Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.
Also find Russo on Facebook.
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After working past midnight on New Year's Eve and all day New Year's Day, the NHL extended a "comprehensive response" to the NHLPA's comprehensive response to the NHL's latest proposal late Tuesday night.
Basically, the NHL and NHLPA are in a negotiating game of ping-pong, which is very much a good thing.
Guests today include Gophers coach Don Lucia (12:35 p.m.), St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock (1:20 p.m.), Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch (1:35 p.m.), Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall (12:15 p.m.) and WCCO's Mark Rosen from 2-3.
The NHLPA took the NHL's latest response last night in order to digest it and likely respond to it today. There's a very good chance the two sides meet again.
"In our response, there were certain things that the Players' association asked for that we agreed to, there were some things that we moved in their direction and there were other things that we said no," Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters in New York. "But that's part of the process."
Three proposals have been exchanged in the past five days. A deal must be struck by Jan. 11, or the season likely will be canceled. The plan is for training camp to start by Jan. 12 and a 48-game season to begin Jan. 19 if a collective bargaining agreement can be reached.
Realisticallty, a deal must be reached before Jan. 11 in order to get it fully down on paper, lawyered up and ratified.
The NHLPA has until midnight tonight if it wants to file a disclaimer of interest and dissolve the union, but with both sides creeping closer, that's unlikely. The NHLPA could always vote as a membership again to file a disclaimer of interest at a later date if things go haywire.
But I don't see that happening. I truly believe a deal will be struck in the coming days. There's several part of the pact that has already been agreed upon, and as RDS reported last night, the NHLPA is willing to do a 10-year CBA now under certain conditions and the sides are close to an agreement on revenue sharing.
The main things being tackled now are pensions and what the upper limit of the salary cap will be starting in 2013-14. The NHL's proposal of $60 million was unacceptable to the NHLPA.
"The fact that we're involved in a continuous process is something that I'm glad to see, but we're clearly not done yet," said Bettman.
But players I talk to are confident and more and more players are starting to trickle back from Europe in anticipation of camps starting.
I'm up early because I couldn't fall back to sleep after my 3 a.m. wakeup call to watch the U.S. Czechs. No contest as the Americans won big, 7-0, in the quarterfinals to advance to a 3 a.m. CT Thursday rematch against Canada. The U.S. lost 2-1 to Canada a few days ago. The game can be seen on NHL Network and NHL.com.
Johnny Gaudreau had a hat trick today and has five goals in two games, showing why Don Lucia said after the Gophers' 8-1 win over Boston College on Sunday that the win should have an "asterisk" on it because the Eagles were without Gaudreau and two injured veteran defensemen.
Riley Barker had two goals, JT Miller had a goal and two assists, Jacob Trouba and Seth Jones had four assists apiece and John Gibson had the shutout with 31 saves. Trying to decipher the boxscore, but I think the Americans went 5 for 12 on the power play and there were 18 or 19 power plays in the tightly-called game.
OK, that's it. Give me a listen please on the radio if you want to hear some Vikings, puck talk and a little bit of everything with Rosie. And of course I'll be up at 3 a.m. for the semifinal, although I've been keeping the tweets to a minimum because I don't want to wake up anybody who happens to get my tweets texted to their phones.
Get ready folks. NHL season on the horizon.
Today's meeting between the NHL and NHLPA with mediators has concluded in New Jersey after 6 1/2 hours.
The sides met separately with mediators and were never in the same room. No progress was made.
According to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, there is no re-tabled offer on the table (although that's been contradicted and players say the league offered last week's take it or leave it deal again; league says mediatoractually is the one who said 'would you re-offer it'). There are no plans yet as to when the two sides will meet again.
The mediator will meet with the players tonight, and then the mediators will get in touch with the league as to what was discussed.
I'm told the league spent about 15 or 20 minutes with mediators today and hours with the players because the league made clear there's no communication issue, that their stance is clear: "tell us when you're ready to play." My guess is that could be under the last proposal, although the league has not actually said that.
