NHL's Future Stanley Cup Contenders: Assessing Each Team's Chances in Five Years

Cody Pugh@Blackhawk_UpContributor IIIFebruary 11, 2011

NHL's Future Stanley Cup Contenders: Assessing Each Team's Chances in Five Years

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    CHICAGO - JUNE 11: Niklas Hjalmarsson #4 kisses the Stanley Cup trophy during the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory parade and rally on June 11, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    We're inching closer to see which team will be crowned Stanley Cup champions. The list of contenders battling for the cup is lengthy.

    But fast forward five years. Now who are the Stanley Cup contenders? Are they the established contenders fighting for the cup this year? Or are they some bottom feeders that will emerge from the basement of the standings to become Stanley Cup favorites?

    Based on the age of key roster players, the number and quality of prospects in the system, management, coaching and projected salary cap space, I have analyzed what each team's chances will be to win a Stanley Cup in five years.

    It's obviously impossible to predict who will be strong contenders in five years accurately, but it was something fun to think and write about.


Anaheim Ducks

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    ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 03:  (L-R) Bobby Ryan #9, Corey Perry #10, Ryan Getzlaf #15  and Scott Niedermayer #27 of the Anaheim Ducks celebrate Perry's first-period goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Honda Center on November 3, 2009 in Anaheim, Cali
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Anaheim is an overachieving team this season. It's hard to imagine how they're in playoff contention with a -4 goal differential.

    That being said, I don't see the Ducks winning another Stanley Cup in the near future.

    The Ducks are currently far too dependent on the scoring of their top three: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. These three would not be able to carry the team to a Stanley Cup alone.

    With Teemu Selanne on the brink of retirement and only a small selection of prospects, the Ducks will have very limited secondary scoring in the coming years.

    The Ducks do have some strong defensive prospects (their strongest, Gardiner, was recently dealt to the Maple Leafs); however, they have few forward and goalie prospects that could have NHL success.

    The Ducks are a team I expect to move down in the standings over the next few seasons and be totally out of playoff contention in five years.

    Of course, we have seen what their top three can do, and Jonas Hiller is one of the best goalies in the league. With some good acquisitions via trade and free agency, a return to the cup in the future is possible, but highly unlikely.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Poor

Atlanta Thrashers

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    TORONTO, CAN - FEBRUARY 7:  Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Atlanta Thrashers celebrates his goal with teammates Rich Peverley #47, Zach Bogosian #4, and Andrew Ladd #16 in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 7, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in
    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    The Atlanta Thrashers have been a pleasant surprise to almost all hockey fans this season. The addition of Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien from the Chicago Blackhawks seems to have had a big impact on this struggling team that is trying to improve itself.

    Despite the enormous strides they have made this season, the Thrashers are still several years from a Stanley Cup victory, assuming they will ever be able to win one.

    They have a relatively shallow prospect pool and their determination to win is questionable. Atlanta has a history of poorly drafting and developing its players. I have difficulty seeing them build a strong team through the draft.

    On the brighter side, they currently have a team ripe with young talent. Players like Evander Kane, Alexander Burmistrov, Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom, Ondrej Pavelec and the previously mention Ladd and Byfuglien, make the future of this team somewhat promising. 

    If these players develop well enough, and the Thrashers management finds a way to make Atlanta a desirable free agent destination, the Thrashers may find themselves on the list on Stanley Cup contenders someday. 

    They are making progress. Had I made this list last year their future chances would probably have been at "terrible." They're making strides in the right direction, but are not quite as close as other franchises are.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Poor

Boston Bruins

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    BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 13:  Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins is congratulated by teammates Brad Marchand #63,Mark Recchi #28 and Steven Kampfer #47 after Bergeron scored in the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 13, 2011 at th
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Boston Bruins are an NHL team on the rise and will be serious cup contenders in just a few years time.

    With young stars like Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Nathan Horton, combined with promising prospects like Tyler Seguin, Zach Hamill, Joe Colborne and Jordan Caron, this team is shaping up to emerge as one of the NHL's best.

    The Bruins also have two first-round picks in this years draft, one of them a top five pick courtesy of the Maple Leafs. This pick could either be traded for an impact player or used to draft a top five prospect. Either way, it's very beneficial to the Bruins.

    They have some great defensive prospects in Yuri Alexandrov and Adam McQuaid, which will help strengthen the Bruins' blueline.

    To replace 36-year-old Tim Thomas, the Bruins have Tuukka Rask, who is one of the NHL's most promising young goaltenders. He has already put up some impressive numbers in his short career and will help ensure the success of this team in the future.

    With a little more depth on the back end and some time to develop the team's youth, the Stanley Cup could be returning to Boston in five years, if not sooner.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Excellent

Buffalo Sabres

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    UNIONDALE, NY - JANUARY 23:  Nathan Gerbe #42 (C) of the Buffalo Sabres scores a third period goal against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on January 23, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. The Sabres defeated the Islanders 5-3. (Photo by Bruce Ben
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    The Sabres have been a surprisingly good team over the past few years; however, the franchise will be stuck in mediocrity for the next several seasons.

