Las Vegas has been in the news this week.
Not just because there might be an expansion team that finds its home there. With the season creeping ever closer the city of fortunes made overnight has released the odds on NHL teams to win the cup.
The Kings are in the top three, with two familiar adversaries. Boston and Chicago.
It’s becoming more than a trend that the Kings and Blackhawks find each other in playoffs. The top two teams in the west have taken turns edging each other out on route to Stanley Cup victories in the last four years. In the last two, they have faced each other in the Western Conference Final.
Other than L.A. or Chicago, only one other team has won the cup in since 2010: Boston. The big, bad Bruins have ruled the East Conference, for the last five years. The exception was two fluky years when the Pittsburgh Penguins found their way to the Stanley Cup finals back-to-back. The Western Conference is known for it’s physical play, and the Bruins are the only team in the East that can keep up.
TheScore.com reported that the Blackhawks are odds-on favorite, at 9/2, to win it all this year. Fox-Sports number cruncher OddsShark.com has the same results. OddsShark provides a brief history of the odds off-season fluctuation, corresponding to each franchise’s situation and personnel changes. The Kings come in second at 9/1, and the Bruins are third at 10/1.
Numbers on the street tell a different story. At VegasInsider.com the three teams are on an even footing, at 8/1. Boston is a 3/1 favorite to win the East, the conference that has fifteen other teams! The Hawks are 4/1 to win the West, with the Kings right behind them at 9/2.
Why the minute disparity in numbers?
While avoiding cap-space catastrophe all three teams evaded dramatic roster variations. No wonder Vegas is betting on enduring dominance.
The defending champion Kings resigned left-wingers Marian Gaborik and Dwight King to seven and three-year deals, respectively. Defensemen Jeff Schultz also re-signed to a two-year contract. Veteran defensemen Willie Mitchell was lost to free agency, signing with the Florida Panthers. Mitchell is the only player the Kings lost, but his physical presence will be missed. New additions to the roster are right-winger Adam Cracknell, and left-winger David Van der Gulik; each signed one-year deals.
Cracknell has played back-and-forth between the NHL and AHL since 2010, playing for the St. Louis Blues and their affiliate the Peoria Rivermen. He has never played more than 25 NHL games in a single season. Van der Gulik has had a similar experience, from 2010-2014, playing between the Colorado Avalanche and AHL affiliate the Lake Erie Monsters. Van der Gulik was originally drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 7th round of the 2002 NHL entry draft. He suited up for six games in Calgary.
The Blackhawks have locked up superstars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to record contracts of eight-years, $84 million each. Brandon Bollig was traded to Calgary for a 2014 third round pick. Peter Regin resigned and will try to win a defensive spot in camp. Ex-New York Ranger star Brad Richards signed a reduced contract: one-year, two-million dollar cap-hit. Richards cap hit for the Rangers in 2013-2014 was $6.6 million. Other signings involved prospects or players that will not make the regular roster in 2014. Though many think Teuvo Teravainen, the Hawks first round (18th overall) 2012 draft pick, should be ready to make the jump up to the big club this year.
Boston lost tough fourth-liner Shawn Thornton to the Panthers. Losing Thornton will hurt, especially because the Bruins forth line
had chemistry, toughness and a reputation that they could compete with anyone. Worse, Boston lost future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla. Iginla inked a three-year deal worth $16 million with the Colorado Avalanche. Boston has not brought in anyone to replace Thornton or Iginla. The assumption is younger players in their pipeline will make the jump as the Bruins are up against the salary cap.
According to capgeek.com the Bruins and Blackhawks are two of four teams to head into camp above the salary cap. The Kings are just under, with $208,000 in cap space.
The trio of supremely loaded rosters don’t have many open spots for youngsters, so many of the 2014 draft picks will continue to hone their skills in developmental leagues. Kings 2014 first round pick (29th overall) Adrian Kempe will play for MODO in Sweden’s elite Swedish Hockey League.
Roster consistency of this caliber in a salary-cap era is unprecedented. As players develop and get better their teams perform better. The better the teams performance, the deeper they go into the playoffs. The deeper a team goes into the playoffs the more attention and value garnered. The more value a player gains, the more expensive he becomes.
Pre-season odds are primitive; they’re based on an assumed performance of the teams estimated roster output, and players previous performances. The theory is minor changes in the roster project consistent results. Basically, the best will continue to be the best. And with eight players locked up until 2019, that’s good news for Kings fans.