That proposal was 50/50, 10-year CBA, $300 million Make Whole, 5-year max deals (7 to re-sign your own player) and 5% variances in salary per year.
In other words, the owners are done negotiating. Unless they're bluffing, the next move will have to come from the players deciding if they want to throw away 100 percent of their salaries because they want an 8-year CBA or a little longer term in a max deal. Transition rules also must be determined.
Brendan Morrison was quoted by Tom Gulitti (the Record, @tgulitti): “I never thought the issues were as big as they were back in 04-05. Apparently, I was wrong. I thought the gap would be closed much quicker, but it hasn’t come to fruition yet, so we have to keep working.”
According to Morrison via Gulitti, the players had to make a decision today whether to take the NHL's last proposal last week (the one the league claimed it was taking off the table), and "It wasn't much of a decision."
Again though, the league denies that proposal was ever actually re-tabled.
Fun, isn't this?
So, in conclusion, they tried a mediator two weeks ago. Went nowhere. Went without a mediator last week and made some progress, went back to a mediator and made no progress.
Why? Because mediators go from room to room asking, "what if they did this" questions. The league knows what it wants. It's made that position clear to the union, like it or not. So for them, mediation is not working because both sides aren't miscommunicating with each other. Both sides know what the other wants.
The league is at the take it or leave it stage of this lockout.
I still believe these guys get a deal done. It's just a matter of when. League needs to announce a drop-dead date, which my guess is Jan. 15 to play a 48-game schedule. If that's the case, early January a deal must be done.
Announce it already, apply a pressure point and see what happens.
I will be filling in for Paul Allen from 9-noon Thursday on KFAN (100.3-FM). Plenty of NHL/NFL/NBA guests, including Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist Nick Cotsonika, Wild coach Mike Yeo, Fox Sports North's Marney Gellner, Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall and others.
Also on Friday, I will be hosting a live chat on startribune.com at 1 p.m.
Good morning. I'm up because I have an early-morning flight out of Philly. The Wild wrapped up a six-game road trip against the Flyers last night.
Sorry, that was just in my dreams.
I'm actually awake because I've been cramming for an exam, uh, I mean show-prepping. I'm filling in for Paul Allen this morning from 9-noon on KFAN (100.3-FM).
Please tune in. We'll be talking plenty of hockey, both NHL (my friend tells me the Wild are 8-4-3 in his simulated NHL13 season; FIFTH IN THE WEST!!!!) and Gophers. We'll be talking Vikings and Wolves, and maybe sprinkle in a little potshots at Jeffrey Loria, the besieged owner of the biggest laughing stock in sports, the Miami Marlins, who dumped almost $164 million in payroll last night in a trade with Toronto. Nice of Loria to once upon a time ruin my Expos and now re-stock the Blue Jays.
Oh, Major League Baseball -- the pride and joy of Donald Fehr!
I've got some great guests lined up: at 9:15, Gophers defenseman and go-to quote Nate Schmidt; at 9:35, Aeros GM Jim Mill, who may be the busiest man in the Wild hockey ops department; in studio at 9:55-10:30 is former Vikings linebacker and now KFAN contributor Ben Leber; at 10:35, longtime former NHL forward and now NHL analyst, the well-spoken Ray Ferraro and from 11-11:40, I believe in studio, the first-ever Minnesota Mr. Hockey, Tom Chorske.
If you have any questions for any of the guests or for myself, you can obviously call the show OR leave me a question by following me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/russostrib OR leaving the question on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/startribunemikerusso.
My plan is to particularly take calls during Leber's segment and Chorske's because they are extended segments.
I'll be back on with a blog later this afternoon after Gophers men's hockey availability, but they take on Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday at Mariucci. In addition, if you want to get a rare pro hockey fix, the Aeros host Rockford at 5 p.m. Sunday at the X.
Tickets are complimentary for season-ticket holders by calling your sales rep, and for all others, they're $20 and can be purchased at the X box office, wild.com and Ticketmaster.
