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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Midnight NHLPA disclaimer deadline comes and goes; Wild injury updates; Haula update

Posted by: Michael Russo under Gophers, Wild off-season news Updated: January 3, 2013 - 12:20 AM

UPDATED

A five-hour meeting between the NHL and NHLPA just broke up at 1 a.m. ET and NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr said the sides moved closer together on a few issues but remain apart on others. Still work to be done.

There was a mediator involved in today's meetings. Commissioner Gary Bettman said the sides will meet Thursday morning at the mediator's request.

The good news is Fehr did not hand Commissioner Gary Bettman a letter informing him the union will disclaim interest -- i.e. dissolve, i.e. walk away from representing the players and becoming a "trade association."

That's good news because if the union dissolves, lawsuits could be filed, things become a whole lot more complicated and basically it's completely unknown what could happen next. The season could very well be in peril if that were to happen.

Last month, the players voted to authorize the union to disclaim interest by midnight Jan. 2 if no deal was near.

Since no disclaimer was filed, union reps are still acting on the players' behalf. If that's the case, one would believe there's enough traction to keep on trucking as an actual union.

The big issue today according to multiple reports has been pensions. Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, teams were responsible for 3/4 of the pensions.

As the New York Daily News' Pat Leonard wrote here, "Thursday’s proposal said that the pension plan would be funded from the players’ share of annual revenue, and it also specified that “$50 million of the ‘Make-Whole’ payment amount of $300 million will be allocated and set aside to fund potential underfunding liabilities of the Plan at end of CBA,” according to a document obtained by ESPN.

The NHL and NHLPA therefore are debating which side would be liable to make up the difference in payments if league revenues in any given year do not provide adequate funds to match the players’ projected pension number.
"

Bettman said tonight the pension issue is complicated and the league hopes to satisfy the players.

Again, Bettman has said a deal must be struck by Jan. 11 with the goal to start training camp Jan. 12 and a 48-game season Jan. 19.

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

In Wild injury news if training camp were to start Jan. 12, defenseman Marco Scandella is currently out of Houston's lineup with a groin injury, but he should be ready by the 12th. Jared Spurgeon left Switzerland with a groin injury, but he is back skating.

The length of training camp would determine how many players from Houston come up to Minnesota for a look. Obviously, Scandella and Mikael Granlund will be up to camp, but the Wild will have to gauge if any of its NHL guys have injury issues.

For instance, Pierre-Marc Bouchard is feeling good. But he has been out for more than a year. He hasn't been cleared to play yet and hasn't passed the final big hurdle -- real contact. So would he be able to play right away if there's only a seven-day camp with no exhibition games?

Maybe that opens the door for a Jason Zucker or a Charlie Coyle or a Johan Larsson. All three have been great in Houston. Others playing real well down there up front include Justin Fontaine, who has an upper-body injury, Nick Palmieri and David McIntyre.

If the lockout ends, the Wild will likely sign Palmieri, who is on an AHL deal, to an NHL deal. He has been that good. Nine goals, playing a big man's game, driving the net, using his size, says GM Chuck Fletcher. He's liked McIntyre, too, saying, he's been consistent, a pest, a great penalty killer. He is plus-15.

Today was the eight-week checkup for defenseman Jonas Brodin, who underwent surgery for a broken collarbone. If all went well, the hope was he good intensify his upper-body strength training. He has been skating. But obviously, he would start in Houston some time down the road and isn't a candidate to start with the Wild if there's a season.

More and more players are starting to roll into town in case the season starts. Tom Gilbert, who lives in Madison is back. Devin Setoguchi tweeted he is in town.

Mikko Koivu is back in Finland and only returning if a deal is struck.

In Gophers news, I'll be at availability Thursday, but I had Don Lucia on KFAN today and he said Erik Haula will likely miss at least the next 3 games. The hope is he is back by the North Dakota series Jan. 18-19.

Remember, the world junior championships continue in the wee hours of Thursday morning with a 3 a.m. semifinal showdown between Canada and the U.S. It's on NHL Network and NHL.com live.

Be there or be square.

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