    The Sabres have a history of producing mediocrity. They currently have no major scoring threats outside of Thomas Vanek and not many young stars on the rise.

    They have Calder Trophy winner Tyler Myers, who is in the midst of a sophomore slump, and some strong prospects in Tyler Ennis, Zack Kassian and Nathan Gerbe, but little else in terms of forwards. On defense, they have a small group of prospects who aren't expected to develop into top four defensemen.

    The only hope for this franchise is Ryan Miller, who has been solid this year despite a poor effort of the team in front of him. Miller is the only reason this team is where it is in the standings, even in playoff contention if they play well enough.

    But how long can Miller maintain his play? And can Buffalo find a way to revitalize their aging and unproductive roster?

    I can't exactly see the direction the Sabres are heading in. Maybe their new owner can provide some much-needed direction and rebuild this team into a legitimate contender over the next few years. But as of right now, it's only a "maybe."

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Poor

Calgary Flames

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    ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 10:  (L-R) Alex Tanguay, #40, Jerome Iginla #12, Olli Jokinen #13 and Mark Giordano #5 of the Calgary Flames celebrate Jokinen's goal against the Anaheim Ducks in the third period at the Honda Center on December 10, 2010 in Anaheim,
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The Flames have surged over the past few weeks to battle their way back into playoff contention. Unfortunately for Flames fans, this is the closest they will come to a Stanley Cup for a long time.

    The Flames are just one of those aging teams that will eventually begin an inevitable decline. It's uncertain how much longer key players like Iginla, Jokinen, Regehr and Kiprusoff will be effective.

    Making matters worse, Calgary has no one in their own system to replenish their diminishing talent. The Flames have arguably the worst system of prospects in the league. Other than Backland, the team is seriously lacking in the young talent department.

    The future does not look good for the Flames organization. This season may be their only hope to make a cup run. After this season, they will undoubtedly fall out of playoff contention quickly and to the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Terrible

Carolina Hurricanes

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 16:  Eric Staal #12 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates his goal against the Atlanta Thrashers with Ian White #7, Joni Pitkanen #25 and Jussi Jokinen #36 at Philips Arena on December 16, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Carolina Hurricanes have been an underachieving team over the past few seasons. They've only made the playoffs twice since their Stanley Cup victory in 2006.

    But the future looks surprisingly good for the Hurricanes. Hockey fans are undoubtedly aware of the emergence of the young but extremely talented Jeff Skinner, who is a strong candidate for the Calder Memorial Trophy. Skinner will be a huge factor in this team's future success.

    They have great defensive prospects in Jamie McBain and Brian Dumoulin and great potential depth at center with players like Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe.

    With Eric Staal in command, the reliable Cam Ward in net and a system full of skilled prospects, the Hurricanes could very easily become consistent playoff contenders and even challengers for the Stanley Cup in five years.

    Some concerns regarding this team's chances are: will they continue to underachieve like they have in the past? And can they bring in some big free agents to complement the team?

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Average

Chicago Blackhawks

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    CHICAGO - OCTOBER 13: Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks (R) celebrates a 1st period goal with teammates (L-R) Brent Seabrook #7, Jonathan Toews #19 and Duncan Keith #2 against the Nashville Predators at the United Center on October 13, 2010 in Ch
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Those who follow hockey have noticed how far the Blackhawks have tumbled from their Stanley Cup win last year. They have struggled in many areas of their game this season.

    However, the Blackhawks will not be down for long. With young, still developing stars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane leading the way, and the top defensive pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, this team will have success long into the future.

    Adding to their young core are talented prospects like Nick Leddy, Jeremy Morin, Kyle Beach and Dylan Olsen, who will replenish the talent that will be lost when players like Marian Hossa and Brian Campbell retire.

    Making the team even stronger has been the surprisingly excellent rookie Corey Crawford, who will undoubtedly be this team's future starter. The recently acquired Alexander Salak from Flordia will assist their depth in net.

    Their other acquisition from Florida, forward Michael Frolik, has potential to be a big impact player if he remains with the Blackhawks.

    The only question regarding this team's future is: how effectively can Stan Bowman manage the cap to keep the talented core of this team intact?

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Good

Colorado Avalanche

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    DENVER - NOVEMBER 17:  Chris Stewart #25 (C) of the Colorado Avalanche celebrates his third period goal against the San Jose Sharks John-Michael Liles #4 and Cody McLeod #55 at the Pepsi Center on November 17, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defea
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Colorado Avalanche are in the midst of a slow but progressive rebuilding phase. I want to go out on a limb and make the claim that the Avalanche will be one of the strongest Stanley Cup contenders in five years (no, not because of Peter Forsberg) 

    First and foremost, they have a ton of cap space. This summer, they will have over $31 million of free cap space to re-sign their roster and add much needed free agent help. This puts them in a great position to go after some expensive free agents other teams won't have space for.

    They already have some great offensive talent in players like Paul Stasny, Matt Duchene, Chris Stewart and Tomas Fleischmann who will put up numbers for the Avalanche for years to come.

