Columbus Blue Jackets forward Mikko Koivu suddenly announced his retirement on Tuesday after 16 seasons.
Koivu spent the first 15 years of his career with the Minnesota Wild before joining the Blue Jackets on a one-year, $1.5 million deal last October.
“This was not an easy decision for me as I have loved every minute of my short time in Columbus and really hoped to be able to help this team accomplish its goals this season, but the bottom line is I haven't been able to get to the level of play that I need to be true to myself and fair to my teammates, so the time is right for me to retire from hockey," Koivu said in a statement released by the Blue Jackets.
"I have been extremely blessed and I am eternally grateful to the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets organizations for the opportunities they have given me to live out my dreams of playing in the National Hockey League for the past 16 years."
Koivu recorded a goal and an assist in seven games with the Blue Jackets this season. He was benched for Monday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, and struggled to make an impact offensively.
"Mikko Koivu is a consummate pro and while we are disappointed that his time as a Blue Jacket was short, we understand and respect the decision he has made because it is the result of the deep respect he has for the game, our organization and his teammates," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "I've known Mikko for a very long time and am proud of everything he has accomplished and how he has represented our club, the Minnesota Wild and Team Finland over the past two decades. I wish him many happy years as he transitions into the next chapter in his life."
Koivu is one of the greatest players in the Wild’s relatively short franchise history, leading the club in points, games played, and was the first player to reach the 1,000-game plateau with the organization.
The younger brother of former Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu, he carved his own impact on the hockey world, after being selected sixth overall by the Wild in 2001. Koivu captained Finland to gold at the 2011 World Championships, and was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy in 2016-17.
Over the course of 1,035 games, Koivu established himself as a strong two-way player, always careening near the line toward stardom. He will be missed by a Blue Jackets club that has struggled to generate offense under John Tortorella’s watch.
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