The NHL is set to return to the ice with a revamped playoff format in late-July. That means it's an excellent time to revisit some Stanley Cup futures bets that I still feel hold considerable value, even in these admittedly unusual circumstances.
Here are two plays from each conference to consider (odds courtesy of BetAnySports
The Penguins didn’t make any big moves on deadline day – their biggest acquisition was Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild two weeks prior. Zucker has proven to be an excellent fit on a line with Sidney Crosby, providing some nice secondary scoring over the month leading up to the Covid stoppage.
That’s not to say the Pens didn’t tinker with their lineup a little, adding veteran forward Patrick Marleau from the San Jose Sharks while also re-acquiring Conor Sheary along with Evan Rodrigues from the Buffalo Sabres.
I like the make-up of this Pens squad as it stands, particularly on the blue line where Pittsburgh has built a solid but unheralded defensive corps that matches up with most teams they’ll face come playoff time. The x-factor could be between the pipes where Pittsburgh will need Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray to round into form quickly if they're going to go on a deep run.Carolina Hurricanes
This may be my favorite Stanley Cup value play on the entire board. The Hurricanes bolstered their blue line prior to the trade deadline, acquiring Sami Vatanen from the Devils and Brady Skjei from the Rangers.
Carolina, of course, gained immeasurable playoff experience during last year’s improbable run to the Eastern Conference Final, where it was ushered out by what was simply a strong Bruins squad. This year, I believe the Canes can match up with anyone in the East, noting they already took down the mighty Washington Capitals, who were then defending Stanley Cup champions, in the opening round of last year’s playoffs.
The Canes young corps has only gotten stronger this season and I liked the savvy move of bringing Justin Williams back out of retirement for one more run at the Cup. It’s probably only a matter of time before head coach Rod Brind’Amour brings a cup back to Raleigh – why not this year when there may be more variance than ever?Western Conference
Vegas Golden Knights
The Knights appeared to be rounding into form at the right time as they ascended the Western Conference standings prior to the Covid stoppage. This is a roster that has only gotten stronger since going all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s NHL debut season in 2017-18. Given last year’s somewhat surprising early playoff exit, the hunger will certainly be there for the Knights to go on a deep playoff run this year.
Vegas didn’t stand pat in the days leading up to the trade deadline, acquiring Stanley Cup winner Alec Martinez to strengthen their defensive corps while also adding some depth between the pipes with Robin Lehner coming over from the Blackhawks. Even Nick Cousins looks like a nice under the radar pickup to add to their depth up front.
The Western Conference is wide open this Summer and I would put the Knights right up there with the Blues as one of the favorites to represent the conference in the Stanley Cup Final.Vancouver Canucks
While the Canucks won’t be a sure thing to get out of the first round, let alone go on a Stanley Cup run, I do like them at the current price point as they offer a lot of upside, albeit with a young roster that doesn’t have a great deal of playoff experience to lean on.
Bringing in two-time Stanley Cup winner Tyler Toffoli from the Kings was arguably one of the biggest moves leading up to the trade deadline, and since joining the team he has proven to be a tremendous fit by all accounts. With Brock Boeser sidelined, Toffoli provides some much needed scoring punch up front.
While the Canucks future is bright, I do think they’re in ‘win now’ mode as well. Once again, with the West there for the taking, this might just be the year that a Canadian team finally ends the 27-year drought and hoists Lord Stanley’s Cup.