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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Granlund soaring; Solar Bears win 1st home game in 11 years; Gophers slip to No.2; Fehr's latest letter

Posted by: Michael Russo under Bears, Gophers, Wild off-season news Updated: October 22, 2012 - 1:21 PM

Good weekend for the Wild.

It stayed unbeaten so to speak and the Wild’s prospects, who fill the Houston Aeros to the brim, picked up five of a possible six points by scoring 14 goals in back-to-back-to-back nights.
 
The Aeros swept the Texas Stars in a home-and-home, then lost to the Milwaukee Admirals at home in overtime. Nick Palmieri, who scored three goals over the weekend, tied the game in the last minute to force overtime.
 
Remember, Palmieri, acquired in the Marek Zidlicky trade last season with New Jersey, is a Wild restricted free agent who signed an AHL contract before the season.
 
Seventeen skaters registered at least a point over the weekend, with Mikael Granlund scoring two goals and two assists in Saturday’s win over Texas. Also in that game, Darcy Kuemper returned to the nets after season-ending shoulder surgery last year. The former Western Hockey League Player of the Year and Canadian Hockey League Goalie of the Year stopped 24 of 27 shots for the victory.
 
Matt Hackett was in the cage for the other two games.
 
Also this past weekend, Marco Scandella had five assists, Kris Foucault scored twice, Jason Zucker and Brian Connelly had a goal and two assists each, Jonas Brodin had a goal and assist and Chad Rau and Johan Larsson had two assists each.
 
Zack Phillips also scored his first professional goal. Charlie Coyle scored his second.
 
So, all in all, a good weekend for the Aeros, who responded from losing their first two games opening weekend.
 
“The important thing for all these guys is how they’re playing and adapting to the pro game,” Aeros GM Jim Mill, the Wild’s assistant to the GM. “We’re a really young team. There will be ups and downs, but the most important thing is how the kids grow from this pro hockey experience.”
 
Zucker was injured Saturday. He sustained an upper-body injury, Mill said, and is seeing the doctor today in Houston. Mill hopes it isn’t serious. Brett Bulmer was scratched Sunday, and with such depth down there, Mill said there is a bit of a rotation “because we want everybody playing.”
 
Granlund, who scored four goals in the last preseason game at Oklahoma City, is tied for fourth in the AHL with seven points in five regular-season games. Granlund is the top-scoring rookie so far in the AHL. Scandella is tied for second in the AHL with six assists. Zucker is tied for 10th in the AHL with 18 shots.
 
In a Minnesota note, Minnetonka’s Jake Gardiner, who had a terrific rookie year for the Maple Leafs last season, leads the league with 21 shots and has two goals and four points for the Marlies.
 
The Aeros next play Friday at Oklahoma City, a team led by Oilers studs Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz. Schultz, who had the Wild as one of his finalists prior to leaving Wisconsin and signing with Edmonton, is off to a roaring start. The defenseman has four goals, six points and is plus-6 in four games.
 
When the Aeros traveled there in the preseason, Houston’s bus broke down on the long drive up. That at least led for some bonding and a first funny American League stories for a lot of the rooks.
 
-- Also, the Orlando Solar Bears, the Wild’s ECHL affiliate, is off to a 2-1-1 start. Sean Lorenz scored the shootout winner Saturday against the Florida Everblades for Orlando’s first home win since the 2001 IHL Turner Cup. Former Solar Bears captain and Wild coach Todd Richards was there for the opening festivities.
 
In Saturday’s win, Kyle Medvec also scored in the shootout. Medvec has a goal and three assists this season, Josh Caron scored also for the Solar Bears and Nick Petersen, on an AHL deal from the Wild, leads the team with nine points. Minnesota’s own John Curry has been in the cage in all four games.
 
-- In other Wild news, as I mentioned last week, it’s official: Captain Mikko Koivu has returned to Finland to play for his old team and the team he owns a piece of, TPS in Turku.
 
