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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Talking trade, draft; Could this be Dino's year?

Posted by: Michael Russo under Vikings draft, Wild news, Wild off-season news Updated: June 20, 2010 - 12:58 PM

Updated again: I received an email from a reader about this and it got me thinking, which I clearly wasn't a few days ago. I just wanted to jump on regarding the Brent Flahr story yesterday. In the lead, I may have been way too tongue-in-cheek. Brent was not trying to kill Shep Harder, trust me. It's not like Shep's reaction to mayo is a closed throat or something. To be blunt, it's a mild laxative (now Shep will kill me).

But I wanted to make clear that I understand how serious food allergies are and the dangers, and am not condoning fooling around with food allergies. And neither is Flahr. I was just trying to write a light-hearted profile on Flahr just to introduce you to the second person in Wild history leading the draft table. Just a bad lead, but hopefully you learned a little bit about Flahr beyond the poor first few paragraphs. Apologies if I ticked anybody off. We'll move on.

Updated, fixing typos and such from 38,000 feet somewhere over somewhere

Happy Father's Day everybody. I'm heading out of town in a few hours, so I wanted to freshen up the blog.

Big, newsy day in the NHL yesterday, and I'd suspect yesterday and the Jaroslav Halak trade a few days back is a precursor to what might be a busy week in the NHL in terms of the trade market.

The Nashville Predators traded the rights to free agent defenseman Dan Hamhuis to the Philadelphia Flyers for Ryan Parent, then moved Jason Arnott back to his old New Jersey Devils for a prospect and 2011 second-round pick.

Both certainly foreshadow bigger news to come for at least both those specific teams. The Flyers have to dump salary now if they want to sign Hamhuis, so that'll be a veteran. Now will it be center Jeff Carter, who many teams including the Wild covet, or will it be somebody like Simon Gagne or Daniel Briere or Matt Carle or even playoff stud Scottie Hartnell? We will see this week.

Also, Preds GM David Poile has to be gearing up for something bigger. We will see, but the one thing about the Preds, they've got the reserve list (i.e. minor leaguers and prospects) to do something big. Great drafting, GMing there.

As for your Wild, GM Chuck Fletcher's trying, but as he's said repeatedly, he's not go ing to make a splash just for the sake of making a splash. His next move has got to be the right move, which is why he's also being so patient.

Just to give you an example, Florida GM Dale Tallon is aggressively shopping Nathan Horton around the league, including to the Wild. Horton will almost certainly be traded before his no-trade clause kicks in July 1.

If Fletcher wanted the goal scorer, he could probably get him and I'm sure he's contemplated it. But since Horton's got three years left at $4 million, $4.5 million and $5.5 million and the Wild needs a center more than a winger, Fletcher, I think, wants to be sure there are no other better moves to be made.

In other words, if the Wild doesn't unload significant cap dollars, the Wild's next move for that kind of salary could be its last for awhile. So you trade for Horton, and it could take the Wild out of other things this week, later in the summer or even a year from now. So he's got to be sure the next trade is the perfect fit since it will inhibit him for some time in terms of salary-cap flexibility.

And again, while Horton surely would help the Wild's top-6 if he gets back to being the talented 30-goal guy he is and rediscovers a love for the game that can sometimes be dissipated playing in Florida, the Wild really needs a center. I covered Horton down in Florida, and he's definitely a winger in the NHL and I think feels the most comfortable on wing.

Currently, the Wild’s salary-cap hit for 16 players next season is $46,227,693 (not including youngsters vying for spots like Casey Wellman, Marco Scandella and Nate Prosser). That leaves about $12 million of cap space, and part of that will go to restricted free agents Guillaume Latendresse and Josh Harding (if he's not traded).

That technically leaves $12 million of cap space, but no way Fletcher spends his way all the way up to the cap. No GM should. You have to save room for in-season tinkering and also, the ability to have injury callups. So in reality, without any trades, the Wild's cap space is less.

There are ways to create more flexibility. For instance, maybe a guy like James Sheppard (803K) is moved at some point or if he doesn't warrant a roster spot is sent to the minors in September.

I'll write more about free agency next week, but I've gotten lots of questions about whether the Wild is going to make a splash. Unless Fletcher dumps serious dollars this week, they just don't have the salary-cap room to go after, say, an Ilya Kovalchuk. And quite frankly, until Mikko Koivu is inked to an extension, I just don't see the Wild willing to commit long-term dollars to anybody unless it's via trade where the salary cap is somewhat offset.

