This is Michael Russo's 18th year covering the National Hockey League. He's covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005 following 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. Michael 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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Despite tweets by a handful of former NHL players earlier today that the lockout had ended, there were still a "few significant issues that need resolution," a source close to negotiations told me an hour ago.
The good news is both the NHL (Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and a few lawyers) and the NHLPA (the Fehr Brothers, Don and Steve, lawyers and a number of players) are still trying to hammer it out.
"The parties have been meeting since approximately 12:45 pm today," Daly emailed the Star Tribune just before 7 p.m. CT. "Slow progress is being made. We hope to continue meeting to resolve as many open issues as we possibly can in pursuit of an agreement."
Update as of 10:37 PM ET: Parties are still meeting. Good dialogue and give and take, still work to be done.
I am told there is good reason for my favorite phrase, cautious optimism. I am also told that the "motivation on both sides is that we could get a couple of more games in if we finish this weekend."
But again, nothing is done until both sides say the deal is done and a new collective bargaining agreement is ratified.
Originally, the league said a deal must be done by Jan. 11 for training camp to start Jan. 12 and a 48-game season Jan. 19.
But the league and players would love to get in a 50- or 52-game schedule in at minimum. As of now, players have missed six paychecks and the league has lost, according to Bettman, $20 million a day in revenue.
As of 5 p.m. CT, the player vote concluded to give Don Fehr the authorization to file a disclaimer of interest and dissolve the union. He hasn't pulled that trigger with talks gaining traction.
More to come (and more info on the previous blog).
BREAKING #mnwild news: Mikael Granlund pulled from #Aeros lineup after warmups; Wild doesn't want to risk injury in case #nhl camp on horizon. GM Chuck Fletcher said the Wild came close to doing so last night. Granlund is slotted as the No. 2 Wild center in camp.
The NHL and NHLPA have been brought back to the table for a critical face-to-face meeting this afternoon in New York by federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh.
Beckenbaugh has been shuttling back and forth the past two days between the NHL's offices and the NHLPA's hotel as he tries to bridge the gap. The process lasted 12 hours yesterday and began this morning until the mediator brought the two together at 1:15 ET.
This has caused an immense amount of optimism in the Twittersphere.
The New York Post's Larry Brooks just reported that he's told that the league is willing to move off its $60 million 2013-14 cap figure to somewhere in the middle of the NHLPA's $65 million desire.
There has been reports of progress with the complex pension issue. The league has previously been looking for six-year max deals (seven if you're re-signing your own player), the union wants eight. This doesn't seem too difficult to bridge.
Previously, it has been reported that they’ve both basically agreed on a 10-year CBA, the league will do the two 2013-14 per team compliance buyouts the union wants, the NHL has changed the variance from an original 5 percent wish to 30 percent, revenue sharing is agreed upon.
Looming large is that Executive Director will be able to dissolve the NHLPA by filing a disclaimer of interest as soon as 5 p.m. CT.
So while there have been early reports of traction and optimism, we've seen that before. Don't get your hopes too up until there's a deal in principle and a vote to ratify.
Is that coming? We will see.
More to come.
In a remarkable turnaround after one-goal losses in the preliminary round to Canada and Russia, the United States reeled off four consecutive victories and capped it off with a 3-1 win over defending champion Sweden today to win the gold medal at the World Under-20 Championship in Ufa, Russia.
The gold is the Americans' second since 2010 and third in history.
Just a tremendous job by coach Phil Housley (South St. Paul, Stillwater High), who juggled the lineup around, found the magic formula and helped this team jell in wins over Slovakia, Czech Republic, Canada and Sweden.
"They inspired a nation today," Housley told NHL Network after the game. "We're bringing home the gold, guys!"
Housley's group continued to grow game by game.
Congrats also to Minnesotans Mike Reilly (Chanhassen, Gophers) and Mario Lucia (Wayzata, Notre Dame) and Housley's staff, which included Grant Potulny (Gophers assistant) and Mark Osiecki (Ohio State).
(You can read quotes from Reilly, Lucia and Potulny from a few nights ago on the previous blog).
University of North Dakota redshirt freshman Rocci Grimaldi was the offensive whiz today, scoring two goals, including the winner. This came after Grimaldi was relegated as the 13th forward four games ago.
"He played unbelievable these last three games," Housley told NHL Network. "My hat goes off to him. He took [the 13th forward slot] the right way."
The world junior All-Star team was selected as John Gibson (USA) in goal, Jacob Trouba (USA) and Jake McCabe (USA) on the blue line and Ryan-Nugent Hopkins (Canada), Johnny Gaudreau (USA) and Filip Forsberg (Sweden) at forward.
Rock-solid Gibson was named tournament MVP and top goalie. Trouba was top defenseman and Nugent-Hopkins top forward.
I will be on KFAN at 10:35 a.m. to talk world juniors, Gophers and NHL lockout (mediation today after 12 hours yesterday, 5 p.m. CT deadline for NHLPA disclaimer of interest vote to be concluded).
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