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2018 Stanley Cup Futures: Post-Deadline Edition

Aaron Gray

by Aaron Gray in NHL Hockey

Updated Apr 8, 2020 · 11:48 AM PDT

Andrei Vasilevsky, goalie for the Tampa Bay Lightning
Andrei Vasilevsky and the Lightning have +400 odds to repeat as President's Trophy winners in 2019-20, despite getting swept by Columbus in round one of the playoffs. Photo by Lisa Gansky (Wiki Commons).

With the overwhelming parity in the today’s NHL, picking a favorite for the Stanley Cup mid-season can be an arduous task. If there’s ever a time to do it, however, it’s after the NHL’s trade deadline*, where good teams often set themselves apart by boldly mortgaging their future for a shot a Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Here’s how the odds to win the Stanley Cup in 2018 have changed after the deadline, along with some expert betting advice. Read on to find out where the real value in Stanley Cup futures lays.

Are the Tampa Bay Lightning as good as they look on paper?

The short answer is yes, they are. This year’s incarnation of the Tampa Bay Lightning is one of the best teams of the Salary Cap Era; they’re up near the top with the likes of the ’07 Ducks and the ’10 Blackhawks. First, in the NHL standings and top five in every major statistical category, the Lightning also boast a candidate for every major award; Kucherov is a favorite for the Hart Trophy; Vasilevsky has the shortest odds for the Vezina; Hedman is in contention for the Norris. Oh, and that’s not to mention some guy named Steven Stamkos.  Add into the mix their blockbuster acquisition of former Captain of the New York Rangers Ryan McDonagh and serviceable top-six center J.T. Miller, and the Tampa Bay Lightning are poised to make some real noise in the playoffs this year.

Depth wins cups, and the Tampa Bay Lightning have it in spades. Heck, they can run two bona fide number one defenseman on different pairings! Its also important to remember that while they missed the playoffs after an injury-riddled 2016-17 season, Tampa lost to Chicago in the cup finals in 2015, and was a shot away from beating eventual cup champions Pittsburgh in Game Seven of the Conference Finals in 2016. The same core players from these deep runs remain on the Lightning, and Stevie Yzerman shrewdly acquired Chris Kunitz in the summer (who’s shooting for his fifth Stanley Cup this season) to bolster experience and playoff leadership on the Lightning.

  • Barring significant injuries, the Tampa Bay Lightning should be seen as the unanimous favorites to capture the cup.
  • The best depth in the NHL combined with explosive star power in every position makes Tampa a force to be reckoned with

Expert Betting Advice:

Tampa might be the favorites, but are they worth taking at such short odds? Already the clear favorites heading into the deadline, their odds got even shorter in the wake of Stevie Y’s deadline wizardry.

We’d wager on the Lightning where they’re currently listed at +500.

We’d wager on the Lightning where they’re currently listed at +500. Injuries and upsets are especially common in recent playoff history, but +500 is a pretty tempting price.

Trade Acquisition:

Tampa Bay Lightning acquire defenseman Ryan McDonagh, and forward J.T. Miller from New York Rangers in exchange for forward Vladislav Namestnikov, defenseman Libor Hajek, forward Brett Howden, a 2018 first-round pick, and a 2019 conditional first-round pick.

Can the Pittsburgh Penguins capture lightning in a bottle and make it three straight?

Many sportsbooks think that the Penguins have a good shot at making it three straight, but we’re not as bullish. Of course, its hard to count against a team with Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel, but playing over 300 games of hockey in the last three years (plus a World Championship of Hockey) is taxing. In an NHL that occasionally bears more likeness to a human game of ping pong than a pre-lockout era game, fatigue and wear and tear on players have to be accounted for. There’s a reason that no team has won three cups in a row since the early 1980s.

What’s a reason to like the Penguins? Well, beyond their high caliber offensive weapons and absolutely lethal powerplay, they’re the strongest in the league at the center ice position. Crosby, Malkin, Sheahan and the newly acquired Derick Brassard can all drive lines, and this is especially important in the playoffs when match-ups become so essential.

So, beyond fatigue, is there reason to be concerned about Pittsburgh? Yes.

