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.
Also find Russo on Facebook.
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The Toronto Maple Leafs, expected to be very active in the free-agent market, got the ball rolling today when they acquired goaltender Jonathan Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings for former University of North Dakota standout Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens and a conditional second-round pick.
The Wild, as reported here Saturday, were in the mix for Bernier with the Maple Leafs and Flyers. The Kings were looking for a top prospect from the Wild and at least Darcy Kuemper, sources say.
The Wild continues to talk contract with Niklas Backstrom. He can become a free agent July 5, but the Wild has also been investigating trade options. Remember, salary-cap space is limited as of now. The Wild technically has about $6 million available to spend this summer (that's before potentially re-signing Backstrom, Cal Clutterbuck and Jared Spurgeon), so it's clear the Wild will need to make some trades or execute some buyouts in order to free up more flexibility.
For more on that, see this report.
Things should start to heat up as next Sunday's draft in Newark approaches. GM Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr are available to talk about the draft Monday.
By the way, I will be filling in for Paul Allen on KFAN Monday and Tuesday from 9-noon.
Actor/comedian/Super Trooper Erik Stolhanske will be sitting in with me Tuesday, which will be a hoot.
On these days, I'll have Kevin Falness joining from the Wild Road Tour, likely Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker, Matt Cullen, St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, Vikings sackster Jared Allen, Star Tribune baseball writer Lavelle E. Neal the Third, Fox Sports North's Jamie Hersch and Ben Clymer and some other surprises as well.
Good afternoon or early evening from inside the beautiful University of Phoenix Stadium, where the roof is sadly closed and the Vikings and Cardinals are preparing to drop the puck in a little more than two hours.
Thank goodness, the good folks at the Star Tribune got me a press box seat next to Judd, Chip and Souhan. I think it was 1999, and the Florida Panthers were playing the Coyotes a night or two after the Fiesta Bowl. FSU was playing Tennessee for the national championship, so my old newspaper drafted me at the last second to do the Tennessee sidebar and notebook from the game.
But I was like the sixth reporter from the Sun-Sentinel, so I got the seat in the auxiliary press box on the roof. When the stadium cleared out, it was like 40 degrees out and I literally was writing with frozen finger tips. By the end of that long Panthers road trip, I got walking pneumonia.
Another funny story (at least now): Al Gore was at the game, so afterward, they shut down the lone elevator to the press box. Just picture a hundred out of shape sportswriters huffing and puffing up the stairs.
I remember I wrote a Peerless Price sidebar if I'm not mistaken.
In my Vikings' story tomorrow, I plan to use every hockey cliche imaginable. Brett Favre lit the lamp. Jared Allen stood on his head. Adrian Peterson and Bernard Berrian SPED through the slot.
During the lockout, I covered the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. During one game up in Toronto, I used lines like "Shaq lit the lamp" and "Dwyane Wade stood on his head."
Strangely, I never wrote another Heat game story after that one.
Quick Wild update: The players are spending the day lounging around the hotel, which has been overrun by Vikings purple. It's blinding. I bet the Coyotes are praying a few thousand of these Vikings fans stay over for Monday night's Wild-Coyotes game, you know, to double the crowd size.
Cal Clutterbuck, ill Cal Clutterbuck, wasn't allowed on the Wild team plane last night as not to infect his teammates. But he's feeling better today and was scheduled to catch a Nashville to Phoenix flight to rejoin the team. Team couldn't be infected, but general public, no sweat. No, no, I'm sure he's not contagious
Wonder if Clutterbuck flew a couple regional jets like moi?
OK, talk to you after the morning skates tomorrow, and maybe I'll tweet during tonight's Vikings game.
The Wild's coaches at the very least were going to try to make it over across the parking lot from their hotel.
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