Latest on Ilya Kovalchuk, Pekka Rinne, Jamie Benn, Lubomir Visnovsky, Brad Richards, Johan Franzen, Antti Niemi, R.J. Umberger and more.

Zajac's new contract could be a trend setter.

Zajac’s new contract could be a trend setter.

ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun examines Travis Zajac’s new eight-year, $46 million contract, especially the distribution of the dollars at the front end as a means of protection against possible escrow payments, suggesting it could become become a contract which sets a trend.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe that it will, as players and their agents will try to distribute the dollars in such a way to less the hit of potential escrow payments, especially in the early seasons when NHL revenue might suffer from the lingering effects of the lockout.

NJ.COM: Ilya Kovalchuk claims there was never any doubt he’d return to the New Jersey Devils following the KHL all-star game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ah, but for a few days there last week, it provided fodder for “will he or won’t he?” stories in the hockey media on both sides of the Atlantic.

THE TENNESSEAN: Pekka Rinne has now taken over Ryan Suter’s former place as one of the Nashville Predators’ foundation players.

DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Mike Heika examines both sides in the Jamie Benn contract talks.

NBC SPORTS PRO HOCKEY TALK: Montreal Canadiens center Scott Gomez and NY Rangers defenseman Wade Redden were placed on waivers yesterday for the intent of buying out their contracts under the “early compliance buyout” plan.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If a rival team were to claim either player off waivers, they would be picking up the full value of what remains on their contracts. So, don’t expect either guy to be plucked off waivers.

NBC SPORTS PRO HOCKEY TALK: Wayward defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky will report to the NY Islanders in “2-3 weeks”.

NEW YORK POST: Rangers center Brad Richards is back in action after missing the opening three days of training camp to the flu.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: The Red Wings will be looking for more production from winger Johan Franzen.

DENVER POST: This could be Milan Hejduk’s final season as an NHL player.

CSNBAYAREA: San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi hopes for more consistency this season.

WASHINGTON POST: Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth will battle for the starter’s job with the Capitals this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Looks like Holtby’s strong performance in last year’s playoffs wasn’t enough to make him a lock for the starting goalie role.

COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger hopes his club can avoid a repeat of the slow start which doomed them last season.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE:  Blackhawks defenseman Steve Montador is still suffering from post-concussion symptoms and has yet to return to the ice.

CSNPHILLY.COM: The Flyers have placed Brian Boucher and Andreas Lilja on waivers.

NBC SPORTS: The Minnesota Wild have signed RFA forward Nick Palmieri to a one-year, two-way contract.

TSN.CA: Veteran defenseman Sean O’Donnell has retired after 17 NHL seasons.