-- Also, remember, the Defending the Blue Line charity game is Sunday at 7 p.m. at Mariucci Arena. For information on tickets and for an updated list of players who have committed to playing, go to www.mygophersports.com and www.defendingtheblueline.org.
 

-------------------------------------------

In Gophers news, check out yesterday’s blog for two commitments from recruits. The Gophers split this past weekend at Michigan Tech, with Don Lucia winning his 600th game as a college hockey coach on Saturday. Lucia is the 10th coach to win 600 games, the ninth to do so exclusively with Division I schools.

That split cost the Gophers the top spot in both the USCHO.com and USAToday/USA Hockey Magazine poll. They fell to No. 2 and Boston College overtook them.
 
The Gophers play to host the U.S. Under-18 team in an exhibition Friday and host Canisius on Sunday at 1 p.m.
 
Here's the USA Today/USA Hockey poll, with points, first-place votes in parentheses, last week's ranking, record and weeks in the top 15:

1 Boston College, 477 (18) 3 2-1-0 4
2 University of Minnesota, 461 (11) 1 3-1-0 4
3 Miami University, 405 (3) 4 3-0-1 4
4 University of North Dakota, 387 2 1-1-0 4
5 University of Denver, 358 (1) 8 2-0-0 4
6 University of Michigan, 347 6 2-1-0 4
7 Cornell University, 269 5 0-0-0 4
8 Union College, 260 (1) 7 2-1-0 4
9 University of Notre Dame, 226 10 3-1-0 4
10 Western Michigan University, 185 12 3-1-0 4
11 University of New Hampshire, 176 NR 3-0-0 1
12 UMass Lowell, 165 9 1-1-1 4
13 Boston University, 89 11 1-1-0 4
14 University of Minnesota Duluth, 77 13 2-2-0 4
15 Northern Michigan University, 56 15 3-1-0 2
Others receiving votes: Colorado College, 35; Harvard University, 32; St. Lawrence University, 27; Northeastern University, 13; University of Nebraska-Omaha, 12; Quinnipiac University, 12; Ferris State University, 8; Minnesota State University, 2; United States Air Force Academy, 1.
 
In the big WCHA news of the day, Wisconsin freshman forward Nic Kerdiles said he'll stay with the Badgers and serve a 10-game suspension.  The second-round Anaheim Ducks choice can play Nov. 30.  Kerdiles was originally suspended for the season by the NCAA for improper contact with an agent, but had that suspension knocked down to 10 games on appeal.
 
-------------------------------------------
 
In lockout news, the sides reportedly talks yesterday, but no meetings have been scheduled yet. Remember, Wednesday is the deadline the NHL says an agreement must be reached, or an 82-game schedule cannot begin Nov. 2.
 
Last week, after the NHL rejected three proposals from the union, the union claimed the third was a 50-50 proposal immediately as long as owners honored all contracts. Players then took to Twitter and bashed the league for turning down such a deal. Donald Fehr admitted though at the presser that he never ran the numbers, and as you can see by the letter he wrote to the players that I have obtained, the third proposal is not quite what it was described as:
 
Breakdown of NHLPA Proposal: Oct. 19th Memo from Don Fehr
Friday October 19, 2012

Here is a brief summary of the three core-economic proposals we made yesterday. Each has the players’ share declining over the life of the agreement. Each of the proposals has substantial cost reductions – lower player salaries – that would be realized by the owners. However, we maintained our position that given the concessions made by the players in the last agreement, and the 7 years of record revenue which followed, there is no reason for the absolute amount of the players’ share to be reduced.
Under the owners’ most recent proposal – a 12.3% reduction in the players’ share – compensation is reduced by about $1.65 Billion over the 6 year agreement they propose, if HRR grows at only 5%. ( The owners say that future growth will only average 5%, even though that is well below the 7.2% average since the last lockout, much less the 10.2% and 9.6% of the last two seasons.) At 7.2% growth, the share falls by about nearly $1.80 Billion over that period. We have proposed a 5 year agreement. The NHL proposals over 5 years would reduce the players share by $1.34 Billion at 5% and $1.43 Billion at 7.2%.
We gave them three alternative proposals.
Option 1: This is a revision of a previous proposal. We would see a fixed player share the first three years of 1.92 Billion, 1.98 Billion and then 2.06 Billion. After that, the players share is frozen until revenues reached $4.12 Billion (that is, when 2.06 Billion is 50% of HRR). After revenues reach $4.12 Billion, the players share is 50% of HRR (plus a small increment if yearly growth exceeds the predicted 5% -- 57% of revenue above 5% and 61% of revenue above 7.2%).
Here is what this looks like at 5% growth:
   
