NHL impact players remain on ice
We have just passed the midpoint of August and while for many it is still far too early to be thinking about hockey, there are a handful of NHL executives who may already be on the hot seat for the 2019-2020 season. With some of the best young players in the league currently without contract, teams and fans are eagerly anticipating the next few weeks leading up to training camp. For some teams, the difference between retaining these valued free agents is that of competing for the Stanley Cup, while for others, they are key components in the rebuilding of the franchise.
Last season one of the star UFA’s, William Nylander, pushed the limit of the signing period until near the last possible minute. While the Toronto Maple Leafs received numerous offers for the young forward, they were determined to ink their eighth overall pick from the 2014 draft to a long term deal. While in the end everything worked out for both parties to the tune of a 6yr/$41 million contract, the pressure and headaches to sign a player who during his first two seasons in the league tallied 123 points, impacted the team negatively.
With the current crop of UFA’s playing the waiting game to weigh their financial value against each other, the most recent NHL betting lines for who will hoist Lord Stanley’s cup next June have no doubtedly been slightly altered. Although there is still time before the puck drops for training camp, there are a lot of points that are currently sitting on the sidelines.
- Tampa Bay Lightning (Brayden Point) – 92 points
- Toronto Maple Leafs (Mitch Marner) – 94 points
- Colorado Avalanche (Mikko Rantanen) – 87 points
- Calgary Flames (Matthew Tkachuk) – 77 points
- Vancouver Canucks (Brock Boeser) – 56 points
- Winnipeg Jets (Patrik Laine) – 50 points
While injuries impacted the performance of Boeser and Laine last season, the expectations and potential that they possess is vital to the Canucks attempt to return to the playoffs and the Jets compete for the championship. When you consider that Laine, despite a drop off in total points last season, has pocketed 30 goals in each of his first three seasons and is a 14/1 favorite (fourth overall according to VegasInsider) to capture the Rocket Richard award for the 2019/20 season, the Jets certainly benefit from his firepower.
At the beginning of the 2018-19 season, very few people would have predicted that the St. Louis Blues would have won their first Stanley Cup, especially with a league worst 15-18-4 record at the beginning of January. Las Vegas oddsmakers had the Lightning, Leafs, Jets, Boston Bruins and Vegas Golden Knights as the frontrunners for hoisting the banner. This season the Lightning, even with Point holding out, are once again the odds on favorites at +700 (as per OddsShark).
Tied for second and sitting fifth respectively, the Leafs and Avalanche are +1200 and +1400, but should Marner and Rantanen sign their contracts before the start of the season, expect those odds to increase slightly as the Leafs have a roster that on paper should give the Lightning a run for their money in the East, while the Avalanche would leapfrog the Knights as Western Conference favorites.
Although their teams are predicted to compete for the holy grail of hockey trophies, in order for the Lightning and Flames to overcome their tragic playoff performance last season, the Leafs to live up to expectations, the Avs and Jets to make a deep run and the Canucks to take that long awaited step up the ladder, the importance of signing their key free agents will make a huge impact on how the 2019-20 season plays out.