TOP STORY: It was a controversial back-to-the-future remake in Calgary this off-season, with two former Flames - Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay - both returning to the team that traded them away, hoping to jump-start stalled careers. Ideally, the Flames want Jokinen and Tanguay to form two-thirds of a top line alongside Jarome Iginla, who had one of the poorest offensive years of his career, the primary reason for the team's 50-goal year-over-year drop-off in scoring. The Flames badly need Jokinen and Tanguay to get back in that point-per-game range; and they could use a healthy Daymond Langkow, who is making a slow recovery from last year's neck issue. Youngster Mikael Backlund will be closely monitored in training camp to see if he's ready for NHL prime time.
SAY HELLO TO: C Olli Jokinen, LW Alex Tanguay, G Henrik Karlsson, RW Tim Jackman, LW Raitis Ivanans, C Ryan Stone.
SAY GOODBYE TO: LW Eric Nystrom, LW Chris Higgins, LW Nigel Dawes, G Vesa Toskala.
NUMBERS GAME: The Flames go into camp $1.85-million over the salary cap, but have a number of options to get compliant by opening night. if Langkow is obliged to go on the long-term injury reserve, that move alone will erase the excess. The Flames have eight defencemen on one-way contracts; if all remain healthy, presumably one will be either traded or waived. Also: Ales Kotalik could end up in the minors or Europe; if he doesn't stick, that would save another $3-million.
TOP PICK IN 2010: Maxwell Reinhart, selected 64th overall. Reinhart is the son of former Flames defenceman Paul Reinhart, one of the original players who made the move from Atlanta back in 1980. Unlike his father, who was a puck-moving defenceman, Reinhart is a scoring centre, who had a decent first year with Kelowna in the WHL (51 points in 72 games), but needs to fill out before ever challenging for NHL duty. He is years away from that point.
TOP STORY: Where to begin? The No. 1 goaltender (Nikolai Khabibulin) has appealed his drunk-driving sentence and may yet spend time in an Arizona jail. The star defenceman (Sheldon Souray) still wants to be traded, the sooner, the better. The old head coach (Pat Quinn) remains with the organization to help the new head coach (Tom Renney) handle a youthful lineup. Plus, the star forward (Ales Hemsky) makes a comeback with a freshly repaired shoulder after playing just 22 games last season. Yes, there's an awful lot going on in Edmonton this September, and we haven't even mentioned the addition of the Oilers' franchise player in the making, Taylor Hall. This is a team selling itself on potential without knowing how much it can deliver in 2010-11. Changes are everywhere. Did we mention the Oilers will have a new captain this season (replacing Ethan Moreau) and that even the radio play-by-play man (Jack Michaels) is new? He'll have plenty to talk about all winter. So will the fans.
SAY HELLO TO: LW Taylor Hall, RW Jordan Eberle, LW Magnus Paajarvi, C Colin Fraser, G Martin Gerber
SAY GOODBYE TO: LW Ethan Moreau, C Patrick O'Sullivan, C Robert Nilsson, RW Fernando Pisani, C Mike Comrie (all five combined for just 48 goals last season)
NUMBERS GAME: The Oilers have cap space aplenty, $9.768-million U.S. to be precise. That allows them the freedom to take on more salary come the NHL trade deadline, assuming Edmonton is close enough to qualify for the postseason.
TOP PICK IN 2010: When the Oilers' selected Hall over Tyler Seguin with the first pick overall, it was an indication they wanted a player with size as much as skill. Last season's team was too small and too easily manhandled. Hall, a two-time Memorial Cup champion and tournament MVP, could develop into a dynamic force coming off the left wing. He's also played at two international tournaments, including the 2010 world juniors, with Eberle. They'll be linemates through training camp before the coaching staff decides what to do next.
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
TOP STORY When a team finishes last in its conference, there are always plenty of question marks going into the following season, but the top one for the Leafs is likely to be centred around just how coach Ron Wilson will coax more goals out of this group. Toronto was ahead of only four other teams in scoring a year ago with 210 goals, more than half of which were scored by players no longer on the roster (106). General manager Brian Burke is hoping for a goals-by-committee approach, with three newcomers in Kris Versteeg, Colby Armstrong and Clarke MacArthur each pencilled in for 15 or more goals. Defensively, the cast is essentially the same, although a better performance is expected with captain Dion Phaneuf and Mike Komisarek expected to play far more than the 26 and 34 games they spent as Leafs last season. Where there will be the least amount of intrigue is in goal, as Jean-Sébastien Giguère and Jonas Gustavsson enter the season as a set tandem.
SAY HELLO TO RW Kris Versteeg, RW Colby Armstrong, C Nazem Kadri, LW Clarke MacArthur, D Brett Lebda, G Jussi Rynnas, RW Mike Brown, D Matt Lashoff
SAY GOODBYE TO LW Viktor Stalberg, C Rickard Wallin, C Wayne Primeau, C Jamie Lundmark, D Garnet Exelby
NUMBERS GAME The Leafs currently have one of the tightest cap situations in the league, as their projected 23-man roster would put them roughly $600,000 over - a figure that doesn't include nearly $6-million in potential bonuses for some of the youngsters. Shipping defenceman Jeff Finger's $3.5-million to the minors appears to be how Burke will create ample manoeuvring room.
TOP PICK IN 2010 Brad Ross, selected 43rd overall. Only a few months removed from his 18th birthday, Ross is a ways away from playing in the NHL. A gritty left winger who has drawn some comparisons to Sean Avery, he is undersized to play the gritty, two-way role he currently excels at in the WHL.
TOP STORY Roberto Luongo's captaincy. The goaltender arrives in Vancouver this week for an audience with general manager Mike Gillis. If Luongo doesn't voluntarily surrender the 'C,' he may force the organization to strip it from him. That would ignite a captain watch, unless a successor is immediately appointed, and shine a brighter spotlight on Luongo's temperament. This summer, the Canucks replaced his preferred position coach, chose a replacement without consultation, and declared intentions to decrease his workload, handing more starts to young buck Cory Schneider. All this for a player who used to call his own shots.
SAY HELLO TO: D Dan Hamhuis, D Keith Ballard, C Manny Malhotra, RW Raffi Torres, LW Jeff Tambellini, RW Victor Oreskovich, C Joel Perreault.
SAY GOODBYE TO: D Willie Mitchell, F Pavol Demitra, RW Steve Bernier, RW Michael Grabner, C Kyle Wellwood, C Ryan Johnson.
NUMBERS GAME: Defenceman Sami Salo (heel) and Alexandre Burrows (shoulder) are likely to begin the season on long-term injured reserve. Still, the Canucks are tight to the limit no matter which way you slice their final roster. It is likely that some veterans will have their contracts buried in the minors. Dumping salary via trades is also possible. Vancouver's summer spending spree may also spell bad news for top prospect Cody Hodgson, who counts as a $1.7-million U.S. cap hit (including bonuses).
TOP PICK IN 2010: Defenceman Patrick McNally is still years away from the NHL - if he ever arrives. After trading away their top three selections, the Canucks took McNally in the fourth round, 115th overall. He's known as a cerebral blueliner, and is off to Harvard University next fall. Until then, he remains in the Massachusetts high school ranks.