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NHL Predictions: Buying or Selling Each Team as Stanley Cup Contender This Year

Marlon MaloneyCorrespondent IJune 2, 2016

NHL Predictions: Buying or Selling Each Team as Stanley Cup Contender This Year

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    The NHL preseason started on Monday and, like any other year, fan bases are filled with optimism. Since the installment of a salary cap, the NHL has become more of a parity-filled league following in the footsteps of the incredibly successful NFL.

    Every year features the intrigue of change. A bottom-feeder can make a long awaited foray into the playoffs. There are favorites, dark-horses and also-rans. No one knows how each team will finish, but that's why they play the games.

    Every general manager and player pitches a good show of how great things will go before the season starts, but who's public relations campaign should we really be buying? 

Anaheim Ducks

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    Being stuck in a division with the San Jose Sharks means the Ducks will have some stiff competition for the Pacific Division crown.

    Anaheim finished the regular season with 99 points last season after Jonas Hiller missed a month to injury and an amazing scoring display put on by Corey Perry.

    The Ducks didn't make many changes to the roster this season. They obtained center Andrew Cogliano from Edmonton in exchange for a second round pick in 2013 and dealt defenseman Andy Sutton to the Oilers in a separate deal for fellow rearguard Kurtis Foster. 

    Anaheim also signed free agent defender Matt Smaby, goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, as well as forwards Jean-Francois Jacques and Andrew Gordon for depth roles, while allowing Jarrko Ruutu, Kyle Chipchura, Andreas Lilja, Brad Winchester and Ray Emery to test the market. 

    With Teemu Selanne officially back under contract for a 19th season, the team has no holes to fill on its top two forward lines.

    Verdict: Buy

    Vegas Insider Odds: 25/1  

Boston Bruins

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    No team has repeated as Stanley Cup champions since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings. That is the challenge the Boston Bruins face and hope to accomplish.

    "The famous Stanley Cup hangover that everybody talks about, obviously that’s a real thing," said head coach Claude Julien. "I don’t see why we should be different than anybody else. Where we have to be better is how we’re going to handle it.

    "We need to be ready this year even more than last year...We need to up our game just like every other team is going to up theirs against us."

    As long as Tim Thomas performs gives the team the same brilliant goaltending as last year, this team has a chance.

    Verdict: Buy

    Vegas Insider Odds: 10/1

Buffalo Sabres

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    The Buffalo Sabres finished in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 96 points. The team boasts a lot of depth on the blue line with Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr leading he way.

    The team added a much-needed upgrade at second line center, and got it in the form of Ville Leino. If Leino can help improve an already potent offense, this team can make a push. But ...

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 30/1 

Calgary Flames

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    What's that? You still didn't get Jarome Iginla a play-making center? ... And you traded away the one he did have? 

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 35/1

Carolina Hurricanes

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    After just missing out on a playoff spot last year, the team made a bunch of lateral roster moves during the off-season. That means the team is counting on the continued development of guys like Jeff Skinner and Zac Dalpe.

    There's just not enough here to warrant serious consideration for a Stanley Cup run though. This team has all the signs of being a year or two away from being a true contender.

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 35/1

Chicago Blackhawks

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    Despite being in a much better cap situation than the year after they won the cup, the Chicago Blackhawks have continued to make major adjustments to their club. 

    The Hawks traded high-priced defenseman Brian Campbell to Florida for winger Rotislav Olesz and they acquired the rights to free agent Steve Montador from the Buffalo Sabres for a seventh round draft pick and signed him to an extension.

    Restricted free agent Troy Brouwer was also shipped out of town, to Washington, and Tomas Kopesky joined Campbell in Florida in another trade before signing with the Panthers as a free agent.

    The Blackhawks also let several of role players walk during the free agency period and replaced them veteran scoring, Andrew Brunette, and toughness, Daniel Carcillo, Jamal Mayers and Sean O'Donnell.

    Overall, as long as the top six forwards are still in tact they are a dangerous squad.

    Verdict: Buy

    Vegas Insider Odds: 12/1

Colorado Avalanche

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    The Avs hope that their new goalie tandem of Semyon Varlamov (acquired from the Washington Capitals for first and second round draft picks) and Jean-Sebastian Giguere will be enough to pull them out of the cellar.

    But did you see the way this team played last year? They were -61 in goals for the year.

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 65/1 

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    In 2009, the Blue Jackets made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history. They they were promptly swept out by the division foe Detroit Red Wings. They have not returned since, and I see no reason for that to change now.