So, beyond fatigue, is there reason to be concerned about Pittsburgh? Yes. While they’ve played well as of late (7-2-1 over their last ten games), Pittsburgh’s season has been defined by inconsistency; this up and down play is a result of a mediocre d-crops, and goaltending that no longer has Marc-Andre Fleury as a security policy. Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, and Justin Schultz probably aren’t enough to get it done, especially considering the fact that Jim Rutherford let top-four insurance policy Ian Cole depart for a third-round pick in the days leading up to the deadline.

To make matters worse, on the morning of the trade deadline, Matt Murray was diagnosed with a concussion. Pittsburgh’s tending was questionable before he went down (he’s posted a pedestrian .909 save percentage this year), and it looks even worse now that the only two organizational options are Casey DeSmith and Tristian Jarry. Further, Matt Murray probably doesn’t win a Stanley Cup in either ’16 or ’17 if it isn’t for Marc Andre Fleury sharing some of the workload with him. This factor can not be underrated now that Fleury is in Vegas.

  • Pittsburgh is unlikely to win the cup for the third straight year
  • Despite superstars, Pittsburgh has too many questions marks on their back end and in net to be cup favorite

Trade Acquisition:

Pittsburgh Penguins acquire forwards Derick Brassard, Vincent Dunn, Tobias Lindberg, and a 2018 third-round pick (OTT) for a combination of futures.

Expert Betting Advice:

Steer clear of the Penguins. Squares and the public might be tempted to take the Penguins and bet on their superstars taking them to a third cup in three years, but their chances of repeating are exceedingly unlikely. Their roster is not as strong as their previous two cup runs, and fatigue is going to  have an effect on their ability to play into June. There’s not very good value in this year’s Penguins across sportsbooks. Their average odds of +600 aren’t long enough to make them a good value futures bet.

Will the Winnipeg Jets break Canada’s 25-year cup drought?

We think they can. With talent being so evenly distributed in the Western Conference, its hard to find a favorite; that being said, the two most likely contenders are Nashville (averaging +500 across the sportsbooks we review) and the Jets, who are averaging +800. Both teams have tremendous scoring depth, top-notch defenses, and solid goaltending depth. However, at +800, the Jets have much better value.

Evidently, many bookmakers didn’t see a lot of promise in the Jets heading into the season, and many saw their early season successes as somewhat of a mirage.

Evidently, many bookmakers didn’t see a lot of promise in the Jets heading into the season, and many saw their early season successes as somewhat of a mirage. Slowly but surely, bookmakers have begun to realize that the Jets, on the strong backs of their young studs Mark Scheifele, Patrick Laine, Kyle Connor, and Conor Hellebuyck, are contenders, not pretenders. They’ve got solid veteran leadership in the form of captain Blake Wheeler and cup winner Dustin Byfuglien as well. With not a single glaring weakness to speak of and depth up and down the line-up, the Jets have as good of a shot as anyone this year, especially in the wide-open Western Conference. They’ll be hard-pressed to beat Tampa Bay, no doubt, but once you get to the finals anything can happen.

Kevin Cheveldayoff, a notoriously conservative general manager, thinks this is the Jets’ year. He paid a hefty premium (Eric Foley, in particular, looks promising) for veteran center Paul Stastny. Not only did this trade crush division rival St. Louis’ cup aspirations, but it plugged the only hole the Jets had on their roster: their 2C. He’s projected to play on a line with Ehlers and Laine, and it’s a safe bet he’ll simultaneously imbue that line with some extra defensive awareness and offensive capability. Stastny is a proven contributor on both the power play and the penalty kill, as well. By our estimation, this was the deal of the deadline.

  • The Jets provide great value at an average of +800 across books
  • Depth in every position and a wide-open Western Conference inspire confidence in the Jets

Trade Acquisition:

Winnipeg Jets acquire forward Paul Stastny from St. Louis Blues in exchange for 2018 first-round pick, rights to forward Erik Foley.

Expert Betting Advice:

Maybe its because no one wants to live in Winnipeg (or, even really pay attention to it), or because the Jets had a long reputation as an underachieving team, but bookmakers are still undervaluing the Jets ceiling.

One sportsbook has the Jets at +1100, among the longest odds available.

*After the deadline passes, the only way NHL teams are allowed to add to their roster is by recalling players they already have under pro contracts. There can be no more trades or signings after February 26th, 2018.

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