In for the game will be prospects like Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Johan Larsson, Zack Phillips, Brett Bulmer, Tyler Cuma, Justin Fontaine, Chay Genoway, stud AHL defenseman and Bloomington's own Brian Connelly, David McIntyre, etc., etc. NHLer Marco Scandella, a 2010 second-rounder, will also be playing.
We'll find out from Mill on the radio of some of the injured guys like Chad Rau and Darcy Kuemper and why Matt Hackett has been so rocky. Mikael Granlund has been ruled out from the game with a sprained ankle, and Jonas Brodin unfortunately is out with a broken clavicle.
The Wild are doing a pretty neat thing, by the way.
Remember last year when the Wild had to hustle to sign an emergency goalie because Matt Hackett's plane was late? Hackett was to back up Josh Harding because Niklas Backstrom was about to become a papa.
In emergency situations, you can sign anyone with pro experience, so the Wild turned to a 51-year-old beer league goalie named Paul Deutsch. He tended goal in warmups, but Hackett just arrived for the game.
To keep from scrambling again (assuming the NHL someday returns), the Wild is holding a contest to find the team's next emergency goalie.
It had selected 11 goaltenders to compete in an an on-ice audition before a panel of judges including Wild goaltending coach Bob Mason, Deutsch himself and Wild TV analyst and former IHL champion Mike Greenlay on Thursday from 7-9 p.m. at the X.
The 11 goalies selected to take part:
Tyler Brigl – 27, Saint Paul
Kevin Donohue – 23, Minneapolis
Ryan Ess – 31, Minneapolis
Shane Hudella – 41, Hastings
Amy Jones – 29, Brooklyn Center
Treye Kettwick – 29, Minneapolis
Mark Klaers – 44, St. Louis Park
Mark Ostlund – 24, Saint Paul
Alan Strahota – 27, Burnsville
Joshua Swartout – 24, St. Louis Park
Adam Timperley – 30, Rogers
I'm not rooting, but it'd be a pretty neat story if Jones wins.
Anyway, two finalists will be invited to take part in a shootout against celebrity shooters during the second intermission of the Aeros-IceHogs game Sunday. The goalie that does the best in the shootout will be named the Wild’s next emergency goaltender, with the runner-up named next in line.
After being in a sour mood for about two months (which not so coincidentally is the exact timeframe of the NHL lockout now), I'm actually in a jolly mood this afternoon because I'm a few hours from heading to the Bruce Springsteen concert.
If you can stomach more lockout talk (whining), I'll be filling in for Paul Allen on Wednesday from 9 to noon on KFAN (100.3-FM). I'm lining up an entertaining show, and I promise it won't be all NHL. It'll be Gophers hockey, too, with a little Wolves and Vikings and other goodies sprinkled in.
Speaking of the Gophers, the 6-2-1 squad (3-2-1 in the WCHA, 1-0-1 at Alaska Anchorage this past weekend) dropped from No. 2 to 3 in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls. The University of Denver (7-1) hopped over them with Boston College being No. 1.
In the USCHO poll, North Dakota is 6, Colorado College is 14, St. Cloud State is 15, and Nebraska-Omaha is 18. In the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll, UND is 5, CC is 14 and St. Cloud State is 15.
Reminder also, if you want to get a pro hockey fix, the Houston Aeros, who boast a number of prospects including Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Zack Phillips and Brett Bulmer, come to town Sunday to play Rockford at Xcel Energy Center at 5 p.m.
Jonas Brodin is out with a broken collarbone, and Mikael Granlund has been ruled out with a sprained ankle.
Aeros players will sign autographs after the game for 30 minutes.
The Wild will conduct the seventh annual Toyota Food Drive to benefit Second Harvest Heartland, the Upper Midwest’s largest hunger-relief organization. Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items and/or monetary donations to Gates 1, 2 and 5 at 4:00 p.m. and continuing through the start of the first period.
Wild season ticketholders can contact their account representative to receive complimentary tickets to the game equal to the number of Wild seats they hold. Tickets for the Aeros game are $20 and are on sale at the Xcel Energy Center Box Office, www.wild.com, www.aeros.com and at all Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.com) locations or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000.
