The 2019 NHL Draft has concluded and we have seen team address some of their needs. Only a couple of those players are actually NHL ready at this point. Offseason moves have already begun and we are starting to see which players are up for grabs as we learn which teams are looking to win now and which are looking to build for the future. The St. Louis Blues have won their first title in franchise history, but unlike other champions this year (Clemson Tigers, New England Patriots, Virginia Cavaliers, and Toronto Raptors), the Blues are not a favorite to repeat next season. There are a lot of unrestricted free agents that will be floating around this offseason, so right now, every team has the potential to be a contender next season. NHL free agency officially begins on July 1 at noon ET.
After a record-breaking regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning are the favorites heading into the 2019-2020 NHL season. Despite their 128-point regular season, the Lightning had a terribly disappointing season. They were bounced from the playoffs in four games by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Tampa Bay led the league in scoring and was a top ten defensive team as well. With the majority of their team returning, they will have a chip on their shoulder and be dangerous once again.
The Toronto Maple Leafs were also knocked out in the first round (by the Boston Bruins) and are the second-best favorite to lift the Stanley Cup next season. Locking down Mitch Marner is at the top of the Leafs’ to do list this offseason. Toronto looked like the best team in the NHL for the first part of the season before declining towards the end of the season. If they can bring back Marner and pick up one or two key players this offseason they will certainly be able to contend with Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference.
Many thought the Boston Bruins would be the ones to win the Stanley Cup when the Finals began. They looked like the best team in the NHL during the playoffs and the way Tuukka Rask was playing, it seemed inevitable. However, they fell short in the seventh game of the Finals. This is still one of the best teams in hockey and should continue to be so next season as well with their core intact. They have 19 players already signed and about $13 million in cap space. Boston could be an even better team next season.
Best Favorite: Boston Bruins +1000
The Value Picks
Outside the top three favorites, there are some teams that are certainly capable of winning the Stanley Cup next season. The Vegas Golden Knights are going to be a solid team next season, as will the Calgary Flames. You also can’t count of the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues either. However, the Colorado Avalanche provide great value and are certainly a team that is capable of taking the next step and making a run at a title next season.
The Avalanche were one of the league’s youngest teams and managed to make it to the second round of the playoffs after knocking out the top seed in the Western Conference (Calgary Flames). Nathan MacKinnon is one of the best players in the NHL and his speed with the puck is unmatched. Add in Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog and the Avs have one of the league’s best top lines. Colorado just freed up some cap space by dealing Carl Soderberg to the Arizona Coyotes. With about $38 million in cap space, the Avs are in a position to make some big moves this offseason.
Best Value: Colorado Avalanche +1100
At +25000 go ahead and throw a few bucks on the Ottawa Senators if you’re feeling lucky. You probably won’t see a return on your investment, but if you win you can be one of those people who looks like a genius for betting on them this early in the offseason. They may not be the biggest longshot in the league, but at the middle of the pack, I think it is safe to consider the Carolina Hurricanes as a longshot at this point. Not just any longshot, a longshot that has a legitimate chance of not only returning to the playoffs but advancing even further than they did last year.
Carolina just missed the 100 point total last season (99) and looked solid at times during their playoff run, especially on defense. They are coming off of their first playoff appearance since 2009 and should look to build on that success. They knocked out the defending Stanley Cup champs in the first round (Washington Capitals) and then swept the New York Islanders in the second round. Carolina could have up to $30 million in cap space this offseason which gives them an opportunity to bring in some key players. If they can improve their average offense, they can certainly make some noise again next season.
Best Longshot: Carolina Hurricanes +2600