What burning questions remain this NHL off-season?

Ryan Johansen is coming off his entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets, but hasn't signed an extension yet. (Getty Images)

These truly are the dog days of summer. Players, GMs and coaches get their brief time off between the free agency boom and training camps. Media have time to do fun stuff like rank every logo in the NHL. With no hockey, we spend our nights watching Bachelor in Paradise baseball.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing happening in the NHL. If you squint, you’ll notice several important questions still unanswered, such as…

1. Will Columbus mend fences with Ryan Johansen and sign him long-term?

The most recent reports out of Columbus had restricted free agent Johansen and the Jackets still $3 million apart. Per season. That’s a Grand Canyonesque gap. So far, the P.K. Subban story isn’t working as a cautionary tale about short-term bridge contracts. After his bridge, Subban won the Norris Trophy and his new long-term cap hit is probably about $2 million more than it would’ve been had Montreal ponied up two years ago and paid him, say, Drew Doughty money.

The Jackets want Johansen to prove his 33-goal breakout was for real, just as they wanted Sergei Bobrovsky to back up his Vezina Trophy campaign when they inked him to a bridge deal last summer. The difference? Nothing about Johansen’s development says fluke. He has pedigree as the No. 4 overall pick in 2010. He was always supposed to be this good. There’s every reason to trust him. Columbus could live to regret a bridge contract. The East is wide open, and this team can contend with its top pivot signed and happy.

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Rumor Roundup: Mike Green’s future with Caps still cloudy

Mike Green

Earlier this summer there was speculation the Washington Capitals would trade defenseman Mike Green. They enter this season with only a little more than $1 million in salary cap space and have been linked to abrasive checking-line forwards Paul Bissonnette and Dan Carcillo. They have little room to add either player and address other needs if required during the season. Shedding Green’s $6.1-million cap hit would address that issue.

This summer’s additions of blueliners Matt Niskanen ($5.75-million cap hit) and Brooks Orpik ($5.5 million) raise questions about Green’s role in the Capitals defense corps. Assuming Niskanen and Orpik form one pairing while John Carlson and Karl Alzner make up another, Green could become an expensive third-pairing rearguard.

ESPN.com columnist Katie Strang, responding to a reader’s question regarding Green’s trade status, expressed surprise he hadn’t been dealt yet. She speculates his value might not be particularly high at the moment. Colleague Craig Custance also addressed Green’s status during a recent live chat, suggesting there’s no rush for the Capitals to move the 28-year-old defenseman.

Custance believes the Detroit Red Wings are a natural fit for Green and notes they have the depth in young talent to interest the Capitals. The Wings seek a top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot. They were linked to Green earlier this summer in the rumor mill, though that chatter has since died down.

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Should these five aging NHL veterans hang in there or hang ‘em up?

Daniel Alfredsson (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

As we approach late summer, a handful of older NHL veterans remain unsigned. And that begs the question: are they not listening to Father Time telling them they’re due to retire, or are they right to hold out in the hope a job opens up for them? Let’s take a look at five such players and offer an opinion on whether they should hang in there or hang ‘em up:

Saku Koivu, C: At age 39, Koivu had 11 goals and 29 points for Anaheim last season. His Corsi-for number has fallen steadily since 2012 and his ice time has been reduced by an average of more than three minutes a game (to just 15:02 last year) since 2011-12, but remember, he’s been on a deep Ducks team that didn’t need to rely on him. In the right environment – in other words, on a playoff-bound franchise – he can provide help down the middle and on faceoffs. Hang in there or hang ‘em up? Hang in there

Martin Brodeur, G: Nobody questions why Brodeur wants to continue playing. When you’ve accomplished as much as he has and is considered one of the greatest goaltenders in hockey history, it’s only natural you’d want to stick around for as long as possible. But anyone who’s seen the decline in his game in recent years wouldn’t hold it against him if he retired. The lack of interest in him as a starter is telling. If the 42-year-old is willing to play a backup role on a contender, he might have a little bit left in the tank. If not, the writing is on the wall. Hang in there or hang ‘em up? Hang in there as a backup; hang ‘em up as a starter. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Where will Dustin Penner & Michael Del Zotto land?

Dustin Penner

As the NHL off-season drags on, former New York Rangers and Nashville Predators defenseman Michael Del Zotto remains unsigned.

Only 24, Del Zotto is just two years removed from a 41-point performance with the Rangers in 2011-12. Unfortunately, his stock tumbled significantly last season, largely because of his poor play in his own zone.

