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Top Line: NHL centers rake in bucks; hockey in a war zone; more links

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

Derick Brassard got paid on Sunday night to the tune of five years and $25 million. It's a significant commitment to a player who has been more effective since joining the Rangers, but who still struggles with consistency and has a low ceiling. Yet as we've seen this summer, centers are going to get paid ... especially if teams are buying up years of a player's UFA eligibility, which the Rangers have with the 27-year-old Brassard.

• Former NHL goalie Michael Leighton tells the great Bob Duff about the perils of playing for Donbass Donetsk in war-torn Ukraine last season. The club has suspended operations for this season despite an offer to play its games in Slovakia.

• The movement to unionize major junior hockey players has taken a significant step forward. Unifor, the largest sector union in Canada, is scheduled to meet today with Ontario's Minister of Labour to discuss the organization of a task force to analyze the business of junior hockey. Given the implications for the NHL's primary supplier of talent, this is going to be fascinating to watch.

• In a recent interview, Mike Babcock left the impression that the Red Wings are passing on the analytics craze. Not so, says assistant GM Ryan Martin, who insists that, while no statistician has yet come up with a magic recipe for gauging player performance, the organization is keeping up with industry trends and will look to hire a dedicated specialist some time in the future.

• Dejan Kovacevic says 2014 first rounder Kasperi Kapanen could be the first impact prospect the Penguins organization has developed since Jordan Staal. I've been hearing lots of buzz about Kapanen out of Pittsburgh since his appearance at the team's early camp, but there's still plenty of skepticism about his abilities from scouts around the league. No telling what he'll turn into, but a team desperate for help on the wings is clearly hoping for something special.

• Adam Proteau says that Mike Johnston's pilgrimage to Moscow to visit Evgeni Malkin demonstrates that coaching in the NHL is as much about relationships as game-planning. Considering how many jobs are lost after a coach “loses the room,” this sort of early groundwork could prove pivotal to Johnston's success behind the bench in his first season with the Penguins.

• Photographer Dave Sanford took this picture of Jeff Carter's collection of career bling. Apparently Carter is pretty good at hockey.

• Check out this groovy time-kill video tracking the evolution of the NHL in 85 seconds. If nothing else, it's a bonus opportunity to revel in the greatness of “Brass Bonanza.”

• Tab Bamford works out his list of the top forward prospects in the Blackhawks' system. When Phillip Danault is ranked No. 2, it's fair to say that there's not a lot of high-end help on the way.

• Being drafted out of Europe opens up a variety of options for Lightning prospect Dominik Masin next season. Though he's highly unlikely to make the Bolts' roster, there are plenty of teams out there vying hard for his services.

• The sons of Steve Chiasson, the former defenseman who was killed in a car crash 15 years ago, are looking for a chance to make their own mark in the NHL. One of their dad's former teammates is doing everything he can to help.

• The Oilers have spent all summer signing wingers, which is awesome, but all that activity does nothing to address Edmonton's gaping hole at center. Do you happen to believe the Oilers have a couple guys quietly lurking in Oklahoma City who are capable of filling the No. 2 and No. 3 jobs?