    To assist their lacking blueline they have arguably the best system of defensive prospects that includes Kevin Shattenkirk, who already plays with the Avalanche, Stefan Elliott, Jonas Holos, Stephen Silas and Troy Rutkowski. Given a few years for development, they will become a strong defensive group for the Avalanche.

    The Avalanche also acquired two highly ranked goalies Calvin Pickard and Sami Aittokallio in the draft. These two will help provide future stability in net.

    If the Avalanche develop their team well and acquire much-needed star power over the next few seasons, they could be hoisting the cup for the first time since 2001 in five years. 

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Excellent

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 22:  Steve Mason #1 of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrates a 2-0 victory over the Nashville Predators on November 22, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The Columbus Blue Jackets are an odd team. They're never terrible, but they're never quite good enough to make the playoffs. They don't tend to draft well and don't develop their players to their full potential. This causes the team to consistently perform poorly, or at best mediocre.

    I don't see this changing to a great extent in the future. While the Blue Jackets may become playoff contenders, their Stanley Cup chances are bleak.

    They do have some strong prospects in Nikita Filatov and Ryan Johansen and a good group of defensive prospects, but as I mentioned earlier, Blue Jackets prospects rarely reach full potential (Nash is the obvious exception).

    Another problem facing the Blue Jackets organization is Steve Mason. He hasn't met the expectations the Blue Jackets management had for him, and there are trade rumors going around.

    If he gets traded, the Blue Jackets will face a serious problem with their goalie depth, as they lack a strong goalie prospect.

    Columbus will go through constant rebuilding phases over the next few seasons, which may carry them to a playoff berth, but will weaken their ability to make a Stanley Cup run in five years.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Terrible

Dallas Stars

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    OTTAWA - NOVEMBER 24:  Brandon Segal #24, Trevor Daley #6, Mike Ribeiro #63, Jeff Woywitka #44 and Brenden Morrow #10 of the Dallas Stars celebrate their game-winning goal over the Ottawa Senators in a game at Scotiabank Place on November 24, 2010 in Otta
    Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

    The Dallas Stars have caught the NHL off guard this season. They are currently tied with the San Jose Sharks for the Pacific Division lead and sit third in the Western Conference. It appears they're legitimate contenders this season.

    But that won't last for very long, as this Stars team will begin their fall as soon as next season.

    The Stars have a very small selection of prospects. Other than Philip Larsen, they have very few defensive hopefuls, which is one of the weaker aspects of the Stars' game and the potential of many of their forward prospects is questionable.

    Another uncertainty regarding the team's future is Brad Richards, who is the biggest factor in the team's success. Will he be traded or re-signed? Is he worth re-signing for the huge salary he will undoubtedly be demanding?

    A king's ransom could be fetched from a team looking for a star first-line centerman like Toronto, which might help solve depth problems the Stars will definitely encounter over the next few years. If Richards remains with the Stars, his effectiveness will more or less determine the team's success.

    With many core players like Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro and Stephan Robidas not getting any younger, this team will be scrambling to replace these heavily relied on veterans.

    Unless some moves happen to refill the dried-up prospect pool and add some more youth, this team will drop considerably in the rankings over the years and fall completely out of contention.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Terrible

Detroit Red Wings

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    SAN JOSE, CA - NOVEMBER 30:  Henrik Zetterberg #40 celebrates with Pavel Datsyuk #13 and Jonathan Ericsson #52 of the Detroit Red Wings after Zetterberg scored a goal against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion on November 30, 2010 in San Jose, California.
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Red Wings are by far the hardest team to assess. By looking at how old their roster is and how dependent they are on some very seasoned veterans, you could say they will be a team totally out of contention in a few years.

    However, there is an important rule to learn in hockey: never underestimate the Detroit Red Wings!

    Their system is full of young stars. Red Wings fans have already witnessed the rise of players like Justin Abdelkader, Jan Mursak, Tomas Tatar and Corey Emmerton.

    The Red Wings develop their players better than any other team in the NHL, so there's no doubt all these guys will become highly productive one day.

    Not to mention, the Red Wings have a knack for finding gems in late-round draft picks.

    The Red Wings have proven they can sustain a dynasty even after losing key players. The question I have is: can they sustain their dynasty after losing several key players?

    In a matter of three to four years, they could lose: Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Tomas Holmstrom, Kris Draper, Ruslan Salei and Todd Bertuzzi. Meanwhile, other stars like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Nicklas Kronwall and Danny Cleary will be approaching retirement.

    The Red Wings' success will depend on how well they can make the transition from old to young and handle losing all these key players.

    I don't want to write the Red Wings off as possible future contenders, but it might just be some other team's turn to win a few Stanley Cups.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Average

Edmonton Oilers

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    Abelimages/Getty Images

    The Edmonton Oilers are a team that has been rebuilding for several years now and they will eventually develop into a success. And I say that with a degree of certainty because they really can't get any worse than they are now.

    With the amount of young, developing talent they have, the only place for them to go in the standings is up.

    Players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark will form the new core of the Oilers, while players like Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner and Shawn Horcoff will probably get shipped out of town in exchange for more draft picks and/or prospects.

