NHL Atlantic Division odds: Maple Leafs open as narrow favorites
NHL training camps open in just over a month.
While many teams still have housekeeping to tend to, the vast majority of offseason movement is behind us.
How is the Atlantic Division shaping up after all the changes we've seen? Let's take a closer look.
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+200|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+250|
|Detroit Red Wings||+3000|
The Toronto Maple Leafs are likely to pile up the wins once again - at least in the regular season. Led by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander, there is every reason to believe this offense will remain elite. The defense is also better than many give credit for.
The real question mark is in goal: The heights Toronto reaches this season will depend largely on its gambles between the pipes.
Matt Murray was once one of the league's top young netminders, but he's shown only small glimpses of that promise over the last couple of years, with last season's roughly 15-game stretch of strong play marking his most recent high. Ilya Samsonov, formerly a highly touted prospect, has the raw skill to be a quality NHL goaltender, but he needs serious refinement. Can he find his game with Toronto?
The Florida Panthers - last season's Presidents' Trophy winners - are hot on the Maple Leafs' heels in the division odds race. Newcomer Matthew Tkachuk will provide different elements and a better two-way game than Jonathan Huberdeau. Even with Claude Giroux departing and Anthony Duclair out of the picture for a while, this offense should be lethal.
Florida will need that to be the case to overcome a suddenly shallow blueline. The departure of MacKenzie Weegar leaves the Panthers paper-thin on the backend beyond Aaron Ekblad, and the likes of Gustav Forsling and Brandon Montour will be relied upon to do plenty of heavy lifting. Can Paul Maurice maximize this group?
Lurking behind the Panthers are the always-dangerous Tampa Bay Lightning. They lost a couple of quality veterans in Ryan McDonagh and Ondrej Palat, but the championship-winning core remains in place.
With Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, and Erik Cernak headlining the defense and Andrei Vasilevskiy in net, the Lightning should remain stout on the back end. Up front, Tampa will rely on full seasons from Brandon Hagel, Nick Paul, and others to compensate for some of its losses.
With Patrice Bergeron returning for another season and David Krejci back in the mix, the Boston Bruins have the pieces to be very good - when healthy. The problem is Boston will be without the likes of Charlie McAvoy and Brad Marchand for quite some time. The Bruins should be a real threat come playoff time, but finishing at or near the top of this division will be difficult.
The Ottawa Senators will likely ice one of the better top-six forward groups in the league this season. They already had a nice core in place, and the likes of Alex DeBrincat and Giroux should help them reach another level. But their defense is lacking, and the goaltending will be tested.
The Detroit Red Wings are another team that looks much better on paper after a busy offseason. David Perron, Andrew Copp, and - to a lesser extent - Dominik Kubalik will provide some much-needed scoring depth to support the stars already in place.
Ben Chiarot and Olli Maatta will add stability on defense, while Ville Husso will do the same in goal. The Red Wings will be more competitive but still appear to be a couple of years from really making noise.
Buffalo is headed for another tough season. The Sabres didn't add much of note this offseason, continuing instead to leave meaningful roles open for their quality youngsters to claim. Head coach Don Granato will have the team playing hard, but the roster lacks the horses to do much damage in a tough division.
The Montreal Canadiens, meanwhile, are seen as the most extreme of long shots to contend for a division title - and rightfully so. They're in the midst of a full-fledged rebuild and are likely to further tear things down over the next year.
Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.
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