NHL Offseason Betting News and Notes
With players reporting to training camp this week, now is as good a time as any to take a quick review of the NHL offseason and look at how some teams are positioned on the betting market to open up the year. NHL bettors are well aware that the sport provides something of a niche avenue in the sports handicapping world, and early profits can be found as a sometimes inefficient market works itself out. Below are a few things to keep in mind from a busy summer.
The Offseason That Never Ends
NHL restricted free agency is a strange beast that often rears its head as training camp comes into focus. Usually, the contracts end up getting sorted, but sometimes it can take awhile for top talent to come to terms. Last year, promising Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander remained unsigned until early December and played only 54 games. It’s not unreasonable to wonder, if he had broken camp with the club, could the Leafs have had home ice for Game 7 in their first round playoff matchup with the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins?
This year, an even greater young talent in Toronto remains without a deal. Mitch Marner is looking for a massive contract and the sides are struggling to come together. In addition to Marner, a bevy of young stars are still unsigned. At the time of writing, players like Brayden Point, Charlie McAvoy, Mikko Rantanen, Patrick Laine, and Matthew Tkachuk among others are waiting to get paid. Be sure to follow these developments closely. In cases like this, local beat writers can be an invaluable source. It’s important not only to figure out if these players are going to miss time, but also to get a sense of how it’s impacting the team and organization as a whole. Distractions can be particularly difficult when preparing for a new season and betting opportunities will arise.
Panarin to the Big Apple
It wasn’t particularly surprising to see the big-market New York Rangers make the biggest splash in free agency. Signing Artemi Panarin to a huge 7-year, $81.5 million dollar deal is the sort of risk they’ve always loved to take. Panarin is one of the most skilled players in the world and deserving of this contract. He came into the league as an undrafted prospect and has played for a ridiculously reduced rate over his first four years in the league. His addition alone will improve a Rangers team but there are other reasons to be optimistic. Second overall draft pick Kaapo Kakko has been earning rave reviews. He has a chance of playing a key offensive role, along with fellow phenom Vitali Kravtsov. Laying out big money for top-pair defenseman Jacob Trouba will help to shore up a questionable back line. Improving on last year’s disastrous 78-point campaign is almost inevitable, which makes the current point total future of 84.5 somewhat appealing.
The Devils Among Us
While their cross-town rivals threw around the big bucks, the New Jersey Devils may have had the best offseason in hockey. To begin with, their hideous 2018-19 season landed them potential elite talent Jack Hughes with the number one pick. He should instantly provide real depth up the middle along with fellow first overall pick, 2017 top choice Nico Hischier. The Swiss forward has not lit up the scoring charts but he too has a chance to be special. In a disastrous season for the Devils, Hischier was a bright spot, leading the team in a variety of important advanced statistics, such as Corsi-For percentage.
To supplement their young talent, they’ve got perennial MVP candidate Taylor Hall back healthy, and they signed power forward Wayne Simmonds in free agency. Simmonds makes his bread with the man advantage. He’s third in the NHL in power play goals since 2011-12, trailing only future Hall of Famers, Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos. The cherry on top was a spectacular trade that landed the Devils three-time all-star defenseman P.K. Subban. A beautiful puck mover and exceptional skater, Subban promises to make New Jersey’s power play one of the very best in hockey.
Last year’s last place finish saw the Devils amass a paltry 72 points. It’s a testament to the changes they’ve made that the Vegas point total is sitting at 90.5. The big jump should not put you off, however. In fact, a glance back at the last couple of seasons reveals that this sort of movement up the standings is not unheard of. Last year, the New York Islanders posted a 103-point year, one season removed from an 80-point effort. The Calgary Flames improved their total by 23 points. The Devils themselves pulled this feat off recently, going from 70 points in 16/17 to 97 and a playoff berth two seasons ago. Despite their recent struggles, New Jersey has long been one of the league’s most stable organizations, and, if they can get some decent goaltending, there’s every reason to believe they can challenge for a playoff spot.
Captain, my captain: Pavelski Bids Farewell to San Jose
After 13 seasons with the team that drafted him 205th overall, longtime San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski departed for the Dallas Stars. This may not have a huge on-ice impact, but it is a good example of a story you’ll want to monitor, particularly in bigger early season spots. Pavelski was an integral piece of what has been one of the most consistent NHL franchises over the last decade. He’s a huge part of the San Jose community and a legend to the fan base. Beyond that, he is one of the league’s great leaders. Locker room chemistry is an incredibly important and hard to define quality that NHL teams need to succeed. What we do know is that Pavelski helped build a real culture with the Sharks. Perhaps he’s left behind a foundation strong enough to transition, but even with the important re-signing of former Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, there may be an adjustment period.
Stanley Cup Hangover Two Ways
The championship hangover is much-discussed in all sports, but the sheer physicality of hockey combined with the incredible grind of its postseason make it very difficult for either finalist to come flying out of the gates. The St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins took the season as far as it could go, with the Blues outlasting Boston in a very physical seven game series. Tread carefully, despite the fact that both of these talented clubs return mostly intact. Case in point, the finalists from two seasons ago, Washington and Vegas both returned to the playoffs, but their starts were ugly. The Capitals went 8-7-3, while the Golden Knights fared even worse, putting up a 9-12-1 record to begin their season. It will be hard to find value on the Blues and Bruins early, but both these teams should again contend, so see if the situation plays out in a manner that will allow you to jump on them when the time is right.