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Chicago Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, top, of Russia, tumbles over Calgary Flames' Tony Amonte during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, March 25, 2007, in Chicago.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Nam Y. Huh


TOP STORY Brent Sutter's arrival so soon after his resignation from the New Jersey Devils rankled some observers, but his presence will address what the Flames need most. Under former head coach Mike Keenan, Calgary's play began to drift and its defensive work turned sloppy. Sutter will correct those wandering ways. He will stress a strong two-way game that should make life easier for goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who was given a lot of on-ice freedom under Keenan and did not have a good playoff last season, will have to adjust to a stricter style. Sutter is also expected to help blueliner Dion Phaneuf rebound from an off year in which he scored an NHL career-low 47 points and finished minus-11.

SAY HELLO TO D Jay Bouwmeester, RW Fredrik Sjostrom, LW Nigel Dawes, RW Brian McGrattan

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SAY GOODBYE TO W Todd Bertuzzi, LW Michael Cammalleri, RW André Roy, D Adrian Aucoin, D Jordan Leopold

NUMBERS GAME The Flames' 2009-10 payroll is at $56.4-million (U.S.). The bulk of that money - almost $40-million - is tied up in seven players, which doesn't leave much room should the Flames encounter the kind of injury woes that dogged them toward the end of last season. The organization was so tight against the cap, it had to play two, sometimes three skaters short while it chasing playoff seeding.

TOP PICK IN 2009 Defenceman Tim Erixon was taken 23rd overall. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound son of former NHLer Jan Erixon spent the bulk of last season with Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish elite league. He also participated in the world junior and world under-18 championships. The Flames like Erixon's offensive game and the way he reads the play heading up ice.

Allan Maki


TOP STORY If goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin can play as well as he did last season, the Oilers will be a tough nut to crack. Last year, 39-year-old Dwayne Roloson did all he could in net, but was worn down by his team's inability to score and, on many occasions, even compete. Khabibulin is 36 and was exceptional in the 2008-09 playoffs. With a solid defence in front of him, he should keep the Oilers in a lot of games. Edmonton's new coaching staff of Pat Quinn, Tom Renney and Wayne Fleming will have to coax as much offence as they can from a bunch that took a collective nosedive last season. Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Robert Nilsson all scored fewer points than the year before, as did Ales Hemsky, who led the team with 66 points in 72 games. The Oilers had hoped to acquire high-scoring winger Dany Heatley from the Ottawa Senators in the off-season, but were informed he had no desire to play in the Alberta capital. Instead, Edmonton signed free-agent forward Mike Comrie.

SAY HELLO TO G Nikolai Khabibulin, W Mike Comrie

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SAY GOODBYE TO RW Ales Kotalik, C Kyle Brodziak, G Dwayne Roloson

NUMBERS GAME Edmonton's salary cap hit sits at $55.36-million (U.S.), which leaves them with roughly $1.5-million in wiggle room should team officials make a trade. The Oilers would love to dump forward Dustin Penner's contract, which will pay him $4.25-million a season until 2012.

TOP PICK IN 2009 LW Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson impressed the Oilers with his speed and was taken 10th overall. While his defensive game is said to need work, his flair as either a playmaker or a goal scorer was too tempting for a team that needs an offensive upgrade. He's also strong on his skates at 6 foot 1, 201 pounds.

Allan Maki


TOP STORY Where to begin? The Habs have a new coaching staff led by Jacques Martin, a new top line and significantly more size at the back. Whether all that will offset the tumult caused by the exit of 10 members of last year's team - including long-time captain Saku Koivu and 2008-09 top scorer Alex Kovalev - is another question. The Habs are still smallish up front, but have added some offensive punch in coveted free-agent winger Michael Cammalleri, high-priced, underachieving centre Scott Gomez and his erstwhile New Jersey Devils linemate Brian Gionta. And there's more brawn with Travis Moen, Hal Gill and Paul Mara now in bleu, blanc et rouge. Martin should bring a more consistent defensive shape to the Habs, who were terrible in their own end last season. That's good news for goaltender Carey Price, who hopes to bounce back from the sophomore jinx.

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SAY HELLO TO C Scott Gomez, LW Michael Cammalleri, RW Brian Gionta, D Jaroslav Spacek, D Hal Gill, LW Travis Moen, D Paul Mara 

SAY GOODBYE TO C Saku Koivu, RW Alexei Kovalev, LW Alex Tanguay, D Mike Komisarek, D Francis Bouillon, D Mathieu Dandenault, D Patrice Brisebois, RW Tom Kostopoulos, D Mathieu Schneider, C Robert Lang

NUMBERS GAME After their off-season spending spree, the Habs have $55.7-million (U.S.) in salary-cap commitments this season. That gives them little room to manoeuvre (about $2.7-million, including the bonus cushion), but perhaps enough to add depth or take on some contract in a trade. Shedding defenceman Roman Hamrlik's $5.5-million anvil of a contract would help, but good luck with that.


TOP PICK IN 2009 Louis Leblanc, selected 18th overall. There was really no other alternative for the Habs, drafting in front of their hometown fans, beyond the polished, fluently bilingual centre from Pointe Claire, Que. The six-foot, 180-pound Leblanc will need to bulk up to play in the NHL, but the Habs feel he projects as a combative two-way player who could slot into the top two lines. Leblanc is a fluid skater and a smart cookie; he's attending Harvard University this fall.

