Can Tampa Bay win a third straight Stanley Cup, or is there a new team ready to dethrone the Lightning?
For the second straight season, the Colorado Avalanche are favourites to win the Stanley Cup on the NHL futures board. Standing in their way in the East, is two-time reigning Cup winners, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are looking to bring Lord Stanley back to the Sunshine State for the third straight year, and in the West, the retooled Vegas Golden Knights.
Colorado Avalanche +505
The Colorado Avalanche and Nathan MacKinnon are on a mission. The Avs’ eyes are set solely on the Stanley Cup, after winning the President’s Trophy last season, only to get bounced in the second-round of the playoffs for the third straight year.
The depth on this team took a bit of a hit with the loss of goaltender Philipp Grubauer (signed in Seattle), forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (signed in Tampa Bay), Brandon Saad (signed in St. Louis), Joonas Donskoi (lost in expansion draft) and defenseman Ryan Graves (traded to New Jersey). GM Joe Sakic was still able to make some moves, however, trading for Darcy Kuemper to take over the net and signing Ryan Murray and Darren Helm.
Colorado’s core of MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar remains intact and there’s high expectations for rookies Bowen Byram and Alex Newhook to be impact players right away. If Kuemper can play as well as he did in the 2020 NHL bubble (ironically against Colorado), this team should be a nearly unanimous Stanley Cup favourite.
Tampa Bay Lighting +651
The Tampa Bay Lightning are aiming to do what no team has managed to do since the 1980’s New York Islanders dynasty, and that’s win a third straight Stanley Cup.
This team has arguably the top goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and defenceman, Victor Hedman, in the world. They’ll also be returning one of the best top-six forward groups in the NHL, including Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos. You can’t have as much success as Tampa without losing some contributors, though. They completely rebuilt their third line after losing Yanni Gourde (expansion draft), Barclay Goodrow (signed with Rangers) and Blake Coleman (signed with Flames). Corey Perry, Mathieu Joseph and Ross Colton are expected to fill that void.
You can’t quite say the Bolts are a dynasty yet, but they’re not far off. This is now a veteran team with a nucleus that knows what it takes to win. Vasilevskiy alone, makes this team a contender. If Tampa remains relatively healthy heading into the playoffs, it’s hard to make a case for any other team getting the better of them in a seven-game series.
Vegas Golden Knights +800
The Golden Knights are returning their top-six forward group, led by captain Mark Stone. There’s a reliable veteran depth to this team, which includes Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Alex Pietrangelo. Rookie Peyton Krebs could also make an impact on the roster and Nolan Patrick will get a fresh start in Vegas. The biggest subtraction was the loss of Ryan Reaves, so there’s still an opening on the fourth line for an impactful player who can contribute defensively and play the “tough guy” role.
It’s year five for the Golden Knights. Instead of just now coming into contender status as the original plan had been, Vegas is looking to make another deep playoff run. This is the most successful expansion team in major North American sports history and their only real threat in the West appears to be Colorado. Vegas looks like one of the few teams that has a realistic shot at knocking Tampa Bay off of their throne.
Dark Horse Candidate
Florida Panthers (+1700)
If the Stanley Cup ends up in Florida for the third straight season, it might not be the Lightning that get the job done. The Florida Panthers took a big step forward last season. They finished second in the Central Division during the regular season and brought the eventual Stanley Cup champion Lightning to Game 6 of the first-round of the playoffs.
Aleksander Barkov was locked up to a long-term deal in the off-season. Barkov will have the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad and MacKenzie Weegar to rely on helping him out. The net is a little bit of a question mark, as former Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky will battle rookie Spencer Knight for the starting job. With no major off-season losses and the addition of a few veterans, like Joe Thornton, this is a dangerous team.