Top Line: NHL's Top 50 players; Leafs finally sign Cody Franson; more links
An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• Bruce Garrioch, who doesn't mind letting you know he writes Canada's best Sunday column, identifies the 12 players who'll be at the center of trade talks this season. At least until they sign extensions.
• The Maple Leafs finally came to terms with restricted free agent Cody Franson this morning. So Toronto saved a few bucks now, but could end up paying big next year. And Franson, who missed most of camp, is all but certain to get off to a slow start. Well done, fellas.
• As soon as Vinnie Viola officially takes over as new owner of the Panthers -- which could happen as soon as today -- look for the team to announce the signing of Tim Thomas. It might be one of the last deals of the offseason, but it could end up being the most important.
• Kay Whitmore, who is featured in Michael Farber's centerpiece story in SI mag's NHL preview this week, is kind of like Batman. Only instead of sending criminals to Arkham, he's out to catch NHL goalies in the act of flouting the league's new equipment rules. Plus, he only wears a regular suit, so as not to inspire fear in anyone.
• While old rivalries will wither with realignment, new ones will grow. And this one could be a dandy.
• Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury finally put it all together last night in his best performance of the preseason. A win over the Red Wings (even if Zetterberg and Datsyuk were absent) might be just what his battered confidence needs.
• This is a pretty sick save.
• Judging by the steady stream of profanity coming from Jets coach Claude Noel, Winnipeg isn't quite up to speed as training camp winds down. For a guy on a one-year deal, a slow start means the end of his tenure, so Noel's discontent is understandable.
• The Kings won't promote an entire line from their AHL club in Manchester. But it sounds like they could. Linden Vey will likely be the first to get cut, but he has terrific upside as a gritty, creative No. 2 center.
• They're playing mix-and-match as training camp winds down on Long Island and, for the moment anyway, Josh Bailey looks like the big winner.
• Should we already be concerned about the Hurricanes? Luke DeCock's take on training camp isn't exactly brimming with highlights and good news.
• Last season's Most Valuable Shark is riding a wave of confidence into the start of the new campaign.
• The Capitals invested heavily in Martin Erat, sending top prospect Filip Forsberg to Nashville last spring in exchange for the veteran forward. So the fact that they haven't yet figured out what to do with him has to be a little disconcerting. The latest experiment, playing him at center, shows either creative thinking on the part of coach Adam Oates, or more than a little desperation.
• There are 102 million reasons why Pittsburgh isn't likely to be the opponent when Philadelphia hosts an outdoor game at Penn State's Beaver Stadium.
• The Coyotes announced a plan to allow tailgating at weekend games this season. Sounds silly, but then again, tailgaiting is the best part of going to a Hurricanes game in Carolina. It just might work.
• The next time you feel an urge to criticize an official (which should be about three minutes into the season opener), resist it just long enough to appreciate that they're not as bad as this. Usually.A brand new Norwegian team