2024 Stanley Cup Hockey Futures: 5 Key NHL Free Agency Takeaways

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Written By Evan Scrimshaw | Last Updated
nhl free agency

With NHL free agency wrapping up, there is further clarity when it comes to handicapping 2024 Stanley Cup Odds. This offseason has provided clarity on a lot, and with the best sports betting sites already offering plenty of wagering options, here are five important takeaways for bettors. Can the Vegas Golden Knights repeat as Stanley Cup Champions, or will the Colorado Avalanche or Dallas Stars surpass the champs in the Western Conference. Are the Boston Bruins still the dominant regular season team in the East? Which Canadian team has the best chance to break the Stanley Cup drought north of the border?

Here’s where things stand. Click on any of the odds to place a bet now. New users will also lock in the latest bonus bets promo.

5 Key Takeaways After NHL Free Agency

NHL Eastern Conference Wide Open

The West has certainly stratified at this point – there are a handful of real contenders (Edmonton, Dallas, Vegas, maybe L.A.), but there’s a definitive top tier and then a drop off. In the East? It’s a mess from 1-10. Boston is much worse, losing Dmitri Orlov to Carolina, Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno to Chicago, and Tyler Bertuzzi to Toronto. The Hurricanes are better but still reliant on shaky goaltending, and after that it’s a mess.

The Rangers and Devils project to both still be competitive, Pittsburgh got better by adding Ryan Graves (even if the Jarry extension is likely an overpay), Tampa will still be competitive despite losing Ross Colton, and Florida has to project out somewhere between the 8 seed they were in the regular season and the buzzsaw they were in the East Playoffs.

Throwing at a dart board with 10 logos on it might be as useful as anything at predicting the East playoff picture for next year.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Look Worse

That said, if you’re talking about actual ability to win a Cup, the Leafs took a major step back.

Tyler Bertuzzi’s fine, and Max Domi is fun nostalgia for people who remember when his father was a Leafs legend. That said the Leafs have put themselves in a situation where William Nylander – who was their best forward in the playoffs by a mile – isn’t likely going to be on the roster in April 2024, because they’ve finally decided he’s the hill to die on financially.

The defense is a disaster and adding an aging, all-offense, no defense guy in John Klingberg while letting a better version of that archetype go and sign for pennies on the dollar won’t help. This team is almost out of money, they don’t have a starting goaltender, and their offensive depth is a disaster, because the team that’s been too top heavy decided to double down on that.

Every way we can fade the Leafs next year, I’m doing it.

The Edmonton Oilers Got Better

Part of the West’s stratification is that the best teams in the West keep making smart moves. Edmonton brought in Connor Brown in a low-cost signing, reuniting Connor McDavid with a former Junior teammate and augmenting the non-McDavid/Draisaitl scoring options, the dearth of which cost the Oilers in May.

Assuming they get Evan Bouchard locked up to a good deal, the Oilers have depth and breadth of talent all over the roster and options to get better too. They’re well positioned to make a Cup run, and the question starts to become when, not if, they get their first. Being early on them is certainly a position worth taking, and with Vegas losing Reilly Smith and getting a year older, the case isn’t hard to make that Edmonton should start as league-wide Cup favorites. At the time of publish, they sit as the second choice behind Colorado in most sports betting odds.

The Los Angeles Kings Have Made Confounding Choices

Part of the confidence in the Oilers’ position atop the West is complete bafflement at what the L.A. Kings are doing in NHL free agency, admittedly. They traded their 2023 first-round pick to get off salaries, to then trade two valuable roster players for a moody Pierre-Luc Dubois, who they promptly overpaid.

Dubois is fine for what he is, a slightly less than point a game center who’s overvalued because he stupidly went 2nd overall years ago. But for a Kings team that was flirting with the playoff bubble until they caught a hot six weeks, all the stuff they gave up to get him don’t reassure they’ll be better next year. And with Calgary looking to be much better without Darryl Sutter and with any amount of positive regression in close games, the Kings are likelier out of the playoffs than making it out of the first round.

Dallas Stars Supplant Colorado

Mostly because Colorado went backwards after NHL free agency, the new Central Division favorite has to be Dallas. Yes, the Stars have the same looming question as always, which is what Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin’s aging curves look like, but Matt Duchene is a nice insurance policy for decline from them. And on the other hand, Colorado is losing pieces fast and furious.

Ross Colton’s a nice piece, but JT Compher is now in Detroit and one of their best young assets is now a Hab, which even though Montreal overpaid doesn’t change the on-ice proposition. The Avalanche should get through a round this year, but they won’t win multiple, leaving Dallas in the driver’s seat for a Western Conference Finals spot against Vegas or (more likely) Edmonton.