Lightning open NHL offseason atop the 2019 Stanley Cup odds

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The Washington Capitals just won the Stanley Cup in what might’ve been their realistic last chance of doing so, which might illustrate how to look at the futures board for the 2018/19 NHL season.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, who fell to the Capitals in the penultimate round of the playoffs, are the +900 favorite on the 2019 Stanley Cup odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. There is a cluster of teams offering 10/1 odds, with the Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets each listed at +1000 heading into the 2019 NHL Draft and the start of free agency.

The next rung of the board includes the Vegas Golden Knights (+1100), Nashville Predators (+1100), Boston Bruins (+1200) and Pittsburgh Penguins (+1200).

The Lightning have some of the strongest cornerstone players in the NHL with Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Victor Hedman and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Like the triumphant Capitals, Tampa Bay will be in win-now mode this season, as only eight players are under contract beyond this year.

Pittsburgh (2016 and 2017 champions) is the only team that has played in successive Stanley Cup finals in this decade. It might be best to fade the Capitals, especially since coach Barry Trotz has left over a contract dispute, hiring on with the New York Islanders.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have impressive young talent, most notably center Auston Matthews. Toronto’s path to the Stanley Cup, though, is blocked by being in the same division with two of the top seven teams on the big board, Tampa Bay and Boston.

Winnipeg will face fewer salary-cap issues this summer than Nashville, its Central Division rival. However, if the two are on a collision course for another second-round showdown, it’s worth pondering the likelihood of the Jets being able to win three road games in Nashville’s arena again.

The Vegas Golden Knights don’t have much more room to go up after having the greatest season ever by an expansion team, reaching the Stanley Cup final. The Pacific Division is well-represented at the top of the odds to win the 2019 Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers (+1800), Anaheim Ducks (+2200), San Jose Sharks (+2200) and Calgary Flames (+2500) all on the top half of the board.

Given the way the NHL is geared toward parity, it might be too much to expect Vegas to play until June again.

Among those teams, San Jose could be an intriguing value play. San Jose, a long-time playoff team, showed through its recent trade activity – trading Mikkel Boedker to the Ottawa Senators for Mike Hoffman, who was flipped to the Florida Panthers – that it is setting up to load up with free agents this summer.

Ottawa (+10000), who has the longest odds, will have an effect on the board if it ends up trading superstar offensive defenseman Erik Karlsson, whose contract is up next year. The other transformative talent who could be on the move this summer is New York Islanders center John Tavares, who hasn’t ruled out re-signing with his original team.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.