The BIG story: Chris Pronger joins Scott Niedermayer on the blueline, giving the Ducks one of the best 1-2 Â‘D’ punches in NHL history.
The OTHER story: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Anaheim’s longtime No. 1 goalie, and Ilya Bryzgalov, Anaheim’s No. 1 goalie in the 2006 playoffs, are duking it out for the starting job.
The BIG story: Ilya Kovalchuk’s goal-scoring exploits.
The OTHER story: Kari Lehtonen’s puckstopping exploits.
The BIG story: The acquisition of 6-foot-9 free agent defenseman Zdeno Chara to a five-year, $37.5-million deal to stabilize the defense corps and give the Bruins an attitude.
The OTHER story: The acquisition of 5-foot-9 center free agent center Marc Savard to stabilize the forward corps.
The BIG story: Whether Buffalo can improve on last year’s impressive run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final.
The OTHER story: Whether a true game-breaking sniper will emerge from Buffalo’s crowd of 40-point scorers.
The BIG story: The Flames added Alex Tanguay to take some of the pressure off of power forward Jarome Iginla.
The OTHER story: Apart from Tanguay and perhaps a depth defenseman Â– oh, and a new coach in Jim Playfair Â–the Flames enter 2006-07 with the same lineup that bowed out in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
The BIG story: Carolina is the NHL’s defending Stanley Cup champion.
The OTHER story: All eyes are on Cam Ward and Eric Staal to see if the respective Conn Smythe winner and breakout scorer can repeat last season’s heroics.
The BIG story: Martin Havlat arrives to score goals for a team that has nowhere to go but up after an injury-plagued ’05-06 campaign.
The OTHER story: The Hawks might not have needed Havlat had Tuomo Ruutu been able to stay healthy for an entire season.
The BIG story: The Avs lost a couple more stars, with Rob Blake leaving for Los Angeles and Alex Tanguay heading to Calgary.
The OTHER story: It’s make-or-break time for goalie Jose Theodore, the 2002 Hart and Vezina winner who has had on- and off-ice struggles ever since.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
The BIG story: The Team That Can’t Score will finally shed that label if Rick Nash, newly signed Nikolai Zherdev, Sergei Fedorov (out until late October with a shoulder injury), Fredrik Modin and rookie Gilbert Brule have anything to say about it.
The OTHER story: With goalie Marc Denis shipped to Tampa Bay (in exchange for Modin), the Jackets are relying on 23-year-old Pascal Leclaire to take over the starting duties in net.
The BIG story: One big center departs (Jason Arnott), another big center arrives (Eric Lindros).
The OTHER story: A little center arrives, too, as the Stars obtain Mike Ribeiro from Montreal.
DETROIT RED WINGS
The BIG story: The Wings enter a season without Steve Yzerman for the first time since 1982.
The OTHER story: Brendan Shanahan is gone, too. On the other hand, Dominik Hasek is back.
The BIG story: Shortly after the Oilers lost in the Stanley Cup final, Chris Pronger’s trade request was granted and the big D-man was shipped to Anaheim. Maybe you heard about it?
The OTHER story: Edmonton has cornered the market on blossoming young forwards who look like they’ll score 30 goals this year.
The BIG story: Premier power forward Todd Bertuzzi is a Cat, but it cost Florida all-world stopper Roberto Luongo.
The OTHER story: GM Mike Keenan Â“resignsÂ” just weeks prior to the start of the season. Hmm, do you think he was pushed?
LOS ANGELES KINGS
The BIG story: A lot of on-ice turnover, surely related to the off-ice makeover that saw GM Dean Lombardi and coach Marc Crawford installed as the franchise’s new kings.
The OTHER story: Luc Robitaille retires after his third stint in Los Angeles, while Rob Blake returns for one more go-around in LaLaLand.
The BIG story: While the Blue Jackets have been The Team That Can’t Score, the Wild has been The Team That Doesn’t Even Try. But with Pavol Demitra, Mark Parrish and Kim Johnsson arriving to help out Marian Gaborik, Minnesota has its north stars once again.
The OTHER story: After splitting the crease with Dwayne Roloson for nearly four seasons, Manny Fernandez enters the season as Minnesota’s unquestioned No. 1 goalie.
