TOP STORY: They may have made the conference final last year, but a lot of Habs fans are in high dudgeon as the curtain rises on 2010-11, mostly because revered playoff hero Jaroslav Halak was traded to St. Louis in June. Halak's legend has only grown since his departure, meaning all the heat is on 23-year-old goalie Carey Price, who went from opening-day No. 1 to understudy last season. The talented Price comes back as the uncontested top dog, and is saying all the right things. That won't matter if the team has a rough start. But if Price plays to his lavish potential and the Habs avoid the injury bug, they could be a threat for a deep playoff run again.
SAY HELLO TO: C Lars Eller, C Jeff Halpern, C/W Dustin Boyd, D Alexandre Picard, G Alex Auld
SAY GOODBYE TO: G Jaroslav Halak, C Glen Metropolit, C Dominic Moore, D Paul Mara, D Marc-André Bergeron, RW Georges Laraque
NUMBERS GAME: The Canadiens broke the bank for leading scorer Tomas Plekanec - his contract made it impossible to keep the arbitration-eligible Halak - and so they're at $59.046-million (U.S) in salary commitments, less than $400,000 under the cap. That doesn't provide much trade deadline flexibility, but with high-priced veteran defencemen Roman Hamrlik and Andrei Markov in UFA contract years they may have chips to move - although signing Markov to an extension is a priority.
TOP PICK IN 2010: Jarred Tinordi, selected 22nd overall. The mammoth 6-foot-6 defenceman has solid NHL bloodlines, he is the son of former Capitals and Stars defenceman Mark Tinordi. After spurning Notre-Dame University for the junior hockey factory that is the London Knights of the OHL, Tinordi is clearly hoping to shorten the distance between himself and the NHL. Seen as a strong skater, punishing hitter and leader of men (he was captain of the U.S. under-18 squad), Tinordi needs to work on the offensive end of things. The Canadiens moved up in the draft to get him, and project him as a top-four rearguard.
TOP STORY: Ottawa should have been built on pins and needles, not the logging industry. Nervous Nellies run rampant from Parliament Hill to ScotiaBank Place, with hockey fans anxious to know what Senators team will show up this year. After a trip to the final in 2007, they went into a year of freefall, a year of rebuilding and this year is supposed to be another year when they challenge. The question is: can they? Team leader Daniel Alfredsson is 37, shot-blocking D Anton Volchenkov is gone and goaltending remains as uncertain as the next election. On the other hand, RW Alfredsson is still at the top of his game, the defence might even have improved, the team is well-coached (Cory Clouston) and young players (C Peter Regin, D Erik Karlsson) are impressing. Still, can a team where the leading scorer (C Mike Fisher) nets only 25 goals expect to return to the final? Can the new puck-moving D, Sergei Gonchar, help ignite a sputtering RW Alexei Kovalev? And is there a full-pressure goaltender in bad-luck Pascal Leclaire, streaky Brian Elliott or youngster Mike Brodeur?
SAY HELLO TO: Sergei Gonchar, 36, winner of a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, signed to a three-year, $16.5-million contract by the Senators over the summer.
SAY GOODBYE TO: Anton Volchenkov, perhaps the league's best shot blocker - "I want the other team blocking shots," says general manager Bryan Murray - physical defenceman Andy Sutton, playoff scoring leader Matt Cullen and offensive bust Jonathan Cheechoo.
NUMBERS GAME: The Senators like to tickle the top range of the salary cap, but Murray is always careful to keep a mid-range salary within reach should opportunity present itself.
TOP PICK IN 2010: There's not much instant excitement about a team's first pick when it's 76th overall, but 18-year-old Jakub Culek, a centre with the Rimouski Océanic of the QMJHL has long-term promise, a magnificent skater who may yet find a little grit for his game.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
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