    Given some time for development, the Oilers will have one of the elite scoring squads in the NHL and they have a promising future goalie in Olivier Roy.

    They're biggest weakest is on defense. The Oilers are likely to secure a top five pick in this year's draft, which they will most likely use to bring in a defensive prospect.

    Throw in some free agents to fill the gaps in the roster, and the Oilers could be in championship form in  five years.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Good

Florida Panthers

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    TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 1:  Stephen Weiss #9, Evgeni Dadonov #63 and  Dmitry Kulikov #7 of the Florida Panthers celebrate goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during game action at the Air Canada Centre February 1, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Ph
    Abelimages/Getty Images

    The Florida Panthers are a lot like the Columbus Blue Jackets: they're not terrible, but never good enough to make the playoffs. They constantly finish between 10th-12th in the Eastern Conference.

    Under new GM Dale Tallon, they may just be able to become playoff contenders, but I have my doubts about them becoming Stanley Cup contenders. Then again, Tallon did build the Chicago Blackhawks into a champion, maybe he could actually pull it off in Florida.

    The Panthers will be strong defensively, with prospects like Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, Keaton Ellerby and Colby Robak on the rise.

    To replace Tomas Vokoun, they have goalie Jacob Markstrom, who is the future starter for the Panthers.

    On the flip side, the Panthers seriously lack forward talent. They have plenty of names, but it is uncertain whether they will develop into elite players.

    With the recent trade of skilled centerman and former first-round pick Michael Frolik to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for the underdeveloped Jack Skille, as well as and trade rumors hovering around Stephen Weiss, it is hard to say how strong the Panthers will be at the center position in a few years.

    I don't know what Tallon's plan is with this franchise. He has limited assets to work with, and it will take several years to build this team into a contender for the Stanley Cup.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Poor

Los Angeles Kings

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26:  Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates with teammates after defeating the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in an overtime shootout at Staples Center on January 26, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Victor Decolo
    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

    I'm going to make a very bold statement: the Kings will win a Stanley Cup in five years, if not before that. I don't know exactly when, but it will happen.

    GM Dean Lombardi, and before him Dave Taylor, have done a fantastic job managing this franchise and drafting some very promising prospects. The Kings are a team that will be maturing over the next few seasons and develop into the best team in the NHL.

    Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson are two of the best two-way defensemen in the game and they still have lots of development to go through.

    Throw in defensive-defensemen Alec Martinez and prospects like Derek Forbort, Thomas Hickey and Vyacheslav Voynov, the Kings will have a very strong blueline in the future.

    To complement their young star forwards, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, the Kings have depth forwards like Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Clifford, as well as future top six forwards in Brayden Schenn and Andrei Loktionov. Tyler Toffoli, and Brandon Kozun also show some ability to compete at the NHL level.

    In net they have two young, talented goalies Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier, who will provide the Kings will a very good goaltending combination for years to come.

    If the Kings develop to their full potential, the Stanley Cup will definitely be making a visit to Hollywood sometime in five years, if not before that.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Excellent

Minnesota Wild

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    DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 19:  Cam Barker #25 and his teamamtes on the Minnesota Wild celebrate a goal in a game against the Detroit Red Wings on November 19, 2010 at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The Wild defeated the Wings 4-3 in overtime. (Pho
    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    The Minnesota Wild are one of those sleeper teams that can catch you off guard and really make a team pay for unpreparedness.

    However, they always float on the playoff bubble and never play good enough to make it inside the top eight in the Western Conference.

    Wild fans will be heartbroken to hear that their team will plummet in the standings over the next few seasons.

    The Wild already have serious scoring troubles (they are the second lowest-scoring team in the Western Conference, having only four more goals than Edmonton) and their prospect pool simply doesn't have an answer.

    They have some talent on the blueline but other than Mikael Grablund, the Wild have no potential scoring threats in their system.

    To make matters worse their starting goalies Nicklas Backstrom and Jose Theodore will be entering retirement in the near future, and the Wild have no goaltending prospects to replace them.

    The Wild's management will have to replenish their pool of prospects and bring in some big scorers through trades and free agency if this team wants to have a chance at the Stanley Cup in the future.

    If this team is left as it is, they will be bottom five in the conference in five years.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Terrible

Montreal Canadiens

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    MONTREAL, CANADA - FEBRUARY 2:  Jeff Halpern #15 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates his second-period goal with teammates during a NHL game against the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre on February 2, 2011 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Richa
    Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

    I have to get this off my chest. The Montreal Canadiens have two of the worst contracts in the NHL with Scott Gomez ($7.35 million cap hit) and Brian Gionta ($5 million cap hit).

    The two of them combine for over $12.35 million against Montreal's cap and yet are on track to produce less than 90 points combined.

    So before I talk about Montreal's future chances, I must say this: it will be very tough to win a Stanley Cup with these two being as unproductive as they are and with their salaries against the cap.

    That being said, the Montreal Canadiens do have lots of potential in their system. They have a young, solid core centered around Michael Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn, along with future players like Lars Eller, Danny Kristo, and Louis Leblanc. The Canadiens should have good depth up front for several years.

