Good early smoggy morning from Los Angeles, where I've just arrived from Las Vegas in preparation for the NHL Entry Draft on Friday (Round 1) and Saturday (Rounds 2-7).
I'll be doing a live chat on startribune.com at 3 p.m. CT today -- barring any Wild news, of course.
Just thought I'd jump on here real quick and freshen up the blog. I'll actually blog again later this afternoon with a look at some of the prospects that could be available when -- or if -- the Wild selects from the ninth position.
I just talked on the phone with Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray about a smattering of subjects -- life, the weather, Dino Ciccarelli, hockey in Minnesota and of course, Jason Spezza.
There have been rumors in some corners that the Wild's hot after Spezza. From the best I can tell, there's no truth to that. Murray, always the character, said he talked with Wild GM Chuck Fletcher quite a bit about a couple subjects at the GM's Meetings way back at the Stanley Cup Finals, "but he didn’t indicate he was ready to help me out at all. I don’t know why."
That is kind of rude. After all, BM the GM employed a young Chuck Fletcher in both Florida and Anaheim.
On Spezza, Murray says unless something dramatically changes, Spezza's going nowhere. He's not aggressively shopping him and there haven't been any bona fide offers.
"Jason came in. At the exit meeting, he was not happy. A couple stories were written and pointed the finger at him. And actually he played pretty well. The fact that he’s a star and we didn’t win, he took the blame. They highlighted the one goal where Crosby – I thought Jason did everything he possibly could – Jason chased him behind the net two or three times, Crosby goes down and falls to his knee, pushes the puck to Letang on the blue line and Letang scores, and they blame Jason. ..."
Here's the play Bryan's referring to:
Back to Murray:
"Jason took it very personal this time. He’s frustrated, and when you write a bad thing about players, some fans pick up on it and some fans were booing him a bit, so he’s very unhappy about that. That was basically the extent of it. He did say, ‘Maybe it’s time for me to look elsewhere, Bryan,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, but we’re not doing that Jason at this point. Why would I do that?’ so that’s where it was left.
"But it’s a story every day in Ottawa. It’s bigger then it should be. I’m not saying I’m not trading him, but my intent is not to trade him unless I get a really, really good offer."
Asked if he's gotten any really, really good offers, Murray said, "No. I talked to a couple teams just to gauge if there’s any interest, and one team –one team only – said they’d maybe consider it and talk to me this week. Beyond that, that’s all. I’m not calling around by any means."
Now, I will add this as an editor's note: I've known Bryan a long time and covered him personally in Florida a long time. Part of the reason he's talking like this is to drum up business. This is a guy who's made a ton of blockbuster trades in his career, and he wants better offers. So he wants to make it very known that he doesn't have to trade Spezza (this is not like Dany Heatley), so if you want him, up the ante.
Onto Dino, Murray and Ciccarelli were together three times. Murray coached him in Washington, brought him to Detroit when he was coach and GM and acquired him when he was GM in Florida.
On Dino making the Hall of Fame: "I’m sure the reason he got into the Hall of Fame is because statistically he did pretty well, but the thing I remember the most is his battle level. He was such an emotional guy and such a feisty guy, you knew every night that he played that No. 1 he was going to show up. No. 2 was he was going to work real hard. The way he played was going to force other players to go along with him. His courage, the battles in front of the net, the big defensemen that he put up with and they had to put up with him. He was always in their face, and stats came from that of course. Fifty goals, and all that. We had our ups and downs occasionally because of his emotion. He was a lot like me at that time – very, very committed to doing well, and as a result he did."
Murray pointed out that the undersized Ciccarelli did this is a very different era than today, where they penalize defenseman for breathing on forwards wrong (Russo note: other than Chris Pronger for most of the playoffs, of course): "Many, many nights it was vicious – the cross-checks to the back, the swinging of the stick. It was a different time," Murray said. "If you did that now, … well, you’d be in the penalty box all night. At that time, that was just a given. When you went to the net, there was going to be a war, and you had to wear your war stick on in a consistent basis. Guys were on you all the time."
(Just as I finished that sentence, I received a text from Lou Nanne. He was on vacation and his on his way back, so I may speak to him this afternoon about Dino).
Lastly, yesterday was an insane in the membrane, dizzying day in the NHL, so just to rehash what happened to make sure things weren't overshadowed:
-- Scott Niedermayer, as you often joke, the brother to one of my all-time favorites, retired
-- Nathan Horton was traded to Boston from Florida with Colie's boy, Gregory Campbell, for Dennis Wideman, the 15th pick in the draft and a 2011 third-rounder. I was a little surprised Florida GM Dale Tallon didn't wait a little longer for better offers.
-- Boston's now looking for a defenseman and reportedly dangling Marc Savard. And no, I don't think the Wild's interested. He's 33, coming off a major concussion and has seven years left on his contract. The Wild's looking for a younger top centerman.
--Tomas Plekanec re-signed in Montreal for exactly what I figured he'd get on the open market -- six years, $30 million, so good luck with that in a few years.
--Reportedly, Patrick Sharp won't be traded from Chicago.
--San Jose told Evgeni Nabokov he's not coming back, so now what do the Sharks, Flyers and Lightning do for goalies? There's Nabokov, Chris Mason, Marty Turco and a host of others available via free agency, and guys like Tim Thomas and Josh Harding available via trade.
--Pat Quinn was basically forced into an upstairs position with Edmonton and replaced by his associate coach Tom Renney.
--Dino, Cammi Granato, Angela James, Jimmy Devellano and Doc Seaman were elected into the Hall of Fame
--Mostly swept under the rug but extremely important, the NHLPA announced it has agreed to maintain the 5 percent growth factor, meaning the salary-cap should indeed increase about $2 million and that should be announced any day. Also, the NHLPA extended the collective bargaining agreement by one year through the 2011-12 season, meaning at least the next two hockey seasons elude any threat of a work stoppage.
That's it -- until the next today, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, which could get crazy.
Like I said, I'll be back later with a fresh blog looking at some potential Wild draft picks, who knows, maybe some news and a live chat at 3 p.m.