Top Line: Johansen-Jackets talks improve; Kings cash in, more links
An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• Maybe a bridge contract isn't such a “slap in the face” after all. The agent for RFA center Ryan Johansen forwarded a two-year contract proposal to the Blue Jackets on Sunday, suggesting that the two sides might be able to put the acrimony aside and get down to business soon.
• Ken Campbell offers his thoughts on the Johansen situation, along with his concerns about how the Blackhawks will use Brad Richards and rumors that Mike Babcock is scaring free agents away from the Red Wings. He might be on to something with Richards, but ultimately it'll be the veteran center's ability to move the puck quickly that will matter more than the speed of his feet.
• Not many Predators stick around Nashville in the offseason, but Seth Jones decided it was the right choice for him. The fourth pick in the 2013 draft talks about how he's improving himself and giving back to the community during his down time.
• New Penguins coach Mike Johnston got a lot more than a full belly out of a recent lunch with Sidney Crosby. Johnston is looking to forge the same kind of personal connection with Evgeni Malkin, so he's off to Moscow next week. Johsnton discussed the importance of this effort, his first impressions of Pittsburgh and more in a wide-ranging interview with Josh Yohe.
• The Kings are reaping the financial benefits of their mini-dynasty. The team has a new, more prominent radio home and has sold out of season tickets. Not bad for a non-traditional market, eh?
• Things could get very ugly as James Reimer and Cody Franson plead their arbitration cases with the Maple Leafs. Neither player is considered part of the team's core and both are coming off less than perfect seasons.
• The Oilers haven't finalized their plans for top prospect Darnell Nurse, but one knowledgeable hockey man says it would be a mistake to send the 19-year-old back to junior hockey. That puts Edmonton in a tough spot. Nurse may have mastered the OHL, but that doesn't mean that he is ready to play a regular shift in the NHL.
• The Blackhawks are no strangers to playing outdoors, but that hasn't dampened their enthusiasm ahead of the 2015 Winter Classic. They'll be visiting Washington to play the Capitals on New Year's Day.