    They have a reliable goalie in Carey Price, who will give the team some stability in net.

    One concern however is their defense, which is very old. Players like Hall Gill, Roman Hamrlik, Jaroslav Spacek and Andrei Markov will most likely be lost to retirement, trade and free agency and the Canadiens have only a limited number of prospects to replace them.

    The Canadiens management will need to work diligently to replace the defense that will be lost over the next two or three seasons and find a quality backup goaltender to relieve Price. If they do that, the Stanley Cup may find it's way back to Montreal in five years.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Average

Nashville Predators

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    NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 11:  Shea Weber #6 and Joel Ward #29 of the Nashville Predators celebrate after defeating the Florida Panthers 3-0 on December 11, 2010 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    The Nashville Predators are, without a doubt, the most underrated team in the NHL. No one ever expects much of them, however they continue to overachieve and repeatedly make the playoffs.

    The Predators have one of the deepest prospect pools in the league. This complements a defensively powerful core that includes Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, along with talented young forwards Sergei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornquist.

    The Predators are in shape to develop into one of the deepest teams in the league with the number of prospects they have at forward, on defense and in net. Forwards like Colin Wilson, Nick Spaling, Austin Watson, Taylor Beck, and Zach Budish will become major contributors for the Predators.

    The Predators have a knack for producing very skilled defensemen, so there's no doubt defensive prospects like Jonathan Blum, Charles-Oliver Roussel and Ryan Ellis will develop into defensive stars.

    In net, the Predators have a long list of prospects that includes Anders Lindback, who already plays with the Predators, along with Chet Pickard, Atte Engren and Mark Dekanich.

    One problem the Predators have is they always seem to lack elite and clutch scoring to help them in big-game situations.

    If they can find some productive forwards in their own system, or bring in some free agent help, the Predators have a decent chance at the Stanley Cup in five years.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Good

New Jersey Devils

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    NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 31:  Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates his third period goal against the Atlanta Thrasherswith his teammates at the Prudential Center on December 31, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Thrashers
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The New Jersey Devils tried to pull a Detroit Red Wings this season: they tried to win using experience and veterans, and it failed miserably. Despite the long list of seasoned veterans on the Devils, they have been a bust and sit 13th in the Eastern Conference, 27th in the NHL.

    However, I firmly believe the Devils can rebound and have future success. They have begun the process of stripping apart and auctioning off parts of their team, which I think will continue until the deadline and over the course of the summer. This should bring them draft picks and prospects.

    Ilya Kovalchuk is starting to show signs that he can return to his former self, and with young productive players like Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Mattias Tedenby, it's hard to think that the Devils can't at least return to playoff contention in five years.

    On their team the Devils have some developing players like Jacob Josefson, Vladimir Zharkov and Matthew Corrente. The Devils will also be getting a top five draft pick this summer, which they can use to help rebuild their team.

    One big question mark remains for the Devils: who will be in net after Martin Brodeur retires, most likely at the end of this season? The Devils don't have any solid goalie prospects and will probably have to fill the role through free agency.

    The Devils have shown that they can succeed under Jaques Lemaire's system. If they rebuild successfully, they have a chance at a Stanley Cup in five years.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Average

New York Islanders

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    UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 02: Rob Schremp #44 (C) of the New York Islanders celebrates his goal at 12:30 of the second period against the New York Rangers at the Nassau Coliseum on December 2, 2010 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Ima
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    What can honestly be said about this team other than it's a disaster? I can't word it any other way. The Islanders have no chance of winning a cup any time soon.

    They have been a rebuilding team for most of the past decade and their efforts haven't amounted to much of anything. They're bleeding fans and in serious financial trouble. It's difficult for a team to become a contender when they're having troubles staying afloat.

    On the upside they do have lots of talent: John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Blake Comeau, Michael Grabner and Pa Parenteau, but the team doesn't seem to have any vision, leadership or direction.

    What really kills this franchise is the management, who is prone to making very bad decisions and don't properly develop their players, making it tough to say how prospects like Nino Niederreiter, Calvin de Haan and Travis Hamonic will turn out.

    Making matters worse, no high-value free agent looking to win a Stanley Cup would sign with the Islanders, making their options to improve through free agency next to impossible.

    Even with another top five pick this summer, I think this team's is several years away from being a Stanley Cup contender.

    If the Islanders can develop their star players to their full potential and get serious about winning, they might have a chance, but I just don't see any direction in this franchise (this is what sets them and Edmonton apart)

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Terrible

New York Rangers

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    NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 19: Steve Eminger #44 of the New York Rangers and Marian Gaborik #10 celebrate Gaborik's hat trick goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden on January 19, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Im
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    The New York Rangers have been a disappointment for the past several years. As an Original Six team with a very large fan base, the expectations on this team are enormous.

    The Rangers will have good success in the future, maybe even a chance at a Stanley Cup. Stars like Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Marc Staal will still be around for a few years, as will netminder Henrik Lundquist. This core will give the Rangers a fairly competitive team.