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 75/1

Dallas Stars

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    The Stars lost the crown jewel of free agency this year, Brad Richards, and weren't able to find anyone capable of truly filling the hole. Playing in the ridiculously deep Pacific Division will make wins tough to come by.

    This is a team in a bit of a transitional period. They will make the playoffs again, but that's the end of it for them.

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 40/1

Detroit Red Wings

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    The Wings have been bounced out in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs each of the last two year by the San Jose Sharks. They also lost quite a bit of veteran talent to retirement in Brian Rafalski, Kris Draper and Chris Osgood. 

    Ian White and Mike Commodore were signed to help out on defense and Ty Conklin was brought back to give Jimmy Howard more rest throughout the season.

    The Red Wings always finish near the top of the Western Conference and showed a lot of heart in pushing the Sharks series to seven games after being down 0-3. We all know they'll be in the playoffs, and they'll be a threat to win it all once more.

    Verdict: Buy

    Vegas Insider Odds: 12/1

Edmonton Oilers

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    The Oilers were the worst team in the NHL last year.

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 65/1

Florida Panthers

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    The Panthers are a team full of new faces. They had about $30 million dollars to spend this off-season just to reach the cap floor. To get talent to an organization that has failed to make the playoffs for 10 consecutive season you need to overpay and that's what they did.

    Don't get me wrong, the Panthers will be a better team, but after finishing dead last in the Eastern Conference don't expect much too much so soon.

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 125/1 

Los Angeles Kings

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    The Kings traded Wayne Simmonds, top prospect Brayden Schenn and a second round choice to Philadelphia to bring in center Mike Richards. They also inked veteran winger Simon Gagne to a two-year contract to give them two solid lines going into 2011-12. 

    Suddenly the Kings have some major scoring talent on its top two lines and it doesn't end there. Free agent Ethan Moreau was brought on board later in the summer to add leadership and grit to their bottom-six forward group. Colin Fraser was brought in via trade as well.

    One huge dark cloud waiting to rain on the parade, though, is the ongoing debacle with elite defenseman Drew Doughty. Without Doughty the Kings have a major weakness on their blue-line, but still look primed for a deep playoff run.

    Verdict: Buy

    Vegas Insider Odds: 12/1 

Minnesota Wild

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    The Wild decided it was time for a change this season. So they went out and traded key contributors Martin Havlat, who led the team in goals and finished tied for second in points last season, and Brent Burns, who led the defensive corps in scoring, to San Jose in two separate deals. In return the Wild received Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and a first-round pick. 

    Whether the trades have the desired affect of added scoring is yet to be seen, but it doesn't seem like it was enough to move them ahead of other teams in the Western Conference.

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 60/1

Montreal Canadiens

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    The Habs pushed the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins to the brink in last year's playoffs, with the Bruins winning the series with an overtime goal in Game 7.

    Montreal finished in the top-10 for goals allowed in 2010 and, with a little more offense, could have changed the entire outcome of the playoffs. To remedy the situation, the team brought over Erik Cole from the Carolina Hurricanes.

    The Eastern Conference are a lot more wide open than the West, and the Canadiens know how to play sound playoff hockey in front of the stalwart Carey Price.

    Verdict: Buy

    Vegas Insider Odds: 20/1

Nashville Predators

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    The Predators have made the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons, but last year was the first year they've ever won a series. To me their style of play is designed to win in the regular season and just isn't conducive to success when the playoffs roll around.

    The team also parted with a number of players this off-season in favor of playing more youth.

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 25/1

New Jersey Devils

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    The Devils looked terrible last season until coach Jacques Lemaire was brought in to try and save the season. Unfortunately for the fans in New Jersey, the team fell short of the late season push and Lemaire is not willing to return for a full season.

    Brodeur will be 40 years old by the end of the season, and there are questions about whether he can still play up to the level that we've all grow accustomed to seeing from him.

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 30/1

New York Islanders

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    New season, same old Islanders. They have the prospects to be good in the near future, but for now expect them to remain near the bottom of the league.

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 80/1

New York Rangers

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    The Rangers won the "big money" race to sign Brad Richards in the off-season and will pair him with Marion Gaborik to form an extremely potent first line. The Rangers just squeaked into the playoffs last season but look like they have enough to make a run.

    They've improved the offense, maintain a solid defense and Henrik Lundqvist is a top-level goalie in this league.

