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.

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Americans blow out Canada, advance to world junior final; Compliance buyouts have little affect the Wild

Posted by: Michael Russo under Gophers, Wild off-season news Updated: January 3, 2013 - 1:22 PM

In the wee hours of this morning, the United States, coached by Minnesotans Phil Housley, Grant Potulny and Mark Osiecki, crushed Canada, 5-1, in the semifinals of the world junior championships in Ufa, Russia.

Here's the story, with video highlights.

The Americans will face defending champion Sweden, who upended Russia in a shootout, in Saturday's gold-medal game at 7 a.m. CT.

Boston College's Johnny Gaudreau continued his offensive assault with two more goals (seven in the past three), Wisconsin's Jake McCabe, the U.S. captain, had two goals and an assist and John Gibson made 36 saves.

Gophers defenseman Mike Reilly tweeted at @mreilly93: "What a game to be a part of. Moving on to the finals. #goforgold"

Saturday morning's game will be on NHL Network and streamed on NHL.com. I will be on KFAN at 10:35 a.m. to talk about the game and NHL/NHLPA bargaining updates.

As you can see on the previous blog, the two sides met late into the night last night and expect to meet again today with a federal mediator. Gary Bettman said the sides agreed to meet at 10 a.m. ET. The two sides haven't begun meeting yet as the NHLPA is reportedly meeting internally and updating its membership of yesterday's events.

I get asked a lot if there's any chance after a handshake agreement that the NHL starts playing while the collective bargaining agreement is drafted, lawyered up and ratified. Doubtful.

In 1994-95, there were tons of wildfires that had to be put out the ensuing months when they tried that, stuff like, "You agreed to this, ... Uh, no we didn't." This morning is a case of the NHL thought they agreed to meet at 10 a.m. moments after this alleged agreement, and the NHLPA didn't understand it that way.

So the two sides can't agree on that, think they'll play with a handshake?

Details are starting to emerge:

-- I have confirmed ESPN Pierre LeBrun's report that the league has agreed to the two compliance buyouts the players want for 2013-14 (wouldn't count against the salary cap). But the owners feel that since they're willing to hand players a lump sum of money to walk away, that should come out of the player share of the 50/50 split of revenues, not the owners. Players don't want it that way; they want it to come from outside the system. This transition rule is a big bridge that must be gapped.

There seems to be a lot of confusion among fans. The purpose of the compliance buyouts are so teams can get compliant with the 2013-14 salary cap that will decline (the league wants it to be $60 million, the union $65 million) as the split in revenues go from 57-43 in favor of the players to 50-50.

Because this affects 2013-14, this really has little affect on the Wild.

The salary cap this year (if they get a deal done to salvage the season) will still be prorated at $70.2 million, so the Wild, with the second-highest payroll in the NHL, are compliant. Even if the cap falls to $60 million in 2013-14, the Wild would be at $50.5 million assuming Niklas Backstrom, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Cullen aren't re-signed. This doesn't include the promotions of Houston prospects other than Mikael Granlund, free-agent signings and the re-signings of potential restricted free agents like Cal Clutterbuck.

But the Wild conceivably wouldn't have to buy out anybody.

By the way, check out the previous blog for Wild injury news and also how an abbreviated training camp may determine which kids from Houston get a look right away. It's interesting because the kids in Houston succeeding are in midseason form, so that could be quite the advantage for the Wild. However, there's very few open spots due to one-way contracts, so there's just no chance more than a handful could start with the Wild.

-- Also, reportedly (I have not confirmed yet), the NHL is willing to move the variance of salaries inside contracts year to year to 20 percent.

-- Pensions, the fact the NHL wants six-year max deals (seven to re-sign your own players) and a $60 million ceiling in 2013-14 continue to be the big "open issues."

I'll be back later with a report on the Gophers after availability, but as I mentioned, Erik Haula is expected to miss at least the next three games with a finger injury. Don Lucia indicated yesterday that Nate Condon may move to second-line center from first-line right wing to replace him.

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