Sean Gordon


TOP STORY It would be nice to say the biggest preseason story is the enthusiasm surrounding new goaltender Pascal Leclaire or the Senators' 19-11-4 record last season under head coach Cory Clouston. It isn't. Dany Heatley is. The two-time 50-goal man demanded a trade during the playoffs, and then promptly nixed a move to Edmonton. His return would surely be disruptive, but no one can argue the Sens aren't a better team with even a sulking Heatley in the lineup. There are hopes the enigmatic Alexei Kovalev and Leclaire, whom management believes is the bona fide No. 1 the franchise has been craving, will help lift the club from also-ran status. With the retirement of blueliner Jason Smith, there's an excellent chance highly-touted prospect Erik Karlsson will make the team which, under Clouston, showed it can compete in the Eastern Conference.

SAY HELLO TO RW Alex Kovalev, G Pascal Leclaire, D Erik Karlsson

SAY GOODBYE TO D Jason Smith, LW Dany Heatley?

NUMBERS GAME The Senators' wage bill is $55.8-million (U.S.). The $8-million Heatley stands to trouser - his cap hit is $7.5-million - could provide considerable relief if Ottawa can find any takers. Otherwise, it's going to be call-up city if the Sens need to fill out a payroll that has $29.2-million earmarked for five players: Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher, Kovalev and Heatley.

TOP PICK IN 2009 Jared Cowen, selected ninth overall. If the mammoth Spokane Chiefs blueliner hadn't tore up his knee midway through last year, he would have been a top-five pick. That makes the 6-foot-5 Cowen a tidy piece of business for the Senators, provided he can recover fully. Scouts say there's a healthy dose of Chris Pronger and Zdeno Chara in Cowen, a punisher who also knows where to find the opposition's net.

Sean Gordon


TOP STORY Training camp promises to be the most competitive in years. Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has warned veteran players he won't be afraid to eat a big contract and demote a high-profile player or two to the minors. While Vesa Toskala and Jonas Gustavsson are destined to be the goalie tandem, and Tomas Kaberle, Mike Komisarek, François Beauchemin and Luke Schenn will comprise the top four on the blueline, the rest of the spots are wide open. Three areas of interest will be how forward Jason Allison, 34, performs in his comeback bid, how the U.S. college kids - Tyler Bozak, Viktor Stalberg and Christian Hanson - cope in their first NHL training camp, and which defencemen will snatch the fifth and sixth spots. (Two of Garnet Exelby, Jeff Finger, Mike Van Ryn and Ian White won't see much action.)

SAY HELLO TO G Jonas Gustavsson, G Joey MacDonald, D Mike Komisarek, D François Beauchemin, D Garnet Exelby, RW Colton Orr, RW Christian Hanson, LW Viktor Stalberg, C Tyler Bozak, C Rickard Wallin, C Wayne Primeau

SAY GOODBYE TO G Curtis Joseph, G Justin Pogge, LW Brad May, RW Jeff Hamilton, RW Boyd Devereaux, LW Jeremy Williams, D Jaime Sifers, D Anton Stralman

NUMBERS GAME Toronto has 27 players (three goalies, nine defencemen, 15 forwards) under contract, and with the buyouts to Darcy Tucker ($1-million) and Andrew Raycroft ($533,333) still in play, they have a payroll of $56.9-million (U.S.). But Burke believes his club will be $4-million under the $56.8-million salary cap once the roster is trimmed to 23.

TOP PICK IN 2009 Nazem Kadri, selected seventh overall. Burke tried to move up to first at the entry draft to take John Tavares, but wound up holding on to the seventh pick and claiming 18-year-old Kadri. The teenager has tremendous speed and skill, but the six-foot, 167-pounder needs to mature physically before he's ready for a full season in the NHL. He will, however, see plenty of time in the preseason before likely being returned to the junior ranks.

Tim Wharnsby


TOP STORY Retaining the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, who were scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, trumped every other move, including the 12-year contract extension for goaltender Roberto Luongo that will kick in for the start of next year. Without the Sedins, the Canucks would have been in for a serious makeover up front. As it is, the brothers' return for five more years means they will remain the focal point offensively. The twins are durable and underrated point-a-game players, who are become increasingly more comfortable in their leadership role as the seasons click off. Mikael Samuelsson, signed away from Detroit, helps address secondary scoring issues, but the addition of two more puck movers on the blueline (Mathieu Schneider, Christian Ehrhoff) suggests the Canucks will rely heavily on scoring from the back end as their primary modus operandi this season.


SAY HELLO TO RW Mikael Samuelsson, D Mathieu Schneider, D Christian Ehrhoff, D Brad Lukowich, G Andrew Raycroft

SAY GOODBYE TO C Mats Sundin, D Mattias Ohlund, LW Taylor Pyatt, G Jason LaBarbera

NUMBERS GAME With $28.75-million committed to 13 forwards, another $22.1-million to eight defencemen and $8-million tied up in goalies, the Canucks enter training camp about $2-million over the $56.8-million (U.S.) salary cap. But with Pavol Demitra ($4-million) likely to start on injured reserve, they probably have time to get the dollars straightened out.

TOP PICK IN 2009 Jordan Schroeder, selected 22nd overall. Schroeder, projected as a top-10 prospect by the NHL's Central Scouting service, plunged to 22nd, largely because of his size (officially listed as 5 foot 81/4). But the centre is a highly skilled playmaker who posted big numbers as a freshman at the University of Minnesota (45 points in 35 games) and, along with Cody Hodgson, gives the NHL team some depth down the middle in the years to come.

Eric Duhatschek

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