No team has threepeated as the NHL's Stanley Cup winner since the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1980-83. Could the two-time champion Tampa Bay Lightning join that exclusive club next summer? William Hill Sportsbook has opened the Lightning somewhat surprisingly only as +600 third-favorites to win the 2022 Stanley Cup, behind the Colorado Avalanche (+500) and Vegas Golden Knights (+550). Tampa Bay joined Pittsburgh as the only back-to-back Cup winner in the salary cap era.
The NHL plans to have a "normal" 2021-22 NHL season with the typical 82 regular-season games for each team as well as a return to the typical divisions of the Atlantic and Metropolitan in the Eastern Conference and the Central and Pacific in the West.
The one major change next season will be the addition of the expansion Seattle Kraken. They will join the Pacific, and the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central. Seattle, incidentally, is +10000 to win the Cup in its first season – better odds than the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings (each +20000). The expansion draft is July 21.
Did you know that Tampa Bay played the 2021 playoffs more than $19 million over the NHL's salary cap due to a league loophole? The Bolts already are projected to be more than $5 million over next season's cap (teams can't be over the cap in the regular season) and that's with just 19 players. Tampa will lose one player to the Kraken in the expansion draft so that should help salary-wise.
The Lightning's core of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (won the Conn Smythe Trophy), Nikita Kucherov (led NHL in playoff points after missing the regular season), Brayden Point (led NHL in playoff goals), Steven Stamkos and defenseman Victor Hedman (2020 Conn Smythe winner) returns. All but Stamkos are in their prime, and at age 31 Stamkos is still pretty darn good. Tampa's two main unrestricted free agents are Blake Coleman and Bradley Goodrow.
Colorado and Vegas did tie for the NHL lead with 82 points this past season, with the Avalanche claiming the Presidents' Trophy but blowing a 2-0 series lead in the second round of the playoffs to the Golden Knights and losing in six. Avalanche top-line winger Gabriel Landeskog and Vezina Trophy finalist netminder Philipp Grubauer are both unrestricted free agents.
The Knights' top free agent is defenseman Alec Martinez, and they are actually exempt from the expansion draft because they are such a new franchise. There is a school of thought that Vegas could trade Vezina finalist Marc-Andre Fleury this offseason because they are paying him and fellow netminder Robin Lehner a combined $12 million. Fleury is a free agent after next season.
After its unlikely run to the Stanley Cup Final, Montreal is +2000 to win its first Cup since 1993. The Canadiens will have to return to the loaded Atlantic Division next season with the Lightning, Maple Leafs, Bruins and Panthers. It might be tough to simply make the playoffs. Toronto at +1400 has the shortest Cup odds of any team from Canada, which hasn't had a Cup winner since those '93 Canadiens.
William Hill Sportsbook 2022 Stanley Cup favorites
- Avalanche +500
- Golden Knights +550
- Lightning +600
- Maple Leafs +1400
- Bruins +1400
- Hurricanes +1500
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