If the Wild can't make any trades this week, it'll have to be a little more active in the free-agent market than it wants to, but again, I'll write after that after the draft and before free agency.

As for the draft, I'll write a lot about it this week. I'll also start talking more specifically about prospects that could be chosen around where the Wild current selects (9) this week.

 

Lastly, I'm going to put this up now because unless there's news today or Monday, my next blog will probably be Tuesday -- the day the Wild schedule is released. Also, this year's class of Hall of Fame inductees will be announced Tuesday.

Here's a list of eligible players (first-year eligible and other eligible players). Joe Nieuwendyk probably has the best chance of the first-year eligible players to get in this year (564 goals, 3 Cups, 3 different teams).

This is not the strongest class -- at least the least-strongest since the year after the lockout. So could this finally be Dino Ciccarelli's year? There are 18 600-goal scorers in the history of the league and Ciccarelli and Dave Andreychuk are the only eligible 600-goal scorers who aren't in the Hall. That's a ton of goals.

I reached out to Dino, but he'd prefer not to say anything prior to the selection committee meeting and announcement Tuesday. Here's his bio on the HHOF web site. By the way, I think I mentioned in April, but I actually watched Game 7 of the Phoenix-Detroit series with Dino in western Florida at Columbus play-by-play guy Jeff Rimer's home. Dino still looks like he can strap on the skates.

Could this maybe be Phil Housley's year? He's the highest-scoring American defenseman ever. How about Doug Gilmour or Adam Oates (1,400-points each)?

Back to Dino, here's a feature I wrote on him prior to the 2006 Hall of Fame selection committee meeting. Sadly, his dad's since passed away. But you can tell in here how honored he'd be to become a member of the Hall. The feature, incidentally, is unedited out of my word files, so forgive me if you find errors. Again, it's dated, so that's why a guy like Bryan Murray is Ided as Ottawa's coach and not GM.
 