Recent speculation linking Del Zotto to the Vancouver Canucks was denied by his agent, who claims there’s “no chance” his client ends up with the Canucks. It’s been rumored the Detroit Red Wings could have interest, but he’s a left-handed shot and the Wings seek a right-shooting blueliner.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks cited an NHL club claiming Del Zotto’s reputation was “in tatters.” He believes now is the right time to “buy low” on the young rearguard and wonders why the New York Islanders haven’t pursued him. Read more

Music and hockey: an all-star forum, part two

Ryan Kennedy
Saves-the-Day

On Thursday, I unleashed part one of a hockey and music forum featuring some of the people I like to talk about on those two topics. Here now is the conclusion of that session. Once again, the panel is composed of the following all-stars:

Nathan MacKinnon: Calder Trophy-winning center for the Colorado Avalanche, hip-hop head.

Drew Stafford: Veteran Buffalo Sabres right winger, heavy metal fiend

Boyd Devereaux: Stanley Cup winner with the Detroit Red Wings. Now retired, his company Waking Sound makes hockey promo videos featuring highlights set to music. He also founded the label Elevation Recordings, which put out psyche/noise/underground artists.

Vinny Karpuszka: Arena DJ for the Pittsburgh Penguins, heavy metal enthusiast

Sunaya Sapurji: Junior hockey writer for Yahoo! Sports and its Buzzing the Net blog

Uffe Bodin: Editor in chief and writer for Hockeysverige.se.

Arun Bali: Guitarist for Saves the Day, die-hard Red Wings fan now living in Nashville

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Music and hockey: an all-star panel, part one

Nathan-MacKinnon-3

As obsessed as I am with hockey, I was once similarly preoccupied with music. I am nowhere near as plugged in as I used to be, but I still love music and since my tastes tend to run on the obscure side, I don’t get a lot of opportunities to talk about my favorite bands within the hockey community. But over the years, I’ve found some kindred spirits in the sport and it’s always fun to talk about bands and artists that we share a mutual love for.

So in the spirit of summer fun, I hit up a few of the people who fall into that category and asked them about the current state of hockey and music. Here’s the panel:

Nathan MacKinnon: Calder Trophy-winning center for the Colorado Avalanche, hip-hop head.

Drew Stafford: Veteran Buffalo Sabres right winger, heavy metal fiend

Boyd Devereaux: Stanley Cup winner with the Detroit Red Wings. Now retired, his company Waking Sound makes hockey promo videos featuring highlights set to music. He also founded the label Elevation Recordings, which put out psyche/noise/underground artists.

Vinny Karpuszka: Arena DJ for the Pittsburgh Penguins, heavy metal enthusiast

Sunaya Sapurji: Junior hockey writer for Yahoo! Sports and its Buzzing the Net blog

Uffe Bodin: Editor in chief and writer for Hockeysverige.se.

Arun Bali: Guitarist for Saves the Day, die-hard Red Wings fan now living in Nashville

Part two of this conversation will go up tomorrow. Here we go…

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The five most evil hockey photoshops we could come up with

Lucic_MTL_Fixed1

Summer is a time for fun in the hockey world. But sometimes that fun can be a little dark. One of my favorite THN issues every year comes before the trade deadline, when we often take a player likely on the move and photoshop him into another team’s uniform based on his possible destination. For instance, we once had Mats Sundin in a Vancouver sweater – the team he would eventually leave the Leafs for, albeit not at the deadline.

With that in mind, I dare you to peruse the five photoshops here, which can only be characterized as wrong.

Above, we see what would happen if Boston’s Milan Lucic had a change of heart and joined Montreal, where he could celebrate goals with current enemy Alexei Emelin. With a special thanks to Andre Valle of the The Hockey News art team (who did all the hard work), here are more of the worst offenders we came up with.

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Hard to choose sides when it comes to Detroit’s future

Ryan Kennedy
Red-Wings-celebrate

“Seen that side of town/everybody’s always down. Why? Because they can’t get up.”

- Fugazi

How much do the Red Wings mean to Detroit? A silly question perhaps, but one residents of the city are being confronted with as the Ilitch family, who own the Original Six franchise as well as the Little Caesars pizza chain and numerous other interests, have unveiled new details for a long-planned development in the Motor City.

And this is more than just a new arena. No, this is an urban makeover on a grandiose scale, with entire neighborhoods planned around it. The renderings of the project certainly look cool, but not everyone is on board with the master plan.

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