Players
Players
Owner
 
 
HRR
Share ($)
Share (%)
Savings
Share Growth
2011/12
$ 3,303
$ 1,883
     
2012/13
$ 3,468
$ 1,920
55.4%
$ 57
2.0%
2013/14
$ 3,642
$ 1,980
54.4%
$ 96
3.1%
2014/15
$ 3,824
$ 2,060
53.9%
$ 119
4.0%
2015/16
$ 4,015
$ 2,060
51.3%
$ 228
0.0%
2016/17
$ 4,216
$ 2,108
50.0%
$ 295
2.3%
 
$ 19,164
$ 10,128
 
$ 796
 
At 7.2 % growth, salaries fall by more than $1.1 Billion.
       
Owner
 
 
HRR
Share ($)
Share (%)
Savings
Share Growth
2011/12
$ 3,303
$ 1,883
     
2012/13
$ 3,541
$ 1,920
54.2%
$ 98
2.0%
2013/14
$ 3,796
$ 1,980
52.2%
$ 184
3.1%
2014/15
$ 4,069
$ 2,060
50.6%
$ 259
4.0%
2015/16
$ 4,362
$ 2,205
50.6%
$ 281
7.1%
2016/17
$ 4,676
$ 2,370
50.7%
$ 295
7.5%
 
$ 20,444
$ 10,536
 
$ 1,117
 
Option 2: Option 2 is similar in its effects. Simply, the players share will grow each year by 24.7% of any HRR increase (down from the current 57%). If HRR growth is at the 5% rate the owners predict, then the players share falls to 50% in year 5. At 7.2% the share falls faster. (After revenues reach 4.216 Billion, the players would also receive the same small increment of yearly growth as in Option 1.)
At 5% growth, this proposal produces:
   
Players
Players
Owner
 
 
HRR
Share ($)
Share (%)
Savings
Share Growth
2011/12
$ 3,303
$ 1,883
     
2012/13
$ 3,468
$ 1,924
55.5%
$ 53
2.2%
2013/14
$ 3,642
$ 1,967
54.0%
$ 109
2.2%
2014/15
$ 3,824
$ 2,012
52.6%
$ 168
2.3%
2015/16
$ 4,015
$ 2,059
51.3%
$ 230
2.3%
2016/17
$ 4,216
$ 2,108
50.0%
$ 294
2.4%
 
$ 19,164
$ 10,069
 
$ 854
 
And if HRR grows at the historical rate of 7.2 %:
   
Players
Players
Owner
 
 
HRR
Share ($)
Share (%)
Savings
Share Growth
2011/12
$ 3,303
$ 1,883
     
2012/13
$ 3,541
$ 1,942
54.8%
$ 77
3.1%
2013/14
$ 3,796
$ 2,005
52.8%
$ 159
3.2%
2014/15
$ 4,069
$ 2,072
50.9%
$ 247
3.4%
2015/16
$ 4,362
$ 2,205
50.6%
$ 281
6.4%
2016/17
$ 4,676
$ 2,370
50.7%
$ 295
7.5%
 
