The NHL All-Star break is upon us. It was previously expected to be a much longer break with NHL players slated to head to Beijing for the Olympic Winter Games but hopes of that best-on-best tournament were dashed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The break is an ideal time to take stock of the NHL Stanley Cup futures odds. Here are three teams outside the upper-echelon (top five favorites) to consider. Odds listed are courtesy of DraftKings.
Calgary Flames (+3000)
This might be my favorite Stanley Cup futures play of the bunch right now. The Flames had a number of earlier postponements that leave them with at least four games in hand on the rest of the teams they're currently looking up at in the Pacific Division (Calgary sits in fourth place). They're only three points behind both the Kings and Ducks and will certainly want to make up that ground in an effort to avoid a potential first round playoff date with the Golden Knights. While injuries and Covid-related absences have certainly played a role, Vegas hasn't been nearly as consistent as in past years', perhaps leaving the door open for one of the other Pacific Division playoff teams to ultimately advance out of the division stage of the postseason. My bet is on Calgary to be that team as it boasts plenty of offensive firepower, a capable defense corps, not to mention one of the most underrated goaltenders in the NHL in Jakob Markstrom. Expect the Flames to be 'buyers' leading up to the trade deadline. A couple of savvy moves could further improve their chances of making a deep playoff run.
BONUS TIP: Bet the Flames to win the Pacific Division at +200.
Minnesota Wild (+1700)
If you're backing the Wild, you're likely making the assumption that they'll also be active on the trade market leading up to the deadline next month. There are some holes to fill but when Minnesota is at the top of its game, it ranks among the best in the entire league. The biggest problem for the Wild is that they find themselves in the same division as the mighty Colorado Avalanche - the favorite to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup. We did see the Wild go on the road and take the Avs to a shootout on Martin Luther King Day. It's also not outside the realm of possibility that we see Minnesota overtake Colorado for top spot in the division, currently sitting nine points back, but with three games in hand. The biggest question mark on the entire Wild roster might be whether or not the goaltending tandem of Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen is capable of shouldering the load. Kahkonen has actually been the more consistent goalie lately, although Talbot did show signs of turning the corner prior to the break, returning from an extended absence to allow just three goals on 72 shots in three appearances - all Wild victories.
BONUS TIP: Bet the Wild to win the Central Division at +200.
Carolina Hurricanes (+1300)
Carolina has been on the cusp of greatness for a number of years but has never been able to get over the hump. The Canes are right there as a top contender in the Eastern Conference again this season, currently pacing the Metropolitan Division (they're actually tied with the Rangers but own the tie-breaker on wins and have five games in hand). The beauty of residing in the Metropolitan is that you avoid a potential matchup with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning until the Conference Final. While the Lightning, Panthers, Leafs and Bruins battle it out in what is likely to be two grueling playoff rounds, the Canes will likely be contending with two-of-three of the Rangers, Penguins and Capitals - all opponents that Carolina can handle in my opinion. Few teams can match the Canes depth up front or on the blue line - we've seen that depth shine through as they had a number of key contributors out of the lineup for extended periods due to Covid protocols earlier this season. The addition of Frederik Andersen in goal could prove to be the biggest difference-maker come playoff time but he'll need to prove he can get it done in the postseason after a number of disappointing previous results with the seemingly cursed Maple Leafs.
BONUS TIP: Bet the Hurricanes to win the Eastern Conference at +650.