Yup, the Finnish Flash turns 40 today, and while it still seems a little up-in-the-air whether he plans on playing one more year, the Ducks have certainly helped put the proper Finnish pieces in place to lure the Anaheim legend back. On Thursday the Ducks signed countrymen Toni Lydman and Saku Koivu to UFA deals that both seem very reasonable, at least compared to the UFA deals of the day.
Toni Lydman was one of nine UFA defensemen who signed 3+ year contracts on July 1st, and while he certainly wasn't the cream of that crop, he does provide something the Ducks do need -- someone to play some quietly effective defensive minutes. Of those nine defensemen signed, Lydman came the 2nd-cheapest in terms of annual cap hit and tied-for-cheapest in terms of overall dollars committed; it's not an onerous July 1st contract. And it enabled the Ducks to address their biggest need -- Lydman on his own won't save the blueline, but it's a great first step in the right direction.
And Saku Koivu -- what can I really say about that guy? He took a pay cut last summer to come to Anaheim for a one-year deal at $3.25 M, and then follows it up with another discount -- two seasons at $2.5 M apiece. I mean, this guy already is a hero -- he beat cancer, he dealt with the pressures of Montreal's captaincy, he was the Ducks' hardest worker last season, and he even threatened to become my favorite Finn -- a development that really was shocking. Koivu and Selanne really adjusted together and produced at the end of the year (granted, once games stopped mattering), but his signing appears to be the real key to luring Selanne back.
Plus it's just a fantastic move for the Ducks.
Almost whether or not Selanne does return, Koivu's signing does three important things for Anaheim:
1) He gives the Ducks a needed face of diplomacy -- hopefully he's the Ducks' new captain. The Ducks do suffer from the "goon" stereotype (not undeservingly, of course), and losing class-act Niedermayer doesn't help that perception one bit. But keeping guys like Selanne and Koivu, and adding probably-nice-guy Lydman are good steps towards counterbalancing that a bit.
2) He makes Bobby Ryan look selfish. Now I don't really know what's going on with that negotiation -- I actually think Barstool Bob did a bad thing by going public with his 5-year, $5M offer (though I can also understand the pressure to update the fans). That put B-Ry in a bad light, one that's probably a bit unfair (we are only hearing one filtered side of this story) -- plus I think Ryan's issue is more about years, not dollars. But still, Koivu provides B-Ry with an example of a team-first signing that's tough to ignore; maybe that helps B-Ry soften a bit more on his demands, even if it is for comparative perception.
3) He ensures that I'm going to love this team, succeed or fail. It may be nitpicky, since on many levels I love every Ducks team, but it's a bit different when the Ducks sign players you already consider heroes. These are guys I want to see succeed no matter where they are playing; the fact that they are sticking with Anaheim makes my desire for their success all the stronger. Koivu's fantastic to watch and cheer for -- I'm incredibly happy that he's staying with the Ducks.
And hopefully, so too is birthday man Selanne. Sign when you're ready, dude.
Go Ducks. Suomi.