Wild prospect Tyler Graovac, who leads the Ontario Hockey League with 18 goals, can be seen tonight again on the NHL Network in the Subway Super Series against Russia at 8 p.m.
The Western Hockey League All-Stars face Russia on Wednesday and Thursday nights, so you can see Matt Dumba, the Wild's 2012 first-rounder who is an assistant captain.
Also on the NHL Network tonight is the Hall of Fame induction.
Joe Sakic, Pavel Bure, Mats Sundin and Adam Oates are being enshrined. I was fortunate enough to cover Bure, who scored 58 and 59 goals during consecutive years when I covered the Panthers. By far, the Russian Rocket was the most electrifying and fascinating players I have ever covered. He was a man of intrigue, that's for sure.
One day hopefully we'll get to see the NHL again. I'm not convinced it'll be any time soon though.
There's a schism between the two sides right now and it's pretty poisonous. The NHL wants to go to 50-50 and "Make Whole," and the NHLPA wants guaranteed $1.9 billion-plus next year (more than last year's share when revenue will decrease who knows because of this lockout) and an increase for the four subsequent years of the deal.
The NHL is unwilling to budge on contractual restrictions, Donald Fehr says.
Here is NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr talking today in a Canadian Press report.
Evening from inside the Corral, which houses the press room for the world junior championships. The tournament's a stone's throw across the street at the Saddledome.
Canada won the bronze this afternoon with a 4-0 win over Finland. The Finns didn't compete for two periods and just didn't have the depth to battle the Canadians.
Mikael Granlund, the Wild's 2010 first-rounder, called it a "big disappointment," especially after holding a 2-0 lead in Tuesday's semifinal before losing in a shootout to Sweden. But, "life goes on."
Couple quick things:
1. Granlund reiterated to me again, I think for the third time in 14 months, that Wild fans shouldn't be worried and that his intention is to sign with the Wild after his season. The Wild loses his rights if he's unsigned by June 1.
Remember, though, he doesn't become a free agent. He'd have to re-enter the draft, so what would be the advantage? He can't make a cent more. And he wouldn't control where he'd end up, so you re-enter the draft, and next thing you know, you're on Long Island (OK, Islanders fans, email me).
But my point is I just don't buy that there's any funny business going on here. But hey, until he's signed, of course there's going to be concern. But again, it's a pretty simple negotiation. Give him the max rookie salary and signing bonus and work out the bonus structure.
By the way, he can't be signed now anyway. You can't sign European amateurs until March 1, but if that player is going to be called upon by his Federation to play in the world championships, you can't sign that player until after that tournament. So there likely won't be any official Granlund news until May.
Sooooooo, leave me alone on Granlund until then.
All indications are he wants to be in Minnesota. I mean, he looks up to Mikko Koivu. The Wild treats him like gold. He was more than willing to take part in the Wild's Fan Fest before his brother, Markus, was drafted in June. He returned a few weeks later to take part in the Wild's development camp. There are a lot of Scandinavians in Minnesota. The weather's great. He loves walleye. He likes ice fishing. He hates Dunkin Donuts. He thinks the "Ohhh, yah," in the Minnesota accent is sexy. He lives for the Mall of America. He's glad the Vikings hired a GM ...
And he knows he'll be on the team next year.
Speaking of Koivu: The Wild captain called Granlund yesterday to try to lift his spirits after the puck rolled off his stick in Tuesday's shootout to advance Sweden to the gold-medal game, which is in less than an hour. I'll have some neat quotes from the two of them in tomorrow's Star Tribune.
Buy it. It's good.
OK, I'm going to run back to the Saddledome to watch Jonas Brodin, Johan Larsson and Johan Gustafsson. Chatted with Sweden GM Johan Garpenlov, and he raved about the Wild's Swedes.
On the Wild front, Nate Prosser was reassigned. The Wild practiced for 45 minutes in Banff today. It canceled its curling outing. And it has a team dinner.
I'll head to Banff in the morning to cover practice. Good evening.
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