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Top Line: NHL free agents wooed; Penguins gong show; more links

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Sniper Thomas Vanek's free agency stock took a big hit after his lackluster performance during the playoffs. Is Minnesota still interested?

An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories: 

• The NHL's free-agent interview period starts today, and it's a game-changer for the players. "The idea is to get a head start on finding out who is interested, to talk about potential destinations," says one agent. "This period has really taken away the shotgun element to this process."

Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, Brad Richards and Dave Bolland are among the players who will be listening to offers from potential suitors over the next few days.

• It's going to be fascinating to see who wants to talk to Thomas Vanek and how interested they are in him. Mike Russo suspects that Vanek might have to settle for a one-year deal if he wants to play in Minnesota.

Are the Blackhawks ready to trade one of their top wingers to bring in the second-line center they desperately need? Nick Kypreos says Patrick Sharp could be on the move, which suggests the player they're looking for in return will be of substantial value.

• Kings goalie Jonathan Quick underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair an issue with his wrist. Will he heal up in time for training camp?

• The gong show that is Pittsburgh's coaching search took another unexpected turn on Tuesday as Portland Winterhawks coach Mike Johnston emerged as a leading candidate to replace Dan Bylsma. No knock on Johnston, but is a junior guy with no NHL head coaching experience really the best choice to turn things around for Crosby, Malkin and company?

• A more circumspect Sidney Crosby talks here about what it means to be named the NHL's Most Valuable Player at 26 as opposed to 19.

Tuukka Rask has the big contract, the stunning numbers, and now a Vezina Trophy. Everything an elite No. 1 goalie could want...except for a Stanley Cup of his own.

• Eric Wilbur says Boston's dominance at the NHL Awards highlights how grossly the Bruins underachieved in the playoffs.

• Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray shies away from attention, but he survived his brush with the awards show spotlight.

The agent for pending UFA Ryan Callahan says talks have been productive with the Lightning, leading to speculation he could re-sign with the team as soon as today. If he ends up sticking around, that gun-to-the-head trade with the Rangers that GM Steve Yzerman pulled off will go down as the year's best next to the Marian Gaborik swap. UPDATE: The Lightning announced this morning that they have signed Callahan to a six-year deal worth $34.8 million.

• The Bolts created the cap space for Callahan by initiating a compliance buyout for troubled winger Ryan Malone.

The Kings re-signed defenseman Matt Greene, which makes sense given the way he played during the team's run to the Cup. But his deal soaks up a lot of cap space, leaving less to get Gaborik back in the fold. This could mean the end of the line for Willie Mitchell in L.A.

• If the San Jose Sharks are truly gearing up for a rebuild, they'll be hard pressed to make any significant changes without the cooperation of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. So far, that's not happening.

Paul Stastny intends to test the market as a free agent next week, but says he'll give the Avalanche a call when he gets a feel for what other teams are offering. Nice of him to offer the team that courtesy, but if Colorado insists on staying between $5-6 million, he's as good as gone.

• The Hurricanes took a chance on free-agent forward Nathan Gerbe last fall and it paid off for the club. Now it's paying off for Gerbe. 

• Draft prospect Josh Ho-Sang wonders if the color of his skin affects the perception of him as a player. Steve Simmons explores that angle, among others, in an interview with the most controversial player in this year's crop of talent.

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