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Russo's Rants

Michael Russo gives you complete coverage of the Minnesota Wild and the NHL

Wild, Devan Dubnyk to begin contract talks

Happy June 1 everybody.

Just a few brief Wild updates:

1. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr, who were in Exuma the past week on a retreat with owner Craig Leipold and others, have arrived in Buffalo for the scouting combine.

Besides the fact that Fletcher, Flahr and the rest of the scouting staff will meet with scores of draft-eligible players, this is also an opportunity for Fletcher to begin talking to fellow GM's about trades and also agents about contracts.

Fletcher will sit down for the first time this week with agent Mike Liut, the former NHL goalie, to begin Devan Dubnyk contract talks. Don't be alarmed that the sides haven't spoken yet. Liut was vacationing in Mexico, and when he returned, Fletcher left for the Bahamas on Wednesday. They were supposed to speak for the first time this past Tuesday, but they decided to push it back so they can meet in person in Buffalo.

As you know by now, both sides have talked positively about how there was a mutual fit in the second half. Now it's just a matter of finding a mutual agreement on term and price.

That could be easier said than done, but it's clear both sides want to make it work and strike a deal preferably before the draft so there's no threat of Dubnyk entering the free-agent interview period prior to July 1. That would give Liut the opportunity to see what else is out there by meeting with teams during the week of the draft in South Florida.

I also believe Fletcher will sit down with the agent for potential restricted free agent Mikael Granlund this week.

2. Today is the deadline to sign 2013 draft picks or they can re-enter the draft. The Wild decided not to sign Alexandre Belanger, a Cape Breton goalie who was taken in the seventh round two years ago. The only other unsigned draft picks from 2013 are Carson Soucy, Avery Peterson and Nolan De Jong. All three are returning to college, and thus the Wild retains their rights.

Gustav Olofsson, Kurtis Gabriel and Dylan Labbe from the 2013 draft were previously signed.

3. If you keep your own excel files on such things, I don't believe I previously reported the entry-level contract prices of some players signed in the past few months:

Zach Palmquist was a one-year deal worth $692,500. Brody Hoffman was a one-year deal worth $925,000. Grayson Downing was a two-year deal worth $692,500 a year. Pavel Jenys was a three-year deal worth $655,000, $680,000 and $730,000. Labbe was a three-year deal worth $667,500 the first two years and $742,500.

Those prices are obviously only when they're in the NHL (pro-rated by day).

4. Barring a trade, the Wild will select 20th in the first round at the June 26 draft in Sunrise, Fla. On June 27, barring trades, the Wild has a second-round pick, a fourth-round pick, a sixth-round pick and two seventh-round picks.

The Wild traded its third-rounder for Dubnyk and its fifth-rounder along with Justin Falk to Columbus for Jordan Leopold.

5. Lastly, please keep Dakota Case and his entire family in your thoughts and prayers. The 24-year-old is fighting for his life in ICU at an Omaha, Nebraska, hospital with heart failure and pneumonia. It sounds like he is in rough shape, but his family is at his side.

Dakota is one of the most passionate Wild fans I've ever come across on Twitter. If you want to send Dakota a message, his Twitter account is dakota_case.

Ex-Gophers standout on mend after brother donates kidney

Pat Micheletti, the former Gophers great and current local hockey analyst, is resting comfortably at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester after undergoing a kidney transplant this morning.

The kidney was donated by Micheletti’s 62-year-old brother, Jerry.

“It’s incredible,” said Alex Micheletti, Pat’s grateful 24-year-old son. “That’s unconditional love right there. He saved my dad’s life.”

Pat Micheletti, 51, discovered last fall that both of his kidneys were functioning at 13 percent, his brother, Tom, said Wednesday. In excruciating pain for the past five years, Pat thought he had hip issues.

“His wife [Kathi] and I made a deal with him,” said Tom Micheletti. “We said, ‘If this latest [cortisone] shot doesn’t do the trick, you’ve got to agree to go to Mayo.’ He’s been very ill and weighed about 130 pounds. He played at 180. Within the first few days of him being at Mayo, they diagnosed him.”

Pat Micheletti, the second-leading scorer in Gophers history, is part of the 1500 ESPN broadcasting crew for Gophers hockey games and co-hosts Beyond the Pond and Wild FANLINE on KFAN (100.3-FM).

“Despite the pain he was in, he battled through those radio shows and staying up late to do the FANLINE because he loved doing it,” Alex Micheletti said. “I think he missed only one show throughout this whole thing. He wasn’t getting very much sleep. It’s been tough.”

Doctors believe Pat Micheletti’s kidneys were failing because of years of taking the over-the-counter pain reliever, Motrin (ibuprofen), to deal with discomfort stemming from his hockey-playing career. Alex said his dad plans to start making hockey players aware of the dangers of taking too much ibuprofen.

“Pat plans to get involved in other charities [for kidney awareness], too,” said Tom, the oldest of nine children and former Harvard player.

It’s been a difficult couple months for the Micheletti siblings, Tom, Jim, Andy, Jerry, Joe, Don, Andrea and Pat. Their sister, Jean, died of cancer in March.

“There’s been some big family stuff, but this is a good one,” said Tom Micheletti. “This was an extremely emotional experience to go through and such an ordeal. You have one brother in one room giving his kidney to save another brother’s life.

“But Jerry did it for the baby of the family, which makes it more special. We were kidding, Pat’s been the one babied his whole life and we’re doing it again when he’s 50-something. We can’t seem to stop ourselves.”

Jerry played hockey at the Air Force and is still very much involved with the Air Force.

“When we went into the room to see my Uncle Jerry, he knew all of our names and the first thing he asked was, ‘Did they comb my hair?’ He wanted to look good,” Alex said, laughing. “I’m proud to be part of this big family. I’ve been a nervous wreck, but it’s been really nice to have [my family] here to cheer me up.”

Doctors say Jerry’s kidney was in great condition and is functioning perfectly after surgery. Pat Micheletti, who also has two daughters -- Lindsey and Katie, is awake with family at his side. He is expected to spend a month at Mayo Clinic.

“We got him down to the best medical facility in the world,” Tom Micheletti said. “It’s unbelievable here. There’s just nothing like it anywhere. Just phenomenal.”

“I can’t thank the doctors and nurses here enough,” added Alex. “They’re amazing. They saved my dad.’”

Micheletti was inducted into the University of Minnesota “M” Club Hall of Fame last Oct. 9. The Hibbing native ranks second all-time in Gophers history with 120 goals and 269 points. His 149 assists rank third in the program’s history. His 48 goals and 96 points in 1984-85 rank second for a single season in Gophers history.

That season, Micheletti was First Team All-WCHA, First Team All-America and a Hobey Baker finalist.

Above: Pat Micheletti and his 24-year-old son, Alex, are all smiles after the kidney surgery. Photo courtesy of Alex Micheletti.

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