By Allan Muir
An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• All those years spent in the basement are starting to pay off for the Oilers and Avalanche, but which team made the most of its misery by building hockey's best core of young prospects?
• The Blackhawks let Stanley Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi walk after their 2010 championship. GM Stan Bowman had no intention of doing the same with Corey Crawford. But was Crawford's new six-year, $36 million deal a smart move? Both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are coming up on big deals, and even with the cap expected to go up next season, there will be only so much room. Bowman seems to have a lot of faith in a goalie with one great season on his resumé.
• All that talk about Alex Ovechkin defecting to the KHL? Wishful thinking by the Russian league, writes Katie Carrera.
• Sovietsky Sport has an interview with KHL boss Alexander Medvedev that's worth reading. Here's a comically bad translation via Google that sort of gets the main points across, as well as the names of seven KHL players whose wages aren't counted under the league's salary cap. Nothing sketchy about that, right? Guessing you can name at least one of them . . .
• Loui Eriksson skated with the Bruins for the first time yesterday and it sounds like he made himself right at home.
• The Penguins are $1.1 million over the cap and have eight defensemen under NHL contracts. Matt Niskanen has done the math and knows he's likely the odd man out. He could be gone as part of a trade either before, or shortly into, training camp.
• Looking to get pumped up about the Lightning's chances this season? Don't talk to coach Jon Cooper.
• Sabres prospect Mikhail Grigorenko spent the summer working out in Buffalo, in part as a way to shake his reputation for lacking commitment. He explains how he prepared himself for this coming season and why he's ready to be a significant contributor.
• John Kreiser offers up a list of the seven players who are most willing to sacrifice their bodies for their teams.
• Cam Charron has some thoughts on the composition of Team Canada and how to define a "role player."
• Jimmy Howard's ringing endorsement of the new Team USA jerseys: "I didn't think they were too bad, actually, except for..."
• These aren't official Red Wings jerseys -- at least, not yet -- but they'd make a pretty sweet third, don't you think? For now, they're being used by the team's alumni for a charity game held in conjunction with Detroit's rookie training camp.
• The sons of two former Canucks are lining up together with a similar goal in mind.
• Not every hockey player heads for the golf course after retiring from the NHL. Here's how one former Canadien is spending his second life.
• The Senators lost three right wings over the summer and brought in only one. That's good news for high-scoring prospect Mark Stone.
• Hockey isn't the only skill that Ottawa center Mika Zibanejad worked on this summer. Which is awesome because the world needs more DJs.
• Did the Stars replace the leadership of Brenden Morrow by signing Shawn Horcoff? If not, Horcoff will at least fill the role for Dallas of a highly paid (if low producing) top-six forward.
• This has to be one of the best hockey tattoos ever.