Two former Canadiens captains, Saku Koivu and Bob Gainey, will be back in the NHL next season, Koivu with Anaheim and Gainey with Dallas.
Koivu signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Ducks, where he’s played for the last three years. He could have been a free agent on July 1 but opted to stay in Anaheim. This past season, he made $2.5 million. Ducks GM Bob Murray gave Koivu a raise even though his production dropped for the second consecutive season. For Murray, the numbers were not the deciding factor.
Pat Hickey has this story on Koivu’s signing in The Gazette and notes that when Gainey was GM, he elected not to bring Koivu back so he could acquire Scott Gomez. Here’s Dave Stubbs’ Gazette story from 2009 on Saku leaving the Habs.
“Character and leadership on and off the ice,” Murray said on a conference call to discuss Koivu’s re-signing. “You can never have enough of that. Things didn’t go well this year. He’s a veteran who really believes it can work here and wants it to work here. He had an opportunity this year to jump ship and he didn’t want to. He wanted to stay and make it work. That’s a quality character guy. We need more of that.
“He’s a very intelligent hockey person,” Murray continued. ”There’s no doubt about that. So our talks are very informative and interesting, I think, on both sides. He knows what it takes to win. And he desperately wants to win. Saku will do whatever it takes to win and that’s all that’s important.”
Koivu said in April he wanted to remain with Anaheim. The feeling obviously was mutual and Koivu said he believes Murray has the Ducks headed in the right direction. “Everybody wants to win and at this point in my career, that is the number one priority,” Koivu told the media on Wednesday. “Talking with Bob and hearing his plan and also getting a very positive from the ownership, I’m confident that they are going to make a push….If I didn’t feel confident about their view and their willingness to make the push, I would have looked somewhere else.”
Koivu played his only game in Montreal since joining the Ducks in January, 2011.
Koivu appeared in his 1,000th game in March. Dave Stubbs had this story on that milestone in The Gazette.
As for Gainey, who was dismissed along with Pierre Gauthier in March, he is heading back to the Dallas Stars as an advisor to GM Joe Nieuwendyk. Gainey was GM of the Minnesota North Stars and the Dallas Stars from January 1992 until 2002. He won the Stanley Cup as GM with Dallas in 1999. He was the Habs GM from 2003-2010 before stepping aside to become an advisor to Gauthier and help develop players in Hamilton.
“I do see it in a similar way to what I was doing with the Canadiens over the last two years,” Gainey told ,Mike Heika blogging for the Dallas Morning News. “My scope will probably be broader with the Stars, but I see it as observing and familiarizing myself with the players and then hopefully offering some guidance that maybe others haven’t seen. I would like to be able to say, `I see this in a player,’ or `Maybe we could shape this player in this direction.’ Those are areas where I believe I can help.”
Jim Lites, who was president of the Stars under former owner Tom Hicks and returned to that job last November under new owner Tom Gaglardi, appears to be the man who brought Gainey back to Dallas. “I think the most important thing I can do in my job is hire good people, and Bob is one of the best persons I know,” Lites said. “He was available, he was very interested in what we’ve been able to accomplish, and I just believe having a voice like that will be extremely beneficial in a lot of ways.”
Gainey traded for Nieuwendyk in 1995 and four years later he was the Conn Smythe winner when the Stars won the Cup. “He just has so much experience and has been such a respected player, coach and GM that it’s great just to talk with him and bounce ideas off of him,” Nieuwendyk said of Gainey. “I’m looking forward to it.”