$ 20,444
$ 10,594
 
$ 1,059
 
Option 3: This idea proceeds from an entirely different approach. We take two principles of this negotiation: the owners stated desire to reduce the players share to 50% of HRR, and the Players position that there is no reason to go backwards. This proposal bases that second principle on existing player contracts, not the players’ share. Here is how it works:
·         A reduction to 50% from 57% of HRR is a 12.3% cut (that is, 7/57), but the loss in an individual player’s salary would be about 13%. (This is because benefit costs do not fall and these come off the top.)
·         The owners honor all existing player contracts. We do this by dividing an existing contract, on a yearly basis, into two separate parts: the 13% and the remaining 87% . The 13% is paid to the player in any event, and it is not counted in the players share and is also off the cap.
·         The remaining 87% of existing contracts, plus all new contracts, go into the players’ share (plus all benefits). Thus constructed, the players share will become 50% of HRR, immediately.
·         This means that an individual player under an existing contract would receive the 13% segregated, plus a normal payment, subject to escrow, of 87% of his salary. A player with a new contract would have 100% of his salary subject to the 50/50 split. However, since the 13% of existing contracts are off the cap, this should create more cap space, which will be important as the cap will be squeezed.
·         Over time, the existing contracts expire, and the share will fall towards 50%. Below is a chart showing the anticipated savings, but these could be greater if there are a significant number of buyouts.
At the owners’ predicted 5% rate of growth:
       
Players
Players
Owner
 
"old"
13%
 
HRR
Share ($)
Share (%)
Savings
Share Growth
contracts
"old"
2011/12
$ 3,303
$ 1,883
     
1,776
231
2012/13
$ 3,468
$ 1,965
56.7%
$ 12
4.4%
1,246
162
2013/14
$ 3,642
$ 1,983
54.4%
$ 93
0.9%
746
97
2014/15
$ 3,824
$ 2,009
52.5%
$ 171
1.3%
503
65
2015/16
$ 4,015
$ 2,073
51.6%
$ 216
3.2%
286
37
2016/17
$ 4,216
$ 2,145
50.9%
$ 258
3.5%
     
$ 19,164
$ 10,174
 
$ 749
 
Our hope was that the owners would find one of these three approaches worthy of serious discussion, but the owners rejected these ideas in less than 15 minutes, and further advised the players that their last offer was, in essence, a take it or leave it offer, subject to “tweaks only”. That proposal contains, as you know, an immediate reduction in the share to 50%, a 2012-13 cap with a 51.9M mid-point, and, among other things, player contracting provisions including a change in the ELS, a reduction in salary arbitration eligibility, no UFA status until after 8 years or at age 28, no contract longer than 5 years, no contract may have a year to year variability of greater than 5%, and all money paid under NHL contracts to players playing in the minors or in Europe counts against the team cap (except for the first $105,000 per player).
Last, there is the “make whole” provision of their last offer. In short, player compensation which is below the players share total of last season would be “deferred” and paid out over time, except that the players share in subsequent years would be reduced by the amount of all such “make whole” payments. In other words, players’ salaries in later years are reduced to make these” make whole” payments. Players bear all of the “make whole” costs. At the end of yesterday’s meeting, Gary did say that the players were prepared to agree to all of the other parts of their offer (subject, perhaps, to “tweaks”) then I could call him about this issue.
Please call if you have questions or comments.
Regards.
Don
 

 

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Montana State 63
Columbia 76 FINAL
Brown 85
Charlotte 81 FINAL
FIU 62
Morgan State 77 FINAL
Howard 64
(19) Princeton 83 FINAL
Dartmouth 65
Penn 74 FINAL
Harvard 69
UT Martin 95 FINAL
Murray State 85
Troy 67 FINAL
TX-Arlington 70
Alabama State 51 FINAL
Texas Southern 67
Jacksonville St 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 50
Wyoming 61 FINAL
Nevada 45
Oklahoma St 63 FINAL
Iowa State 62
CS-Bakersfield 69 FINAL
Seattle 62
La Salle 74 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 65
Cal-Irvine 58 FINAL
Cal Poly 74
Fla Gulf Coast 67 FINAL
Northern Ky 46
Southern Utah 64 FINAL
Northern Ariz 73
Green Bay 64 FINAL
Illinois-Chicago 45
Cal State Fullerton 70 FINAL
Long Beach St 74
CS-Northridge 49 FINAL
Hawaii 64
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