Examining the NHL Off-Season Winners and Losers

In the world of professional sports, it’s often said that “champions are built in the off-season.”  Whether it comes via the draft or free agency, teams can directly influence their future (either positively or negatively) based upon how effectively or ineffectively they construct their roster during the months when no games are played.

For hockey fans, that time is now.

Unlike in years past when player movement was relatively limited due to an unknown and unstable labor situation, this NHL off-season has been jam-packed with trades, buyouts, extensions and big-name free agent signings.

So which teams have helped or hurt their 2014 Cup chances the most this offseason?

To find out, we consulted the Stanley Cup futures from Bovada.com on June 25th, prior to the draft and free agency, and compared it to the updated odds from July 8th. The results are as follows:

Biggest Winners

  1. New Jersey Devils: Then – 40/1. Now – 25/1. No GM has been busier than Lou Lamoriello this offseason. His biggest move was acquiring former Canucks goaltender Corey Schneider (17-9-4, 2.11 GAA, .927 SV % last season) during the draft. Then, to replace the loss of David Clarkson, Lamoriello re-signed longtime playmaker Patrik Elias and then inked wingers Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe.
  2. Toronto Maple Leafs: Then – 25/1. Now – 20/1. With a boatload of cap space to play with, the Maple Leafs added a plethora of new players to their already underrated roster. While the headliner was David Clarkson (a 30-goal scorer with grit), Toronto also poached David Bolland from the Blackhawks, re-signed center Tyler Bozak and traded for King’s back-up goaltender Jonathan Bernier (9-3-1, 1.87, .922 last season).
  3. Detroit Red Wings: Then – 16/1. Now – 12/1. The perennial powerhouse Red Wings reloaded in a big way by inking former Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson to a 1-year deal to play with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. GM Ken Holland also added center Stephen Weiss.
  4. Ottawa Senators: Then – 33/1. Now – 25/1. While Senators fans lament the fact their 17-year captain Alfredsson has moved to Detroit, Ottawa quickly rebounded by trading for one of the game’s brightest young stars, former Duck Bobby Ryan. Ottawa also signed winger Clarke MacArthur to add to a young, up and coming group of forwards
  5. Philadelphia Flyers: Then – 33/1. Now – 25/1. After a disappointing season, GM Paul Holmgren made major changes to his roster. First, he bought out Ilya Bryzgalov and replaced him with Ray Emery. Then, he traded for defenseman Mark Streit, re-signed franchise cornerstone Claude Giroux and topped it off by reeling in the biggest free-agent fish on the market: Vincent Lecavalier.
  6. Dallas Stars: Then – 50/1. Now – 33/1. Even though the Stars remain a long shot to hoist the Cup, they saw their odds improve more than any other team. While the July 4th acquisition of Tyler Seguin got all the headlines, Dallas also added defenseman Sergei Gonchar from Ottawa and Shawn Horcoff from Edmonton.

Biggest Losers

  1. New York Rangers: Then – 16/1. Now – 20/1. While the Rangers watched many of their closest competitors like Philadelphia and New Jersey bulk up, GM Glen Sather failed to keep pace. The team lost Ryan Clowe to the Devils and now must also adapt to playing under new head coach Alain Vigneault.
  2. Washington Capitals: Then – 25/1. Now – 28/1. With very little cap space to work with, the Capitals were forced to let play-making center Mike Ribeiro walk to the Coyotes, while depth forwards Matt Hendricks, Joey Crabb and defenseman Jeff Schultz also left the nation’s capital.
  3. Anaheim Ducks: Then – 20/1. Now – 22/1. After years of speculation, the Ducks finally unloaded star winger Bobby Ryan to Ottawa, creating a huge offensive void. It’s also unclear whether veteran sniper Teemu Selanne will return for one more season.
  4. Vancouver Canucks: Then – 14/1. Now – 16/1. The Canucks turned heads on draft day when they dealt Cory Schneider to New Jersey for the 9th overall pick, which in turn put the pressure back on the enigmatic Roberto Luongo to reassume the #1 goalie title. In addition, the Canucks said goodbye to tough guy Max Lapierre and defenseman Keith Ballard, without making any notable additions.

Limited Movement

  1. Pittsburgh Penguins: Then – 13/2. Now – 13/2. After being the most active team during the trade deadline, GM Ray Shero has stayed mostly in-house with his transactions this offseason, re-signing forwards Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Pacal Dupuis and Craig Adams. While the Pens did lose Jarome Iginla, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke, it doesn’t appear to cause much concern from Bovada’s perspective.
  2. Chicago Blackhawks: Then – 15/2. Now – 15/2. Unlike in 2009, the defending champion Blackhawks did a great job keeping their Cup winning core intact this time around, re-signing Bryan Bickell, Michal Handzus, Michal Rozsival and Nick Leddy. Their only departures were bottom-six forwards Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik, and Viktor Stalberg. In addition, Chicago signed Nikolai Khabibulin to replace Ray Emery.
  3. Boston Bruins: Then – 9/1. Now – 10/1. Following their Finals loss to Chicago, the Bruins jettisoned troubled but talented forward Tyler Seguin to the Stars in exchange for Loui Eriksson and prospects. Boston also lost Nathan Horton to Columbus and Andrew Ference to Edmonton. However, GM Peter Chiarelli quickly reloaded by inking free agent RW Jarome Iginla.

What do you think?

Do you agree with Bovada’s alterations? Do you see them overvaluing or undervaluing a particular team? Are they lending too much credence to specific individual signings (i.e. Lecavalier, Clarkson and Alfredsson)?

More closely, are you buying New Jersey’s meteoric rise? Do you envision the Penguins rebounding from a disappointing Conference Finals loss to hoist the Cup in 2014? Will Chicago or Boston suffer a Cup hangover? Or are we looking at a possible Finals rematch?

Feel free to leave your comments below. We would love to hear your opinion.

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