The BIG story: Captain Saku Koivu arrived at training camp with blurry vision, still fighting the effects of a high stick that knocked him Â– and really, the Habs Â– out of the playoffs.
The OTHER story: Coach Guy Carbonneau and No. 1 goalie Cristobal Huet were around for parts of last season, but this year they get to put their stamp on the team right from Day 1.
The BIG story: Simply, it’s that the Preds are bigger. Nashville signed Jason Arnott to center the top line, and Josef Vasicek Â– obtained from Carolina for Scott Walker Â– is slotted as the Preds’ No. 2 pivot.
The OTHER story: Tomas Vokoun, the team MVP, appears to have recovered from a blood-clotting problem that prevented him from playing in the 2006 post-season.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
The BIG story: The sharpest GM in the business, Lou Lamoriello, has been bamboozled by the salary cap and had to dump players and payroll in an attempt to re-sign young stars Brian Gionta and Paul Martin, among others.
The OTHER story: Martin Brodeur’s boys remain a contender as long as Brodeur is there to back them up. And he’ll be there Â– Brodeur has played at least 70 games in nine of the past 10 seasons (wimping out with a paltry 67 games in 1996-97).
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
The BIG story: The team’s management committee Â– i.e. owner Charles Wang Â– fired the GM (Neil Smith) after only six weeks and replaced him with the backup goalie (Garth Snow).
The OTHER story: The front office shenanigans have taken the spotlight off of Ted Nolan, who’s set to coach in the NHL for the first time since 1997.
NEW YORK RANGERS
The BIG story: The only story, really, is whether the Rangers can repeat last year’s rise from non-playoff laughingstock to a contender.
The OTHER story: Brendan Shanahan and Jaromir Jagr on the same line.
The BIG story: The biggest player in the league, Zdeno Chara, signed with divisional rival Boston.
The OTHER story: The Sens are being discounted because Martin Havlat and Dominik Hasek Â– and key depth players Brian Pothier and Bryan Smolinksi Â– also left town. But look for Ottawa to exceed low expectations like they’ve fallen short on high expectations in past seasons.
The BIG story: Keith Primeau retired and Michal Handzus was sent to Chicago, leaving a big hole Â–about 13 feet and 440 pounds’ worth Â– down the middle.
The OTHER story: The good news is, Peter Forsberg’s ankles are better than originally thought, and he’ll start the season in October, not January.
The BIG story: Phoenix continued to shake up its roster, bringing in several players during the summer, but none more important than defenseman Ed Jovanovski.
The OTHER story: NHL reclamation projects Jeremy Roenick and Owen Nolan also both caught on with the Coyotes.
The BIG story: Heard of Evgeni Malkin yet?
The OTHER story: This season should tell the story of whether the Penguins remain in Pittsburgh Â– with a new arena Â– or relocate to another city.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
The BIG story: A new team owner and new team president give the Blues new hope after one of the most trying seasons in franchise history.
The OTHER story: If the NHL was about to enter the 1996-97 season, the Blues’ top line of Keith Tkachuk-Doug Weight-Bill Guerin would be a fearsome unit. But it’s not.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
The BIG story: With two good goalies, a deep and talented defense corps and an offense led by Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo, the Sharks are on the cusp of big things.
The OTHER story: Of the two good goalies, Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala, one needs to emerge as a great one.
The BIG story: The Lightning thinks it is again secure in goal after adding Blue Jackets veteran Marc Denis.
The OTHER story: Will Martin St-Louis and Vincent Lecavalier be in the 70-point range or the 100-point range?
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
The BIG story: There’s a new coach (Paul Maurice) and a new No. 1 goalie (Andrew Raycroft).
The OTHER story: The Leafs have about $17 million invested in their top four defensemen (Bryan McCabe, Tomas Kaberle, Pavol Kubina, Hal Gill).
The BIG story: Roberto Luongo in, Todd Bertuzzi out.
The OTHER story: No team had more off-season turnover than the Canucks.
The BIG story: Alex Ovechkin. He’s pretty much the only story in Washington, unless you ‘re a big Brooks Laich fan.
The OTHER story: Alex Semin. Drafted 13th overall in 2002, the skilled left winger played 52 NHL games in 2003-04 Â– scoring 10 goals and 22 points Â– and will be the Caps’ second-most dynamic player, assuming his head is into it.