Blue Jackets C Mikko Koivu retires during 16th NHL season

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Columbus Blue Jackets center Mikko Koivu said Tuesday he has decided to retire in the midst of his 16th NHL season.

The 37-year-old Koivu had signed a free-agent contract with Columbus before this season after 15 years in Minnesota as the Blue Jackets sought more depth at center ice.

He spent the first 10 days of the season on the COVID-19 list and then had a goal and an assist in seven games with the Blue Jackets. He was in the lineup during a loss to Carolina on Sunday but was scratched for Monday’s game.

Koivu said in a statement released by the club that “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.”

Minnesota’s first pick, sixth overall, in the 2001 NHL Draft, Koivu recorded 206 goals and 505 assists with 594 penalty minutes in 1,035 career games since making his NHL debut in 2005-06. He added 11 goals and 17 assists with 38 penalty minutes in 59 career playoff games.

The native of Turku, Finland, also represented his homeland in many international tournaments, including the Olympics in 2006 and 2010.

“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,” Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said.

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