 
By Michael Russo
 
For hours upon hours, Dino Ciccarelli sits at his father’s bedside in Sarnia, Ont., and reflects.
Benito Ciccarelli, known to all as Vic, is 70, has been in out of the hospital and is dying. What began as stomach cancer has spread to his lungs. In a few weeks, he’ll check into the Mayo Clinic for alternative cancer treatments.
“But he doesn’t have a lot of time left,” Ciccarelli said.
Which is why potential news that could come Wednesday would be so special.
For the fourth year in a row, Ciccarelli, who began a magnificent 19-year-career in 1980 with the North Stars, is eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame. The selection committee meets Wednesday, and a campaign has begun in hockey’s most influential circles to try to finally push the only eligible 600-goal scorer not in the Hall into the Hall.
“It’s very important he makes it this year,” said Lou Nanne, who signed Ciccarelli in 1978 after he went undrafted because of a shattered leg as a 16-year-old. “I’d like to see him make it while his dad’s still living, but the main reason is he should have already been in there.”
Ciccarelli’s father immigrated to Canada from Italy in the 1950s. With no money, Vic did every odd job imaginable to save enough money to bring over his wife, Celeste.
He was a welder and a plumber. He laid pipe and worked at a gas station.
“I think it’s why I was never satisfied as a hockey player and always pushed for more,” said Ciccarelli. “I didn’t care how big opponents were or how much it hurt, I wanted to stick my nose in the there.
“Dad did anything to make money, to support his family. He’s been my biggest fan, from supporting me, to teaching me, to pushing me hard. He drove me pretty hard. He’s meant everything.”
Nanne knows this could be Ciccarelli’s last genuine shot to get into the Hall of Fame for awhile. Next year, Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Al MacInnis, Scott Stevens and Igor Larionov are eligible. Soon, Brett Hull will be eligible. 
Four players can get in a year, and this year, only Patrick Roy is considered a sure bet. Ciccarelli, Glenn Anderson and Doug Gilmour are the next contenders.
“The guy has better credentials than many people in the Hall of Fame,” Nanne said. “And this kid’s not only among the greatest goal scorers ever, but he scored among the biggest goals ever. He had a career of coming through in the clutch.”
Despite lots of playoff success, Ciccarelli was never able to win a Stanley Cup. That’s why the Hall of Fame would mean so much.
“I’d certainly cherish it if I could enjoy it with my dad,” Ciccarelli, 46, said. “I wasn’t able to share [a Stanley Cup] with my dad, and this would be something I could share with him.”
Right from his first year when he helped march the North Stars into the Stanley Cup Finals with 14 goals and 21 points (still a rookie playoff record), Ciccarelli became one of the gutsiest goal scorers in history.
At 5-foot-10, Ciccarelli parked himself in front of the net and was impervious to cross-checks, jabs and slashes, which is why he was a fan favorite in the five cities he played and despised in virtually every opposing rink.
“Defensemen could do anything they wanted to you back then,” said NHL vet Mark Parrish, a former Blooming Jefferson standout. “Dino got into that dirty area, that garbage area and showed as much courage in front of the net as I’ve ever seen.”
Parrish, who has topped 20 goals in six of seven NHL seasons, wanted to be a Dino clone from the moment he saw him at the old Met Center.
“The first goal I ever scored as a kid, I lifted my knee and pumped my arm just like Dino did,” said Parrish, who was fortunate to be a rookie teammate of Ciccarelli’s during his final year with the Florida Panthers.
“He had a million different drills that he loved to do in front of the net, and he let me tag along with him right from my first practice,” Parrish said. “I was so lucky. He groomed me on how to play in front of the net.”
Still, despite 608 goals, 1,200 points, 1,232 games and equally impressive playoff numbers, Ciccarelli’s not in the Hall of Fame.
Character is the big debate. He had indiscretions and brushes with the law.
In 1987, he pleaded guilty to indecent exposure. In 1988, he was suspended 10 games and spent a few hours in jail for hitting Luke Richardson over the head with his stick.
Asked if he feels character is why he’s not in the Hall yet, Ciccarelli said, “That’s not for me to say. I don’t know. I got myself into pathetic situations in my career, so possibly.”
Ottawa Senators coach Bryan Murray, who traded for Ciccarelli in Detroit and Florida after coaching him in Washington, said character’s the issue.
“This is a great player, but anytime off-ice issues occur, people are concerned,” Murray said. “I do think it’s held him back.”
Nanne hopes not, saying, “Too many things are involved with those issues that shouldn’t come into play. He’s a helluva guy, a real good guy, a considerate guy, a kind person. Everybody’s got some faults. He might have a couple, but I can promise you, there are others in the Hall of Fame who’s had some faults.”
Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman, who coached Ciccarelli with the Red Wings, is on the selection committee. He says the Ciccarelli character debate is a “non-issue. I’ve never heard a word.”
Bowman, who had to be cryptic if he feels Ciccarelli’s a Hall of Famer because he’s on the committee, said, “Not many have the stats that Dino has. He’ll get a lot of consideration. He’s something every team needs – fearlessness, never intimidated, competitiveness, tenancity.”
Ciccarelli won;t get his hopes up.
“The last three years, I got a lot of calls saying, “It’s this year. It’s this year. This is your year,” said Ciccarelli, who owns the OHL Sarnia Sting and lives in Harrison Township, Mich. “So I’m trying not to think about it, but it’d be an honor, sure.”
Parrish feels it’s about time.
“Six hundred goals,” Parrish said. “If that doesn’t get you into the Hall of Fame, I don’t know what does.”

 

 

But I wanted to make clear that I understand how serious food allergies are and the dangers, and am not condoning fooling around with food allergies. And neither is Flahr. I was just trying to write a light-hearted profile on Flahr just to introduce you to the second person in Wild history leading the draft table. Just a bad lead, but hopefully you learned a little bit about Flahr beyond the poor first few paragraphs. Apologies if I ticked anybody off. We'll move on.

 

Updated again: I received an email from a reader about this and it got me thinking, which I clearly wasn't a few days ago. I just wanted to jump on regarding the Brent Flahr story yesterday. In the lead, I may have been way too tongue-in-cheek. Brent was not trying to kill Shep Harder, trust me. It's not like Shep's reaction to mayo is a closed throat or something. To be blunt, it's a mild laxative (now Shep will kill me).
But I wanted to make clear that I understand how serious food allergies are and the dangers, and am not condoning fooling around with food allergies. And neither is Flahr. I was just trying to write a light-hearted profile on Flahr just to introduce you to the second person in Wild history leading the draft table. Just a bad lead, but hopefully you learned a little bit about Flahr beyond the poor first few paragraphs. Apologies if I ticked anybody off. We'll move on.
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