NHL: Pretenders To Contenders: The Top 5 Teams To Watch Next Season

Steve McSweenSenior Analyst IJuly 19, 2009

DETROIT - JUNE 12:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins holds the Stanley Cup following the Penguins victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game Seven of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on June 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Yes it may be a little early to call which teams will contend for Lord Stanley's Cup next season, but this summer's transactions have definitely put some clubs in the running, while other perennial contenders may have just taken a back seat.

While Detroit lost Marian Hossa, Samuelsson, Hudler and will once again have big questions in goal other teams like Philadelphia filled voids that propelled them into instant contention which will start us off, in no particular order, on the list of the five teams to watch next season.

5. Philadelphia Flyers

With the additions of Ray Emery in goal and Chris Pronger on defense, the Philadelphia Flyers instantly became a Cup favorite putting to rest any weaknesses this team had over the past few seasons.

If Danny Briere can rebound from an injury riddled 2008-09 campaign then this teams top three lines is as good as any in the league.

The only thing stopping the city of brotherly love from mapping out their Stanley Cup parade already is their pesky Penguin Pennsylvanian neighbours.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs

No the Toronto Maple Leafs will not be hoisting the Stanley Cup next season, but that's not to say they won't be competing for it come next spring.

The Leafs are not done making moves as they have a load of talented NHL blueliners that they could easily flip for some skilled forwards, namely Tomas Kaberle, take him outta the mix and the Leafs still have six quality D men.

With the addition of Swedish golatender Jonas Gustavsson, whom is a big time gamer, Toronto has also filled any question marks in goal.

Up front if the highly touted Tyler Bozak can be a top six guy, along with Mikhail Grabovski, Matt Stajan, Jason Blake, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Niklas Hagman and whomever the Leafs pick up from moving Kaberle, then they will have the makings of a very dangerous playoff team.

3. Calgary Flames

Every year since the Calgary Flames reached the finals in 2004, they have been considered to be in the hunt, but this summer's moves may have them as legitimate contenders in the Western Conference.

The addition of Jay Bouwmeester gives the Flames quite possibly one of the best bluelines in the league, and having a Sutter brother coaching won't hurt either.

The real question mark on this team is can the young guys like Moss, Boyd, Nystrom and Glencross continue to improve and contribute, which they will need to do to fill the void left by the departed Mike Cammalleri.

All things considered the addition of Nigel Dawes up front, a healthy Rene Bourque and a rebound season for Miikka Kiprusoff and the Flames have as good a mix as anyone in the league.

2. Chicago Blackhawks

It remains to be seen if the Chicago Blackhawks youth movement is the real deal or not, but after last seasons Western Conference finalist performance it looks as though they are indeed a Cup contender.

This team is basically the same club that bowed out to the Detroit Red Wings last season with the additions of former Wing sniper Marian Hossa, and Devil defensive specialist John Madden.

If Cristobal Huet can take the ball and run with it in the nets, then Chicago will be in the finals against one of the teams from Pennsylvania next June.

1. Edmonton Oilers

Once again the Oilers like the Leafs won't be hoisting the Cup next season, but they will make the playoffs because of their additions behind the bench and in the nets.

Adding Pat Quinn and Tom Renney as coaches the Oilers veteran players as well as the young guys will have two of the most knowledgeable and well liked hockey minds in the game.

Factor in the addition of Nikolai Khabibulin in goal and you have an improved Oilers' squad that should be poised for a spot in the Western Conference playoffs.

Edmonton did not land their big fish in Dany Heatley, but don't be surprised if they do aquire a big time scorer before the season begins, especially after Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano and Ladislav Smid were all on the chopping block and will now most likely want to be moved sooner rather than later.