Anyone confident that the Pittsburgh Penguins can three-peat as Stanley Cup champions should probably wait until their price increases. With NHL free agency beginning this weekend, Sidney Crosby and the two-time defending champion Penguins are listed as +750 favorites on the 2018 Stanley Cup futures at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The Penguins have the luxury of almost $20 million in salary cap space to work with as they seek to upgrade the supporting cast around Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, so there’s a chance they could be in a position to make another Cup run. That being said, their price against the 31-team field is actually lower than it was at the outset of the recently completed playoffs.
Given the parity of hockey, it’s best to see if the Penguins’ price swells back up into the 10/1 range once the season is underway in October.
The Chicago Blackhawks (+1200) and Edmonton Oilers (+1200) share second spot on the board. Chicago’s price seems like a red herring, given that the Blackhawks have gone out in the first round of the playoffs two seasons in a row and still have salary-cap issues that forced them to jettison one of their best forwards, Artemi Panarin.
The Oilers, of course, are getting reigning MVP Connor McDavid locked down on an eight-year contract, but their rabid fanbase could be in for some nervous times amid rumors that teams might try to sign star center Leon Draisaitl, a restricted free agent, to an offer sheet.
Five teams draw in at +1400: the Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals. The Ducks are a bit on the old side, but the defending Western Conference champion Predators came within just two victories of a Stanley Cup despite losing two dangerous forwards, Kevin Fiala and Ryan Johansen.
The Rangers could be an interesting play if, indeed, they end up signing Kevin Shattenkirk, who is the only impact defenceman set to hit free agency.
The Lightning, provided they get a full season out of C Steven Stamkos, who’s complemented down the middle by Tyler Johnson and Brayden Point, could be in line for a bounce-back season. They missed the playoffs in 2017 after winning five playoff series over the previous two years. As for Washington, Alex Ovechkin and company had their best opportunity to win the Cup this past spring, and got shut out in Game 7 at home against Pittsburgh.
The Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota Wild and Toronto Maple Leafs are each listed at +1600 on the Stanley Cup betting lines for 2018.
Some darkhorses at online gambling sites include the St. Louis Blues (+2800), who reached the second round last season before being ousted by Nashville and will have a new 1-2 punch next season with Vladimir Tarasenko being complemented by Brayden Schenn. While Edmonton is the highest Canadian team on the board, the Calgary Flames (+3000) look good on paper after dealing for veteran goalie Mike Smith and also adding D Travis Hamonic to support an impressive group of young forwards that includes Johnny Gaudreau.