Crosby, Penguins lead field on odds to win 2017 Stanley Cup

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No Stanley Cup champion has repeated since the National Hockey League became a cap league in 2005, but nevertheless the Pittsburgh Penguins have top opening odds to win the 2017 Stanley Cup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Sidney Crosby-led Penguins became the third NHL franchise to win multiple Cups during the cap era when they wrapped a six-game series win against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday. Pittsburgh, whose most recent win was in 2009, joined the Chicago Blackhawks (2010, ’13 and ’15) and Los Angeles Kings (2012, ’14) as teams that have won more than once since the cap’s creation.

The Penguins are listed at +800 to raise the silver chalice in 2017, although GM Jim Rutherford could have to move on from some players to get under the salary cap. The Penguins could address their salary-cap crunch by trading veteran C Evgeni Malkin, breaking up the long-running superstar tandem with Crosby.

Other teams with high odds are those with a central superstar. The Chicago Blackhawks, led by RW Patrick Kane and C Jonathan Toews, are listed at +1000 after a season where they bowed out of the playoffs early. The Washington Capitals and high-scoring LW Alex Ovechkin, who have a reputation for underachieving in the playoffs, are also listed at +1000.

The St. Louis Blues, who have never won the Cup but who went to the Western Conference final, are listed at +1200. The Blues have some salary cap room to play with and will have even more if they let free-agent C David Backes sign elsewhere.

Sticking in the Western Conference, the Sharks and their Pacific Division rival Los Angeles Kings each have +1400 Stanley Cup odds. On top of not having a draining playoffs this spring, the Kings are deep in quality forwards in C Anze Kopitar, as well as players such as RW Tyler Toffoli and LW Tanner Pearson who are each moving into their peak years.

The Kings also have cap space to add key pieces this season. The Anaheim Ducks, who are listed at  +1600, could also threaten to make it three finals in a row with a California-based team.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, who are pegged at +1400, have made it to at least the Eastern Conference final for two consecutive seasons. Tampa Bay’s franchise player, C Steven Stamkos, can become a free agent on July 1. Stamkos’ departure would alter the outlook for the Lightning, but they showed their impressive depth by going deep into the playoffs while he was receiving treatment for blood clots.

The Dallas Stars, who are at +1600, were the league’s most exciting offensive show for much of the season as they led the NHL with 267 goals. The playoffs pointed out that the Stars need to upgrade their defense and goaltending if they wish to win their first Cup since 1999.

Seven of the last 11 Stanley Cup champions have hailed from the Western Conference.