Two months ago playing brilliantly in front of their star goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup for the second time in less than a year, beating the underdog Montreal Canadiens 1 to 0 and winning the series in five games.
It wasn’t even close. Tampa Bay ran roughshod over opponents in the playoffs, never losing two games in a row thanks to one of the deepest rosters constructed since the cap was implemented in 2005. It marked the third time in franchise history that the team has won the Stanley Cup (2004 and 2020).
The ninth franchise in NHL history to win back-to-back Stanley Cups the Lightning solidified their status as a modern-day dynasty. They will look to win their third cup in a row this season, which has not been done since the New York Islanders won four straight between 1980 and 1983.
Lightning Open As Favorites
With legal sports betting exploding in the United States, American bookmakers were hard at work handicapping the 2021-22 NHL Season even before the conclusion of the final game of the playoffs. Futures odds were set before the Stanley Cup was awarded on the ice at Amalie Arena, and before the night was done the Lightning were crowned favorites +600 to win it all again.
That was before a short but busy offseason that included the second expansion draft in four years, the 2021 NHL Draft, and a fevered few weeks of free agency.
Tampa Bay general manager Julien BriseBois was forced to realign its roster to get under the $81.5 million salary cap, losing Barclay Goodrow, Blake Coleman, David Savard, and Yanni Gourde in the process. The team did ink winger Corey Perry to a two-year deal. The 36-year-old Perry won the 2011 Hart Trophy and has played in the last two Stanley Cup finals against the Lightning.
Avalanche Move Up
In early July, Colorado Avalanche opened as favorites to win the Western Conference with Stanley Cup odds at +700 putting them just behind the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, the team which led the league in points last season with 82 was facing some tough personnel choices, including the possibility of losing both their team captain Gabriel Landeskog and starting goalie Phillip Grubauer.
General manager Joe Sakic managed to keep Landeskog, inking him to a long-term deal and replaced Grubaur by trading for Conor Timmins, a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, and a conditional third-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft to Arizona for Darcy Kuemper.
Oddsmakers liked these moves and the Avalanche moved from +700 to +650 in August and are now the Stanley Cup favorites as we move to the start of the 2021-22 season. The Tampa Bay Lightning at +750 and the Vegas Golden Knights at +800 round out the top three positions.
Boston Bruins: The Bruins were facing a good amount of uncertainty when it was disclosed that goaltender free agent Tukka Rask required hip surgery and will be out until at least January and Jaroslav Halak signing with the Vancouver Canucks. General manager Cam Neely addressed that by signing 28-year-old goalie Linus Ullmark who will likely be splitting time with 22-year-old rookie sensation Jeremy Swayman.
Boston managed to keep former league MVP Taylor Hall and added forward Nick Foligno to offset the loss of long-time Bruin center David Krejci. Bruce Cassidy’s group opens at +1200 to win the Stanley Cup.
Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens got the collective side-eye when general manager Marc Bergevin picked Logan Mailloux in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft. Mailloux had asked teams not to draft him after he was accused of sexual misconduct (he has since been convicted and suspended by the OHL).
However, the team managed to make some very good moves during the off-season. Bergevin effectively replaced Phillip Danault who signed with the Los Angeles Kings with forwards Cedric Paquette and Matthieu Perreault, and defenseman David Savard.
Savard is coming off a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay and he will provide some needed consistency on the back end with the loss of Shea Weber who is not expected to play this season due to injury. Montreal is at +2200 to win the Stanley Cup.