Thursday September 4th, 2014

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

Gary Bettman finally addressed those pesky expansion rumors on Wednesday, calling them “a complete fabrication.” His biggest problem with the story? That someone could buy a new team for just $350 million. “It undervalues our franchises,” the commissioner said in what was probably the one completely forthright statement he made during the press conference.

• The NHL has yet to hire a permanent replacement for Brendan Shanahan, but Bettman promised that a new Department of Player Safety boss would be in place for the start of the season.

Ranking the NHL expansion options

Sean Gordon notes that it can’t be an accident that the NHL’s major media partners—NBC/Comcast, Bell, Rogers—have ownership stakes in one or more teams, and he wonders when the Canadian communications giant Quebecor will get its own key to the club. Despite all the talk on Wednesday suggesting that there's zero traction on the expansion front, a franchise in Quebec City is a matter of when, not if.

• Are you a subscriber to Rogers' wireless or internet services? For once, you might not be angry to admit it. The company is offering free access to NHL Gamecenter Live through Dec. 31 for all customers. Just don't become an oblivious idiot while you're watching games, walking down the street and into moving traffic, OK?

Good grief. After a summer of intense training, Nathan MacKinnon is described as being more explosive than ever. Pity the poor defenders that he catches flatfooted.

The Bruins just committed six years and $43.5 million to top-line center David Krejci. After trading away potential replacement Tyler Seguin last summer, GM Peter Chiarelli was forced to give Krejci a hefty raise ... but did he have to make him the highest-paid player on the team? 

Daniel Alfredsson took to the ice on Wednesday in Detroit ... but were those his former or future teammates that he was skating with? Alfie has yet to reveal his plans for the coming season and says that his decision is still a couple of weeks away.

Blue Jackets' Ryan Johansen needs a reality check; more notes

• “I understand their position, they understand our position,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said of contract negotiations with free agent Jaden Schwartz. But Armstrong also said, “There is a gap in the level of compensation.” That doesn't sound promising, does it? It's possible that Schwartz could miss time at training camp.

So Cam Ward spent the summer working out and eating carefully. That's great, but will it make him a better goalie for the Hurricanes next season?

Speaking of the 'Canes, they made an interesting front-office addition on Wednesday with the hiring of Joe Nieuwendyk as pro scout and advisor. Nieuwendyk's tenure as the Stars' GM was less than productive, but he's still well thought of in the hockey community. His real value here may be as a sounding board for rookie Carolina GM Ron Francis.

There were a lot of new faces on the ice as the Predators began informal practices on Wednesday. That's one of the beautiful things about these early skates—it's a great way to acclimate the summer's acquisitions to the group so they're comfortable at the start of camp.

Ryan Miller as a member of the Canucks? This is going to take some getting used to.

Miller and Eddie Lack revealed their masks for this season via Twitter on Wednesday. Miller's is meh, but Lack's? That's a bingo!

If Marc-Andre Fleury wants a new contract from the Penguins, he'll have to earn it with a spectacular season.

• Seven months after undergoing knee surgery, Pittsburgh's Pascal Dupuis is close to gaining medical clearance to participate in full hockey workouts, but he's still dealing with side effects from the operation.

• Speaking of lengthy recoveries, there's good news about Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen.

William Douglas speaks with former NHL player Mike Grier about his involvement in USA Hockey's upcoming All-American Prospects Game.

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