The five Stanley Cup favorites are a collection of recent winners and teams still looking to live up to lofty expectations and deliver on their sky-high potential.
According to NHL odds, the Colorado Avalanche will look to defend their crown as +425 favorites. The Toronto Maple Leafs are +800 second-favorites, while the Florida Panthers (+900), Tampa Bay Lightning (+1000) and Carolina Hurricanes (+1200) round out the top five.
Each team’s NHL lines have moved marginally since the 2022-23 Stanley Cup odds were released in late June. On the back of acquiring Matthew Tkachuck from Calgary in a blockbuster deal, the Panthers have seen their odds shorten the most, going from +1000 to +900.
Let’s look at which of the five favorites have the best chance of living up to the pervading hype.
5. Carolina Hurricanes (+1200)
Carolina has unequivocally made the most moves in a bold statement to the rest of the league of the five favorites. Canes’ general manager Don Waddell and bench boss Rod Brind’Amour were bitterly disappointed about how their season came to a crashing halt in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinal.
They certainly didn’t sit idly by feeling sorry for themselves.
Vincent Trocheck departed for the New York Rangers, the team at the source of Brind’Amour’s postseason heartbreak. Max Domi also left for Chicago. What looked like a troublesome start to the free-agency market took a sharp and positive turn when Waddell made two key trades within 24 hours. The Canes got their hands on Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty, two outstanding veterans who bolster their immediate Stanley Cup aspirations.
The Hurricanes then signed Ondrej Kase, who notched 27 points in 50 games last season, from Toronto to a one-year deal.
In terms of outgoing players, the Canes lost Ian Cole (Tampa Bay) and Brendan Smith (New Jersey).
In addition to landing two former All-Stars, the Canes can take immense solace in knowing their No. 1 netminder will be back between the pipes for their season opener. Frederik Andersen was injured for the duration of the 2021-22 playoffs, severely impeding the Canes’ Stanley Cup chances.
The Carolina Hurricanes easily offer the best value among the five Stanley Cup favorites.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (+1000)
Finally torn kicking and screaming from their throne, the Tampa Bay Lightning are not Stanley Cup champions for the first time in three seasons. However, that doesn’t mean their days of superiority are over. Tampa’s core will remain intact for the 2022-23 campaign, propelling the team to top-contender status. Nikita Kucherov is the most prolific playoff performer of all active skaters and is only 29 years old.
Add his otherworldly skill set to the likes of Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ondrej Palat, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Alex Killorn and a healthy Brayden Point, and you can see why the Lightning are fourth favorites.
The Lightning also added role players and character guys Ian Cole from Carolina and Vladislav Namestnikov from the Stars.
A few key injuries contributed to the Lightning’s inability to keep up with the upstart Avalanche in the final. Still, a slight deficiency in overall team speed might prevent the Lightning from winning their third Cup in four seasons.
3. Florida Panthers (+900)
The bitter Sunshine State rivals should be nestled uncomfortably beside each other as the second and third Stanley Cup favorites. After being swept by the Lightning, the Panthers are as devoted to winning a Stanley Cup as a dehydrated lion trying to find a watering hole in the Sahara during a drought.
After winning the Presidents’ Trophy in 2021-22, the Panthers advanced to the second round for the first time since 1996. However, those accomplishments, although distinct signs of progress, did nothing to satiate the Panthers’ top brass.
General Manager Bill Zito took drastic steps by acquiring Tkachuk and offloading Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, and Cole Schwindt, a 2025 first-round draft pick and a conditional fourth-round pick to bolster his hockey club’s immediate Stanley Cup chances.
The Panthers also lost Claude Giroux to the Ottawa Senators. So Zito had better hope his calculated risk pays off, or he could find himself out of a job while the franchise’s 26-year wait for a Stanley Cup drags on.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs (+800)
The Toronto Maple Leafs are seemingly always one puzzle piece away from ascending to NHL supremacy. Stacked offensively and capable defensively, the Maple Leafs have taken a massive gamble on Matt Murray after losing Jack Campbell to the Oilers.
If the two-time Stanley Cup champion can find a way to stay healthy and rediscover the elite form that helped backstop the Pens to successive Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, Kyle Dubas will come out the other side a messiah among men.
If the unthinkable yet probable occurs, Dubas will find himself looking for another job. In seven NHL seasons, Murray has never started more than 50 games. It’s a foreboding and frightening fact Maple Leafs fans will hope Murray puts an end to in 2022-23. Everyone loves a redemption tale. Let’s hope for Toronto’s sake that Murray’s materializes as one of the best, most empowering ever.
1. Colorado Avalanche (+425)
Besides losing No. 1 netminder Darcy Kuemper to the Washington Capitals and picking up Alexandar Georgiev from the Rangers to replace him, not much has changed since the Avs won the Stanley Cup at the tail end of June.
Georgiev is expected to get the starting role in Colorado, though Pavel Francouz might have something to say. Neither goaltender has ever been a starting netminder in the NHL, with Georgiev entering his sixth season and Francouz delving into his third full NHL campaign.
Francouz excelled off the bench on two separate occasions in the playoffs, replacing the injured Kuemper to great effect in the first and third rounds. Regardless of who wins the starting job, the Avalanche made clear they don’t require an ace netminder to win the Stanley Cup. Joe Sakic, who is transitioning to his new role as president of hockey operations, won’t lose sleep at the prospect of entering the 2022-23 campaign without a bonafide starter.
There are many reasons the Avs are clear 2022-23 Stanley Cup favorites. They have a deep squad of elite talent and enough grit to overcome the Tampa Bay Lighting.
The Avs are equipped with one of the fastest collectives in the game. They have a handful of superstars, including Conn Smythe and Norris Trophy winner Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog, the Hart Trophy’s fourth favorite Nathan MacKinnon and 28-year-old Devon Toews.
The Avs, however, expect to lose Nazem Kadri to free agency, representing a blow to their chances of repeating. Very few teams have the arsenal needed to knock the Avs from their heavenly perch.
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