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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Backstrom back in net vs. Oilers; Talking Da Costa

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: March 30, 2011 - 3:02 PM

Afternoon. Very quick blog because I've got a lot of work to do, and "Russo Radio" tonight at 6:15 on 1500 ESPN, so tune there or be square.

Definitely a lighter atmosphere after practice today. Yes, still a lot of disappointment, but at least some smiles after finally experiencing a W for the first time since March 8 last night.

The Wild has won 15 consecutive home games against the Oilers by a combined 54-19 score. Niklas Backstrom’s 13-0 home mark against Edmonton is the longest current home win streak vs. one team by a goaltender.

Yes, Backstrom is 0-6-1 in his last seven and 1-9-1 in his past 11, by far his worst stretch of his career. In fact, the seven-game losing streak may be a franchise record. Media guide says Dwayne Roloson has a franchise-record six-game losing streak, but not sure right now if Backstrom breaks that or if the overtime loss snapped his losing streak at three. Team's figuring that out, too.

Nevertheless, not a good stretch for Backstrom, but Backstrom's record vs. the Oil is why coach Todd Richards said he's starting over Jose Theodore, who beat St. Louis last night in a shootout.

Richards said Chuck Kobasew, who practiced today, will likely return, so that would mean, I believe, that Casey Wellman would have to be returned to the minors because he's up on emergency conditions. If he stays, I think he has to be officially recalled as 1 of the max 4 post-trade deadline callups.

Lots of rules in that darn CBA, which has clouded my mind today regarding Stephane Da Costa.

I read about 50 passages of the CBA today.

Most interesting thing I found is Da Costa's contract will have to be a 2-year deal like Casey Wellman's because he turns 22 July 11, not Nov. 7.

Don't trust Wikipedia here (I'd change his birthdate if I even knew how to edit wikipedia) or hockeydb.com or countless other sites that have his birthday as Nov. 7.

After doing some researching this morning via calls and emails, when Da Costa first came over from Paris, people confused his 11/7/89 birthday listed in Europe as November 7, not thinking, they flip the months and days there. He was actually born on 7/11 i.e. July 11.

Why's that matter? The magic date for eligibility in the NHL is "what's your age Sept. 15?" Since he'll be 22 by Sept. 15, he gets a 2-year deal. If it was Nov. 7, it'd be a 3-year deal.

This is good for teams because that means his large cap hit of what could be up to $3.75 million with performance bonuses comes off in two years when he becomes a restricted free agent (that's if he doesn't prove himself obviously. If he does, he'd earn big money on a second contract anyway).

Remember, players only get bonuses in the NHL if you're on an entry-level deal, over 35 or if you're coming off 100-day injuries or more on a one-year deal.

So in the example of Wellman, who burned the first year of his deal last year by playing games with the Wild, he becomes a restricted free agent this summer, so his cap hit should come down.

Da Costa's cap hit is a huge deal right now because in years past, you get a 7.5 percent cushion to exceed the cap for performance bonuses. But in the final year of the collective bargaining agreement (next year), there's no cushion because you can't defer the bonuses hit to the next year's cap since there's no CBA yet.

Why's that a big deal? Because now it limits your other spending because you have to act as if Da Costa or Mikael Granlund or whichever players get A and B bonuses will hit their bonuses. So their cap hit is their cap hit even if they don't reach their hard-to-get bonuses.

If you want to get a bigger sense of what A and B bonuses are, go to nhlpa.com (I believe there's a CBA on there) or search the Internet and read Exhibit 5, pages 260-265.

Basically, the long story short is even though the max for a 2010 entry-level salary is $900,000, you have to account for his potential bonuses in your cap calculation.

I still hear Minnesota, Ottawa and Florida are the frontrunners for Da Costa.

Outstanding blog on Da Costa that I found came from Leafs Nation blogger here

Lastly, remember those Fusion Safety Pads I wrote about from Minneapolis-based Sports Resource Group, they've just arrived at Xcel Energy Center in time for the final three home games and Frozen Four.

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