    Verdict: Buy

    Vegas Insider Odds: 40/1

Ottawa Senators

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    The Sens missed the playoffs by a wide margin in 2010-11, and really didn't make any moves to fix the situation. Cellar dwellers again. Hooray!

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 65/1

Philadelphia Flyers

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    The Flyers made the very bold decision to trade scoring for goaltending. The team traded away captain Mike Richards, and let Jeff Carter and Ville Leino walk. They also lost Kris Versteeg and Dan Carcillo during the offseason.

    This was done so the team would have the pleasure of having Ilya Bryzgalov in net for many years to come. After seeing the success of teams with great goaltending in the past year's playoffs, the Flyers are going with a more defensive approach in 2011-12.

    Philly fans do have replacements at forward, so all goal-scoring is not lost, but this offense is an unknown commodity. Incoming are Jaromir Jagr, Wayne Simmonds, Maxime Talbot, and top prospects Jakub Voraek and Brayden Schenn.

    Let's not forget this team finished second in the East, as well.

    Verdict: Buy

    Vegas Insider Odds: 9/1

Phoenix Coyotes

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    Trading away Ilya Bryzgalov without finding a proven replacement seems unwise for a team that does not ice a very potent offense. The loss of defenseman Ed Jovanovski doesn't help things either—Oliver Ekman-Larsson will be called upon to help cover up the subtraction.

    This team will take a step back and fall out of the playoffs.

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 30/1

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The Pens are a much deeper team than they are given credit for. With their two star players (Sidney Cosby and Evgeni Malkin) out for huge portions of the season, the Penguins still finished with the third best record in the Eastern Conference.

    If even one of them returns, let alone both, this Pittsburgh team will likely find itself Stanley Cup bound yet again. In my opinion, when Crosby is healthy this team is the best in the Eastern Conference and possibly the league.

    The rest of the NHL should prepare to take notice.

    Verdict: Buy

    Vegas Insider Odds: 7/1

San Jose Sharks

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    The Sharks made it to the Western Conference Finals for a second consecutive season, and failed to advance past it for the second consecutive season. On both occasions the Sharks played excellent hockey, but were outclassed by teams with equal skill and much more speed.

    So the Sharks traded away two-time 50 goal scoring winger Dany Heatley and fan-favorite Devin Setoguchi in exchange for Martin Havlat and Brent Burns with the idea of adding speed to their top line and to the blue line. 

    We know this team will make the playoffs, after all they do still have Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle and plenty more. We have to wait to the playoff to see if it worked, and only a trip to the Stanley Cup will suffice.

    Verdict: Buy

    Vegas Insider Odds: 12/1

St. Louis Blues

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    The Blues are a team on the rise. They have a lot of young talent and didn't really lose anyone through free agency this off-season. Instead the team brought in some veteran talent in the form of Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott.

    With that said, the Western Conference playoff bubble is too tough a wall to crack for this team, but expect to see this team in the post-season very soon.

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 40/1

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Steve Yzerman arrived from Detroit and made this team an instant success. What he does for an encore could involve parades, confetti and a cup that is fairly large being raised above people's heads.

    The team made it to the Eastern Conference Finals and look poised to go just as far again.

    Verdict: Buy

    Vegas Insider Odds: 12/1

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    The Leafs look like they have solved a lot of the defensive woes of last year by bringing in John-Michael Liles and Cody Franson on the blue line, Matthew Lombardi and Tim Connolly at forward and James Reimer at goaltender. 

    This team looked ready to make a playoff push last season. With the latter off-season acquisitions and the continued development of the young talent they already have, Toronto should get ready to see a successful team in their city again.

    Verdict: Buy

    Vegas Insider Odds: 40/1

Vancouver Canucks

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    They made it to the Cup last year and not much has changed on the roster. In my opinion they should have won it all. The bitter taste in their mouths and the memories of a city destroyed should be all the fuel this team needs to make a repeat appearance in the finals.

    Verdict: Buy

    Vegas Insider Odds: 6/1

Washington Capitals

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    This team is a guaranteed playoff participant. They have been going to the playoffs for sometime now with league leading records. They just need to figure out what's going with the formula when they reach the playoffs.

    Alex Ovechkin and Co. will give it another go this year.

    Verdict: Buy

    Vegas Insider Odds: 10/1

Winnipeg Jets

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    New city, new nickname same problems. This isn't a terrible team, but they certainly are not ready to make a playoff push and the long road trips will be  tough for players to get used to.

    Verdict: Sell

    Vegas Insider Odds: 50/1

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