NHL

3 Early Stanley Cup Betting Values

Led by one of the league's best centers in Nathan MacKinnon, does an improved Colorado Avalanche team make for a good Stanley Cup bet?

From worst to first was the story for the 2019 St. Louis Blues, and they were able to capture the franchise's first Stanley Cup, a cap to a remarkable season. With the end of one season, we naturally look to the future, and who will be the next team to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup.

NHL Free Agency opened on July 1st, and it brought significant changes to a number of teams, which has seen their Stanley Cup odds shift as a result. While there are some free agents yet to sign, most of the "big names" are signed, and we have a good idea of where teams will stand moving forward. There is truly only one player who would dramatically change Stanley Cup odds for a team, and that is Mitchell Marner, the restricted free agent from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

While we don't have the answers to the Marner question mark right now, we can take a look at some teams who have favorable odds heading into the new season.

Colorado Avalanche +1100

The Tampa Bay Lightning come in as +700 favorites to win the Stanley Cup, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, and that shouldn't come as a surprise considering they are returning with the same team for the most part. But if you want to look beyond the obvious choice and get better odds in the process, the Colorado Avalanche should be a team worth considering.

Last season ended for the Avalanche in Game 7 of the second round with a loss to the San Jose Sharks, but the future looks extremely bright for the team from the Mile High City. Their team is led by 23-year-old center Nathan MacKinnon, who is an offensive juggernaut and a yearly candidate for the Art Ross Trophy, awarded to the player with the most points at the end of the season.

MacKinnon played all 82 games last season and finished in the top-10 for goals, points, points per game, and shots. You get the idea -- he is up there with Connor McDavid and Nikita Kucherov as one of the best in the league.

But enough about MacKinnon. This is a team game, and they have made some notable moves to bolster where they were weakest last year.

Before we look at their offseason, though, let's take a slight peek back to when they added Cale Makar, the Hobey Baker winner from last season. Makar is hailed as an elite talent, with puck handling, speed, and high hockey IQ. He is the complete package for a defenseman and was able to show that in a short time during the 10 playoff games he played, scoring six points.

As for this offseason, the Avalanche have made it a point to add depth help to their roster and bolster their scoring, something they significantly lacked last season. They've re-signed defensemen Nikita Zadorov, signed winger Joonas Donskoi, traded for Andre Burakovsky, and Nazem Kadri. The Avalanche are also in line to re-sign their restricted free agent, Mikko Rantanen, an 87-point scorer from a year ago.

I say all this and haven't even mentioned Gabriel Landeskog, who scored 75 points in 73 games last season up on the top line with MacKinnon, and young defender Samuel Girard, who has shown the ability to play heavy minutes while being extremely disciplined on defense, only taking three penalties over the course of 82 games.

The Avalanche were one game away from going to the Western Conference Final in what looks to be their first step in building a championship team. They have made the necessary improvements to their lineup in order to compete in a very tough division and conference. They have the elite players to carry the scoring, added depth help to solidify secondary help, and have a young core on defense, which is only going to improve moving forward.

At +1100 odds, you are getting a team that has all the parts needed to sustain a long playoff run that could ultimately lead to them raising Lord Stanley's Cup.

Dallas Stars +2100

The Dallas Stars are similar to the Avalanche mentioned above but come in at significantly more favorable odds for the 2019-20 Stanley Cup.

In Game 7 of the second round, the Stars' goalie, Ben Bishop, posted 52 saves on 54 shots in a double-overtime game, but it wasn't enough. The Stars fell 2-1 in that game to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues, in what was a microcosm of their entire campaign. Last season, the Stars allowed the second-fewest goals in the entire league but scored the third-fewest goals.

That isn't a recipe for success in today's NHL, but they are taking steps in the offseason to address those issues and should be in a spot to compete come next spring.

As mentioned, they are somewhat similar to Colorado, so let's take a look. The Stars have top-line center Tyler Seguin, who scored 80 points last season and finished in the top-5 for shots in the league, but at times, it felt like a bit of a one-man army for the Stars.

If Seguin wasn't producing, it was likely the rest of the team followed suit. Seguin was worth 14.7 goals above replacement (GAR), per Evolving-Hockey, which was second-best on the Stars only to Alexander Radulov, who played in 12 fewer games. Radulov, the right-wing goal scorer, was Seguin's right-hand man, as Jamie Benn had his worst season since his rookie year a decade ago.

There is no doubt that the lack of production from Benn was an issue for the team, but that was often hidden in games due to the fact the Stars have a three-headed monster on defense that can shut down any team on any night. That three-man core is John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, and rookie sensation Miro Heiskanen. Lindell got a contract extension this offseason, and they now have all three players locked up for the next three seasons at a minimum.

Overall, they have a rock-solid goalie in Ben Bishop, a young defensive core, and elite scorers, but the depth is where they struggled. This offseason, they have signed veteran Joe Pavelski to a three-year deal, Corey Perry to a very cheap one-year deal, and a few minor signings to sure up their bottom-six forwards.

The Stars are building from the goalie out and have put themselves in a position to be an elite defensive team while improving their scoring from a year ago.

Florida Panthers +2100

The Florida Panthers were one of the big winners in free agency and are looking to take the jump into the playoff picture this season.

The first major move the Panthers made was hiring head coach Joel Quenneville, who was fired in the middle of the season last year by the Chicago Blackhawks. He brings a Stanley Cup pedigree, and maybe all he needs is a fresh start with a team ready for a new challenge.

A head coach might not be super flashy for the fans, but the Panthers made up for that by signing star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who was the best free-agent goalie on the market this offseason. Bobrovsky is now under contract for the next seven years at a whopping $10 million per year.

The funny thing about the Panthers is that they already have the parts you would want in a championship-level team -- they just improved on a few things.

They were top-10 in the league last season for goals scored but allowed the fourth-most goals. The latter is largely solved with Bobrovsky, a two-time winner of the Vezina Trophy who has held opposing teams to under 3.00 goals per game in every season since 2011-12. With iron man Keith Yandle manning the blue line, along with Aaron Ekblad, they should be in a spot to help continue this streak for Bobrovsky.

They also have the scorers, which is shown by the fact they had four forwards post 70 points or more last season, led by Aleksander Barkov, who had a team-high 96. They added Brett Connolly, who is coming off his best season as a pro, along with depth forward Noel Acciari.

They didn't stop with the signings there, too, as they also added veteran defender Anton Stralman to a healthy three-year deal worth $16.5 million dollars.

The proper steps have been taken in order for the Panthers to be a playoff contender next season, and with their odds sitting at +2100, per FanDuel Sportsbook, they are in a spot to pay off big time if Coach Q can get things moving.