    The Rangers have a ton of forward prospects that will join the NHL ranks in a few years time, prospects like Derek Stephan, who already plays with the Rangers. Other prospects include Evgeny Grachev, Chris Kreider, Ethan Werek and Ryan Bourque. The Rangers should be set at the forward position for many years.

    One weakness in the Rangers system is defense. They lack strong defensive prospects and will have to search the free agent market the next few offseasons to strengthen themselves in that area.

    I think the Rangers are a team that will slowly creep up the Eastern Conference standings over the next few seasons and eventually become legitimate cup contenders in five or so years.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Good

Ottawa Senators

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    BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 22:  Daniel Alfredsson #11 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates his 1000th NHL point on a an empty net goal against the Buffalo Sabres  during their NHL game at HSBC Arena October 22, 2010 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo By Dave Sandford/
    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

    The Ottawa Senators have been a monstrous failure this season, comparable with the New Jersey Devils.

    You can blame the failure on any number of reasons: underachieving and unproductive players, poor coaching by Cory Clouston, lack of a decent starting goalie. The list goes on. 

    The fact is the Senators need to rebuild. Now the good news is they've already started to do that. They recently traded Mike Fisher to the Nashville Predators for two draft picks (a first-round and a conditional) and trade rumors are buzzing around numerous other players.

    The bad news is it will take a very long time for the Senators to rebuild into a contending team.

    The Senators do have some defensive talent in their system. Erik Karlsson is obviously one of the Senators future defensemen, along with prospects like David Rundblad, Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch.

    But the Senators have little else for prospects. They have no strong prospects at the forward position and no potential starting goalies.

    Not to mention they will soon be losing their captain Daniel Alfredsson...and Jason Spezza wants out of Ottawa so bad it seems inevitable he'll be traded at some point. (The Leafs may be interested, but don't expect draft picks in return)

    Considering the amount of restructuring the Senators will go through over the next three to five years, it's hard to imagine them putting together a contending team. It may happen sometime in the future, but not in the amount of time I'm talking about.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Terrible

Philadelphia Flyers

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 25:  Claude Giroux #28 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his second period goal with his teammates in an NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Wells Fargo Center on January 25, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylva
    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    The Philadelphia Flyers have had tremendous success under the management of GM Paul Holmgren, who has outfitted this team with virtually all the pieces it needs to win a Stanley Cup.

    However, I do have some doubts about how strong the Flyers will be in the future. Players like Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timmonen and Daniel Briere will be nearing retirement over the next few years and they will be tough to replace.

    On the bright side the team has a very talented and young core group of players. Among these are forwards Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux, Ville Leino, James van Riemsdyk and Andreas Nodl. These players will continue to contribute and provide the Flyers with wins.

    On defense the Flyers will have Andrej Mezaros, Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle, and propects Oskars Bartulis, who plays with the Flyers, Kevin Marshall, Jonas Lehtivuori, Marc-Andre Bourdon, and Erik Gustafsson, giving the Flyers a reasonably strong blueline for many years.

    In net, they have Sergei Bobrovsky who is showing potential to become an elite goaltender. He is only 22 and has many years of development left. The Flyers also have many promising goaltending prospects to back up Bobrovsky.

    Unfortunately, the Flyers lack strong forward prospects, which may affect their offensive depth in the future. However, as long as their core continues to produce consistently, the team should not have significant scoring troubles in the future.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Good

Phoenix Coyotes

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 17:  Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Phoenix Coyotes celebrates with teammates Lauri Korpikoski #28 and Taylor Pyatt #14 after Ekman-Larsson scored his first career goal against the San Jose Sharks during the third period of the NHL
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Phoenix Coyotes have shocked the NHL the past two seasons with their remarkable play. The made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2002 and recorded their first ever 100+ point season.

    As inspiring as the Phoenix Coyotes have been the past two seasons, they simply don't have what it takes to win a Stanley Cup, this year or in the future. They lack the depth and elite scoring threats.

    What will hurt the Coyotes so much in the future will be the loss of key players like Shane Doan, Ed Jovanovski, Ray Whitney and Adrian Aucoin, whose contribution to the team in terms of leadership and experience will be nearly impossible to replace.

    Defensively, the Coyotes are in good shape, as they have several prospects that can compete at the NHL level.

    Oliver Ekman-Larsson plays with the Coyotes and guys like Brandon Gormley, David Schlemko, Chris Summers, Maxim Goncharov and Michael Stone will be graduating to the NHL in a number of years.

    However the Coyotes have only two solid forward prospects, Brett MacLean and Viktor Tikhonov, on the rise. It will be very difficult for the Coyotes to get players who can score on their roster. Their depth in net is also very questionable.

    Phoenix isn't a highly marketable free agent destination, so attracting talent through free agency isn't an option.

