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Top Line: Inside twisted finances of Devils; Kane's day with Cup; more links

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Ilya Kovalchuk shocked the NHL by leaving, but the Devils' finances may be improved. [Jim McIsaac/Getty Images]

Ilya Kovalchuk shocked the Devils when he abruptly retired from the NHL, but the team's bottom line may be better off without him. [Jim McIsaac/Getty Images]

By Allan Muir

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

• Remember the whispers that suggested New Jersey might be secretly thrilled that Ilya Kovalchuk bolted to Russia because it took them off the hook for his contract? Those rumors may have been right on the nose. Thomas Zambito has an amazing story about just how bad things were for the Devils before the team was sold earlier this month. If the allegations made in a trail of lawsuits are to be believed, their decline wasn't simply a matter of poor management. It was much, much worse.

• Coincidentally, life without Kovy is one of the themes pondered over at as the Devils are today's 30-in-30 spotlight team. Good timing, eh?

• Sounds like Kovalchuk still has his eye on returning to North America. Well, unless they've changed the name of the KHL's championship trophy (which would be kind of genius, if you think about it).

Patrick Kane returned home to Buffalo and spent much of his day with the Stanley Cup at a local air force base. Kid actually seems to be growing up, doesn't he?

• Kane is one of eight members of the Blackhawks heading to Olympic orientation camps today in Washington and Calgary.

• 16-year-old Connor McDavid made an impression on several NHL vets at the annual BioSteel camp. Can we go ahead and start planning the "Be A Goner For Connor" campaign now ahead of the 2015 draft?

• And with this, Patton Oswalt launched a series of tweets about "Slap Shot" last night. He's a fan. Note: Some of it is NSFW.

• David Alter reported that concerns over performance slippage are bogging down contract talks between the Maple Leafs and RFA Nazem Kadri. Kadri then took exception to that take on Twitter. Fun's just starting, folks.

• Steve Simmons agrees that Kadri is being unreasonable and touches on a few other hot topics in his Sunday notes column.

• Back in the pre-internet days, I used to spend $4 to get a three-day-old copy of the Sunday Boston Globe every week just to read what Kevin Dupont had to say about the world of hockey. Always a good investment. His Sunday column is usually hidden behind a paywall these days, but it's out there for one and all today. Enjoy his thoughts on Tim Thomas, P.J. Axelsson, Hal Gill and more.

• Only Adrian Dater could live blog the viewing of a 13-year-old Avalanche game on VHS ...because who else still owns a VHS player, right? The dusty clash between the Avs and Yotes brings up some great memories, including tips on buying beer for famous athletes, wooing Alex Rodriguez and the sad story of Bobby Francis. It's really great stuff.

Corey Crawford, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jonathan Bernier and J-S Giguere tried out the new, shorter leg pads this week. Doesn't sound like they were too happy about 'em.

• And this is how a Twitter war between two NHL players gets started on a Saturday night. #gettheseguysadate

• Don Cherry has some thoughts on Mikhail Grabovski's new deal. You might be surprised by what he has to say...unless you've ever heard him speak before.

• With Grabbo wrapped up, the attention in Washington now shifts back to RFA forward Marcus Johansson. I keep hearing whispers that he might be dealt if the stalemate continues much longer...

• Did anyone else know that Petr Nedved is still playing hockey? Because I sure didn't. (note: you'll need to fire up the ol' Google Translate for this one.)

• So, apparently Igor Larionov was one of those "cool" professors.

• Sweden will be loading up with fresh faces for the Sochi Olympics, especially on a blueline that could be one of the youngest in the tournament.

• Randy Sportak writes that coaching and management, not the forwards, will be Canada's biggest strength in Sochi.

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