the Pittsburgh Penguins – who won the Stanley Cup – scored more.

He centered the Wild's best line

Some would say that Mikko Koivu was the second-line center last season, with Eric Staal the anchor at the top. But Koivu's linemates of Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund made up one the best lines in the NHL last year.

Both Zucker and Granlund had the best seasons of their careers in 2016-17. 

Zucker led the NHL in plus/minus (+34) and Granlund led the team in points (69). 

Fourteen of Granlund's 26 goals were assisted by Koivu. Meanwhile Zucker became a more-rounded offensive player; his 25 assists beat out his previous career high of 10. 

With both players under the age of 25, it's very possible that we still haven't seen their best years, and Koivu had a lot to do with that.

From what it sounds like, the line will stay together when the regular season opens next month.

Shot percentage improving

Koivu's 18 goals last year were his most in a season since 2009-10

He's also making his shots count, as his 12.9 shot percentage was a career high, and 3 points above than his career average.

Koivu was well on his way to a 25-goal campaign before a March slump, which would have been the most goals he's ever scored.

With his shot percentage on a steady uptick over the last two seasons, Koivu may continue to light the lamp more often than he previously had. 

Cap hit goes down

Koivu has a cap hit of $6.7 million this season. That number dips to $5.5 million under his new extension, which won't kick in until next season

So the Wild will have a little more wiggle room in their cap space while still having a top-six center.

Yes, the Wild's season ended in a disappointing playoff appearance (again). But they return a prolific offense, an All-Star goaltender and a core of young players who still could get even better.

And their captain and all-time point leader, Koivu, will play a big part in a deep playoff run.

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