    The silver lining for the Coyotes team is that they have a potential Norris Trophy winner in Keith Yandle and an elite goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov. There may be some hope for this franchise that continues to amaze people.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Poor

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    MONTREAL, CANADA - JANUARY 12:  Chris Kunitz #14 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his third period goal with team mates (L-R) Alex Goligoski #3, Kris Letang #58 and Jordan Staal #11 during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centr
    Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

    The Pittsburgh Penguins, like the Detroit Red Wings, are a tough team to analyze. Their success is dependent on how well GM Ray Shero manages the salary cap, as the Penguins will undoubtedly be running into cap problems over the next few years.

    It's tough to imagine that a team with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury and future Norris Trophy winner Kris Letang, won't be a strong contender in the future.

    To complement their core, the Penguins have promising prospects like Eric Tangradi, Simon Despres and Beau Bennett. The Penguins should be relatively deep at every position for many years to come.

    However, as I mentioned early, their salary cap situation is something to worry about. Crosby's contract expires at the end of the 2012-13 season, as does Jordan Staal's, and Malkin's the following year. You can bet all three of those players will be wanting raises.

    Next season, the Penguins will have only $6 million in cap space and only 16 players signed on their roster. There's no doubt moves will have to be made. This uncertainty about who will remain with the team in the future is what drags down their chances a little bit.

    However, they have the core pieces that can lead the team to another Stanley Cup in five years.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Good

San Jose Sharks

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    OTTAWA, ON - DECEMBER 02:  Patrick Marleau #12 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators with teammates Joe Pavelski #8 and Dany Heatley #15 in a game at Scotiabank Place on December 2, 2010 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo
    Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

    It seems the San Jose Sharks have won just about everything other than a Stanley Cup. They've won the Pacific Division, the Western Conference and even the President's Trophy. But not Lord Stanley's hardware. And they really missed their chance last season.

    The Sharks will continue to be contenders for a few more years and then fall from contention once the Big Three (Thornton, Heatley, Marleau) and Dan Boyle become more ineffective.

    They do have some players who will keep the team alive in the future. Calder Trophy hopeful Logan Couture will become the team's leading scorer perhaps as early as next season, and Joe Pavelski and Devon Setoguchi will give the Sharks a decent scoring group.

    One huge problem is defense. Once the heavily relied on Dan Boyle retires, the Sharks are in big trouble. Their next best defensemen is Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is a decent shutdown defenseman but not nearly as versatile as Boyle.

    They do have some defensive prospects like Jason Demers and Derek Joslin to ease the pain of losing Boyle, but you can't simply replace a Dan Boyle.

    Making matters worse is the lack of forward prospects the Sharks have, which makes adding scoring threats to replace the Big Three a lot more difficult.

    The Sharks have a solid two- to three-year window to win a Stanley Cup and then their chances will drop significantly. I sure hope they can do it. Joe Thornton deserves a Stanley Cup more than anyone else in the NHL.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Average

St. Louis Blues

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - FEBRUARY  4: T.J. Oshie #74 and Patrik Berglund #21 of the St. Louis Blues celebrate Oshie's goal against the Edmonton Oilers at the Scottrade Center on February 4, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    The St. Louis Blues have been a struggling team the past few seasons. This year they got off to a terrific start but ended up battling injuries that have set them back in the standings.

    The Blues are one of the tougher teams to analyze. I don't have a strong sense of where they're heading. They did play well earlier in the season, so maybe management will carry over the same team to next season.

    Young players like Erik Johnson, David Perron, Patrik Berglund, TJ Oshie and Vladimir Sobotka, will have a very strong impact on this team's success in the future.

    Prospect-wise, the Blues seem to be set. They have two promising forwards in Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko and a strong defensive prospect in Alex Pietrangelo.

    However the Blues do lack truly elite scoring threats and the play of Jaroslav Halak this season has been less than what was expected of him when he was signed.

    I have some doubts about the Blues. I think they will be a contending team in the future but not a very strong one.

    If they bring in some star power, an elite scorer or a strong shutdown defensemen, to lead the group, they could be more successful.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Average

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    VANCOUVER, CANADA - DECEMBER 11: Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates with Martin St Louis #26, Ryan Malone #6 and Teddy Purcell #16 after scoring against the Vancouver Canucks in overtime to win 5-4 during NHL action on December 11, 2
    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    The Tampa Bay Lightning have surged their way into the top three in the Eastern Conference, leading the Southeast Division.

    Led by the offensively dominating pair of Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning are on the list of Stanley Cup contenders this season.

    But the big question is: how long will the Lightning stay contenders? On paper, they look like a team in trouble.

    Aging players like St. Louis and Mattias Ohlund will soon be pushed out by retirement, while other key players like Vincent Lecavalier, Simon Gagne and Ryan Malone may be too old to compete.

    But I'm going to go with my gut on this one and say that the Lightning will continue to be a contender for several years and may even be a Stanley Cup favorite someday.

    I have a lot of faith in Steve Yzerman. I think he was born with two natural talents: playing hockey and being a hockey executive.

    Steven Stamkos will be the electricity in the Lightning lineup and will be a consistent league leading goal scorer. Along with Victor Hedman, Teddy Purcell and Steve Downie, this team will have a solid core of young players.

    They have some great forward prospects like Brett Connolly, Carter Ashton, Alex Hutchings and Richard Panik, as well as some able prospects on defense and in net.

