The NHL regular season is fast approaching and there isn’t much time left to lock in some season-long futures.
We don’t see a ton of NHL futures released throughout the season, so now is a great time to lock in value and put something on the line throughout the arduous 82-game slate.
In this piece, I’ll be looking through the NHL playoffs odds at Bovada and seeking out value for a team to make or miss the NHL playoffs come the second week of April. Also, you can check out the NHL stat leader betting predictions here.
Here are my top 5 value odds for teams to make or miss the postseason.
Carolina Hurricanes – Make the Playoffs?
It was nothing short of a dream season in Raleigh last year as the Hurricanes inexplicably marched their way to the Eastern Conference Final after finishing the regular season as the second Wild Card seed in the east.
The club brought in forward Ryan Dzingel in free agency, acquired Erik Haula and James Reimer via trade and most recently sent defenseman Justin Faulk to the St. Louis Blues in a deal that brought back left-shot blueliner Joel Edmundson. They also shipped Calvin de Haan to the Chicago Blackhawks to save some cap space while acquiring young d-man Gustav Forsling as part of the return.
I’m worried about the goaltending in Carolina again this season. Reimer was tattooed for a 3.09 GAA and .900 Sv% in 36 appearances with the Florida Panthers last season. They brought back Petr Mrazek this offseason, and while he posted a solid 2.39 GAA and .914 Sv% with the club last season, his NHL career has been riddled with inconsistency. He’s had a tough time putting together consecutive quality seasons.
The offense has some nice pieces in Sebastian Aho, Teuvu Teravainen and youngster Andrei Svechnikov, but Justin Williams won’t be back in the fold this year and it stands to wonder if the Hurricanes can score enough to win, especially if they don’t receive quality goaltending from the Mrazek/Reimer tandem.
In a loaded Eastern Conference, the value in this play is to have the Hurricanes on the outside looking in.
Chicago Blackhawks – Make the Playoffs?
The Blackhawks struggled again last season and ended up missing the playoffs by six points and it’s not hard to figure out why.
While the team actually ranked eighth on offense, they finished 30th on defense, allowing a whopping 3.55 goals per game. Thankfully, GM Stan Bowman addressed his area of need, acquiring stay-at-home blueliner Ollie Maatta from the Pittsburgh Penguins before trading for the aforementioned de Haan from the Hurricanes. Former first-round pick Adam Boqvist is a slick, puck-moving defenseman that appears on the brink of NHL duty to boot. Add it up and the Blackhawks could have a revamped blueline this season, although de Haan is going to miss some time at the beginning of the year.
Bowman also solidified his goaltending situation – a huge area of concern of late considering the injury woes with Corey Crawford – and signed Robin Lehner to a one-year deal coming off a Vezina-nominated season with the New York Islanders. While Lehner’s lone season with the Islanders was indeed a breakout, he’s actually been a reliable netminder throughout his NHL career with a 2.70 GAA and stellar .918 Sv% across parts of nine seasons. A 50/50 timeshare would appear to be in the cards here in an effort to maximize both netminders.
The offense will be good. Patrick Kane – coming off a 110-point season – and Jonathan Toews are set to reunite on the top line ahead of good buddies Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat who rekindled after their junior glory days for some serious chemistry after Strome’s mid-season trade from Arizona to Chicago.
The one thing working against the Blackhawks is a loaded Central division alongside the Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, and Winnipeg Jets. Still, the Blackhawks have the tools to compete and I believe they sneak back into the postseason after two years on the outs.
Edmonton Oilers – Make the Playoffs?
The Oilers underwent some serious changes this offseason – off the ice. Former Red Wings GM Ken Holland is now running the show in Edmonton and he brought in veteran bench boss Dave Tippett to lead this club back to the glory days.
With Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl at his disposal, Tippett has plenty to work with, but with a salary cap crunch Holland wasn’t able to do a ton this summer on the open market. Still, moving the albatross of Milan Lucic’s contract for a goal-scorer in James Neal was a stroke of genius on his part. Lucic is incapable of producing offensively in today’s NHL, and has been for a few years. Neal is coming off a disastrous season in Calgary, however he’s a huge bounce-back candidate given his lengthy history of goal-scoring, especially if he finds his way onto a line with No. 97.
Oilers fans will otherwise look for the team to take a page out of the Islanders’ book from 2018-19. The Isles brought in a veteran GM in Lou Lamoriello who went out and found a veteran head coach in Barry Trotz – one of the most successful coaches of his era. Oilers ownership accomplished something similar with Holland and Tippett.
As long as they can improve on the back end, I think we are getting fantastic value with the Oilers to bounce back this season in what should again be the weakest division in hockey.
New Jersey Devils – Make the Playoffs?
I’m a big fan of what Devils GM Ray Shero was able to accomplish this summer. After drafting American center Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick in June’s draft, Shero acquired defenseman P.K. Subban on the second day of the draft, and because he was able to swallow Subban’s entire $27M cap hit for the next three seasons – he did so on the cheap.
Shero also signed veteran winger Wayne Simmonds in free agency and acquired prospect Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights.
They’re better, there’s little doubt about that. But are they better than the Lightning, Bruins, Maple Leafs, Panthers, Hurricanes, Canadiens, Capitals, Penguins, Islanders, Flyers and Rangers among playoff hopefuls in the east?
Sure, netting Hughes is big, but this is a tough league on 18-year-old centers. They’ll hopefully get a fully healthy season out of Taylor Hall who skated in just 33 games last season. Still, Simmonds scored just 17 goals last season and only one in 17 games with the Predators after the trade deadline. His best days are behind him. Something similar could potentially be said about Subban after a down year in Nashville a season ago.
It’s just a very difficult Eastern Conference loaded with teams prepared to play postseason hockey. While shrewd, I don’t think the moves Shero was able to make this offseason can improve a Devils team that missed the playoffs by 26 points last season to the point where they are once again a playoff team. This is an easy one for me.
Winnipeg Jets – Make the Playoffs?
Going into the 2019-20 NHL season, there isn’t a team facing more uncertainty than the Winnipeg Jets.
First, they lost half of their blueline from last season. They traded Jacob Trouba to the Rangers, Tyler Myers signed with the Vancouver Canucks in free agency and Ben Chiarot did the same with the Montreal Canadiens. If that weren’t depressing enough, Dustin Byfuglien is not with the team as he ponders his future in the sport. If Byfuglien doesn’t return, it would leave Josh Morrissey as the only impact member of what used to be a stout Jets blueline still with the club.
Things aren’t any prettier up front. Goal-scorers Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor remain restricted free agents without contracts for next season. Laine’s recent comments suggest he isn’t happy with his situation with the Jets and nothing appears close on those contract fronts for players who are expected to score at least 30 goals, with Laine targeting 40-plus.
Second line center Kevin Hayes – acquired at last year’s February trade deadline – signed with the Flyers. The effective Brandon Tanev also departed in free agency, latching on with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Suddenly, the Jets look awfully thin at both the forward and defense positions. After Mark Schiefle, Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers up front, it’s very much an unproven bottom-nine forward group that could very well struggle to produce. After Morrissey and perhaps Neal Pionk – acquired in the Trouba trade – the Jets are paper-thin on the back end.
This means Connor Hellebuyck will need to be elite to get this team anywhere close to where they want to be. Hellebucyk regressed after a Vezina-nominated 2017-18 season as he posted just a 2.90 GAA and .913 Sv% last season after a 2.36 GAA and .924 Sv% the season prior. Behind a much-weaker Jets blueline and what I presume will be a less possession-oriented Jets forward group, it’s hard to see a big bounce back from the 26-year-old.
As a result, I think we’re getting big-time value with the Jets to miss the postseason in what is a loaded Central Division.