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2020 Vision: The way-too-early Stanley Cup odds for next season

We're a long way from the 2020 NHL playoffs, and a lot of things will happen between now and then that could turn these odds upside-down. Nevertheless, here's the early view on the Stanley Cup favorites and long shots for next season.

The St. Louis Blues are your 2019 Stanley Cup champions, and now it’s time to look ahead to 2020.

Too soon? Yes. Way too soon. A lot will change between now and October, and then a lot more will change between October and next April, when the 2020 NHL playoffs get underway. There’s free agency and trades and injuries and X-factors and upsets and…well, you get the idea. These odds, provided by BetOnline.ag, are merely a starting point.

But you’ve got to start somewhere. Here’s the way-too-early Stanley Cup odds for 2020:

THE FAVORITES

Tampa Bay Lightning 8/1
Boston Bruins 9/1
Vegas Golden Knights 9/1
Toronto Maple Leafs  10/1
Colorado Avalanche 12/1
St. Louis Blues 12/1

Three things:
1. The Lightning fizzled when it mattered most, but Tampa Bay still projects to be the Cup favorite and deservedly so. Anybody else have a sneaking suspicion the Bolts will be mighty motivated to make amends next season? Once again, they face stiff competition in their own division in the form of the Bruins and Maple Leafs, and they’d be wise to not overlook their first-round wild-card opponent, too.

2. It’s still a little strange seeing expansion-esque Vegas as the top-rated team in the West, but there’s no denying that the Golden Knights are deeper and more talented than the version that made it to the 2018 Cup final. Let’s see what happens with a full season of Mark Stone with Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty. The biggest worry? Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been superb as Vegas’ No. 1, turns 35 in November. The Knights don’t have much of a safety net in goal if Fleury finally starts to slow down or goes down with an injury for an extended period.

3. Hey, look, it’s the reigning champion Blues! Last season, St. Louis went into the summer tied with Colorado, Florida and New Jersey with the 19th-best Cup odds at 40/1. Then they traded for Ryan O’Reilly, signed veteran UFA forwards David Perron, Tyler Bozak and Patrick Maroon, and finally, in mid-season desperation, turned their crease over to a minor-pro goalie with 13 minutes of NHL experience. Sometimes things just have a way of working out.

SECOND-CLASS CONTENDERS

San Jose Sharks 16/1
Washington Capitals 16/1
Winnipeg Jets 16/1
Calgary Flames  18/1
Pittsburgh Penguins 18/1
Nashville Predators 22/1
Florida Panthers  25/1
Philadelphia Flyers 25/1
Columbus Blue Jackets  28/1
Dallas Stars 28/1
New York Islanders 28/1

Three things:
1. The perennially contending Sharks come in at 16/1, but Winnipeg (16/1), Calgary (18/1) and Nashville (22/1) might be better bets in the West. Even Dallas, at 28/1, could be a consideration, as the Stars took St. Louis to double overtime in Game 7 of Round 2 before the lights went out. In conclusion, the West is stacked.

2. The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins: too old to be favorites, too good to be dismissed. It wouldn’t be particularly shocking if one or both of the Caps and Pens missed the playoffs in 2019-20, nor would it be particularly shocking if one of them won the Cup. Personally, I wouldn’t bet on either scenario coming to pass.

3. What I would bet on, however, is the Blue Jackets at 28/1, even without pending UFAs Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. If pending UFA Matt Duchene also leaves, well, I’d still make the bet, but not with the same confidence. At the very least, Columbus deserves to be ranked ahead of Florida and Philadelphia. The Blue Jackets have been trending up, the Panthers and Flyers have been treading water.

LONG SHOTS & NON-SHOTS

Arizona Coyotes  33/1
Carolina Hurricanes 33/1
Chicago Blackhawks 33/1
Minnesota Wild 33/1
Edmonton Oilers 40/1
Vancouver Canucks 40/1
Buffalo Sabres  50/1
Montreal Canadiens 50/1
Anaheim Ducks 66/1
Detroit Red Wings  66/1
Los Angeles Kings  66/1
New Jersey Devils 66/1
New York Rangers  66/1
Ottawa Senators 100/1

Three things:
1. Carolina feels out of place down among the league’s long shots. The Hurricanes are on the rise and they’re coming off an appearance in the Eastern Conference final. Yes, they’re youthful and there are question marks in net and up front, but the defense corps is rock-solid and Sebastian Aho ranks as one of the most exciting young forwards in the game.

2. Arizona went on a second-half run and almost made the playoffs despite being absolutely decimated by injuries. The franchise has been in a rut sine Shane Doan wore short pants, but the Coyotes have been stockpiling talent and they sure look like a team that’s ready to turn the corner. Then again, we’ve been fooled by desert mirages before.

3. If you’re looking for a long shot, how about the Sabres? Like the Coyotes, they’re due to break out. Overdue, in fact.

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