    I may be proven wrong about the Lightning but I think they will be very strong contenders for many, many years. My instincts tell me Yzerman has big plans for this franchise, both short and long term.

    Very few things would make me happier than to see Steve Yzerman hoist the Stanley Cup as a GM. I think it could happen in five years, if not sooner.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Excellent

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 1:  The Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate Mikhail Grabovski goal against the Florida Panthers during game action at the Air Canada Centre February 1, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
    Abelimages/Getty Images

    I'm not going to give a history lesson about the Leafs, nor will I talk about their disappointing season this year. Leafs fans know it all too well. So I'll simply talk about the future of this team.

    I have a warning for Leafs fans: don't expect too much out of this team over the next two to three seasons. They're a rebuilding and developing team. Cut the young players some slack. It takes time and careful planning to put a Stanley Cup-winning team together.

    That being said, the Leafs will have a decent shot at a cup in a few years time. I don't want to discuss "the trade that shall not be named" other than to say it will have short-term repercussions, especially since Boston is in Toronto's division.

    However, Toronto is the youngest team in the league, with a young core than includes Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, Tyler Bozak, Clarke MacCarthur, Dion Phaneuf and Luke Schenn. With some time for development, this could turn into one of the best groups in the NHL.

    The Leafs also have a system with some potential talent, with players like Nazem Kadri and Keith Aulie, and newly acquired Jake Gardiner, the Leafs could have a very deep team in a few years.

    In net, they've found a future starter in James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson (if he's able) will provide the Leafs with a reliable goalie combination.

    I don't think Leafs fans should start planning a parade, but I do think the Leafs will have a legitimate shot at the cup in maybe five or so years.

    If they can get the much-needed help at center and the whole team develops well enough, the Leafs could bring the cup back to TO.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Average

Vancouver Canucks

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    TORONTO - NOVEMBER 13: Daniel Sedin #22 and Ryan Kesler #17 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrate Ryan Kesler goal during game action against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre November 13, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages
    Abelimages/Getty Images

    The Vancouer Canucks have been building to where they are now for several years. They are a prime example of how patience and planning can make a team a very strong Stanley Cup contender.

    However, with regards to the Canucks' future success, there are some questions to be asked. How long will the Sedins be effective? How long will Luongo be effective? Will they run into cap troubles down the road? These are the things I think about when I contemplate the future of the Canucks.

    The Canucks will have some cap trouble starting this offseason, which will force them to part with at least one of their defensemen, as players like Christian Ehrhoff and Kevin Bieksa will be asking for hefty raises.

    GM Mike Gillis will need to ensure he has cap space in a few years to re-sign other players who will be demanding raises.

    Another questionable aspect of the Canucks is their lack of prospects. Other than Cody Hodgson, Jordan Schroeder and Sergei Shirokov, the Canucks are shorthanded at the forward position.

    The loss of Luc Bourdon and Michael Grabner hurt their future depth, as did having no picks in the first three rounds of the 2010 draft.

    A positive for the Canucks has been the surprisingly good play of Chris Tanev, who may develop into a solid top four defenseman.

    Looking down the road the Canucks should still have a contending team in five years. The Sedins should still be reasonably effective, and stars like Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows should remain with the team, along with a very deep defensive group.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Good

Washington Capitals

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    TORONTO, CANADA - JANUARY 22: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during game action at the Air Canada Centre January 22, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
    Abelimages/Getty Images

    The Washington Capitals had a very good chance to win the cup last year. They were the reigning President's Trophy winners, boasted the strongest offensive force in the league and had all the momentum going into the playoffs. And they blew it.

    The Capitals will recover, however. They may not be the strongest team defensively, but they seem to be modifying their system to give fewer chances to opposing teams.

    With offensive stars like Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and defenseman Mike Green likely to be with the team for a very long time, it's not logical to say the Capitals won't still be contenders in five years.

    The Capitals also have one of the strongest systems of prospects in the NHL. They have very strong defensive prospects in Karl Alzner and John Carlson, along with some talented forward prospects like the impressive Mathieu Perreault, along with Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetzov.

    The Capitals also have a very promising future in net with young goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth.

    The problem for the Capitals will be filling gaps in their roster with the limited amount of cap space they have.

    If they can acquire some cheap labour that can produce and be effective, the Capitals may give the  Stanley Cup it's first visit to the capital in five years.

    Future Stanley Cup chances: Good


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    Which team will take this photo in five years?
    Which team will take this photo in five years?Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Who are the Stanley Cup contenders of the future?

    It really is impossible to tell. I formulated this analysis based on the average roster age, number of prospects, quality of prospects, management and projected cap space over time.

    Regardless of how accurate I am about a team, I made a lot of assumptions.

    But anything could happen.

    Players will get traded, free agents will sign in unlikely places, management and coaching may change over time. Stars may stop producing and diamonds in the rough may emerge.

    There are a lot of potential changes that can happen between now and the 2015-2016 season.

    We'll see how ridiculous this list looks in five years.

    Thanks for reading!