The Stanley Cup finals are only half over, and we still await the expansion draft, the entry draft and free agency. We can't let little details like that stand in the way of looking towards next season, though. It is never too soon to think about who will win the next Cup, and BetOnline has posted futures odds to feed that very obsession. Here's a look at some of the more interesting Stanley Cup futures available at this ridiculously early time:
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Pittsburgh Penguins (+900): The Penguins are the New England Patriots of the NHL. Built around a transcendent star, they are unfazed by injuries, roster changes, salary cap woes, and all the other things that bring mortal teams down. They are currently tied 2-2 in the Stanley Cup Finals, so we don't know whether or not they will be two-time defending champions. What we do know, though, is that they have played the maximum number of playoff rounds possible two straight years, and that is going to have an impact on the team no matter how impressive they might be. And then there are the concerns about Sidney Crosby's health - when you can no longer count the number of concussions a guy has had without taking off your socks so you can use your toes then you have a problem, and at some point that will catch up to him. Like the Patriots, I will never count the Penguins out. I just can't justify backing them at a price like this.
Washington Capitals (+1000): I don't believe that this team can win it all as long as they are built around Alexander Ovechkin. It makes no sense - he's the best goal scorer of his generation - but it is increasingly obvious that it is the case. And the team seems to know it, too. I'm not sure what they can do about it, though, so while I would not at all be surprised if they were to win the regular-season points crown again next year I still can't back them with any enthusiasm at all to win the Cup.
Edmonton Oilers (+1000): Now this one is interesting. There is some wheeling and dealing still to be done here - it seems unlikely that Jordan Eberle will return, and that will free up some salary cap space. They made a strong run in the playoffs this year, and they didn't look intimidated at all. Now they are a year wiser and a year more mature. If they can find another answer or two on the blue line then they have the makings of a special team - and it comes at a time when the West feels more vulnerable than it has in a while. I like this price the most of any so far.
Anaheim Ducks (+1400): The Ducks beat the Oilers in seven and then were no real match for Nashville. They have a great defensive unit - so good that they will lose a player in the expansion draft that will very likely be the best defender Vegas has. But their offensive core isn't getting any younger, and there are more questions than answers in net. I'm not a believer at this price.
Chicago Blackhawks (+1600): It sure felt like the playoffs this year marked the official end of an era. The Blackhawks managed their cap for as long as they could, but it just hasn't worked lately - too many big contracts means too much reliance on raw youngsters. They need to do more of a retooling than I think they have an appetite for, so I think they will take a step back from the lofty perch we have given them by default the last few years. They won't be terrible, but they won't resemble the recent dynasty team, either.
Toronto Maple Leafs (+1600): After more than a decade of saying that the Maple Leafs suck, it's only fair that I now say that they clearly don't suck and will only suck less going forward. There was a lot to like about the playoff run this year. I fear that there will be a bit of a step back - a temporary one on the climb to great heights - for the very young core of this team next year. So, I feel like this price is optimistic in the short term - as will always be the case for Toronto because of their large and rabid fanbase - but they are certainly a squad to watch in the short term.
Las Vegas Golden Knights (+20000): Vegas is not going to win the Cup, and even this ridiculously fat price doesn't tempt me. They will definitely not be a bad team, though - certainly not as bad s some earlier expansion squads. In fact, in net and on the blueline they could actually be quite strong. If they can find a way to score then they could be in the mix for a wild-card spot well into the season. I think a good benchmark is going to be WInnipeg - they will be about as good as the Jets, and that's not a terrible thing to be.
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