NHL Season Starts Tuesday October 10.🏒

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2024 Stanley Cup Odds to Win
30105Carolina Hurricane+700
30107Colorado Avalanche+800
30111Edmonton Oilers+850
30117New Jersey Devils+900
30126Toronto Maple Leafs+1000
30128Vegas Golden Knights+1000
30109Dallas Stars+1400
30119New York Rangers+1400
30102Boston Bruins+1600
30112Florida Panthers+1800
30113Los Angeles Kings+1800
30125Tampa Bay Lightning+2200
30122Pittsburgh Penguins+2800
30131Seattle Kraken+2800
30103Buffalo Sabres+3300
30104Calgary Flames+3300
30114Minnesota Wild+3300
30120Ottawa Senators+4000
30118New York Islanders+5000
30127Vancouver Canucks+6000
30129Washington Capitals+6000
30110Detroit Red Wings+6600
30116Nashville Predators+6600
30124St. Louis Blues+6600
30130Winnipeg Jets+6600
30108Columbus Blue Jackets+10000
30100Arizona Coyotes+12500
30101Anaheim Ducks+15000
30106Chicago Blackhawks+15000
30115Montreal Canadiens+15000
30121Philadelphia Flyers+15000
30123San Jose Sharks+15000
 

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Odds to Win the 2024 Eastern Conference
30502Carolina Hurricanes+400
30507New Jersey Devils+600
30514Toronto Maple Leafs+600
30500Boston Bruins+800
30509New York Rangers+800
30505Florida Panthers+900
30513Tampa Bay Lightning+1100
30512Pittsburgh Penguins+1200
30501Buffalo Sabres+1800
30510Ottawa Senators+1800
30508New York Islanders+2500
30504Detroit Red Wings+3300
30515Washington Capitals+3300
30503Columbus Blue Jackets+6600
30506Montreal Canadiens+8000
30511Philadelphia Flyers+8000
 

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Odds to Win the 2024 Western Conference
30520Colorado Avalanche+350
30522Edmonton Oilers+375
30530Vegas Golden Knights+575
30521Dallas Stars+650
30523Los Angeles Kings+1000
30524Minnesota Wild+1100
30518Calgary Flames+1200
30527Seattle Kraken+1400
30529Vancouver Canucks+2500
30525Nashville Predators+2800
30531Winnipeg Jets+3300
30528St Louis Blues+4000
30517Arizona Coyotes+6600
30519Chicago Blackhawks+8000
30526San Jose Sharks+8000
30516Anaheim Ducks+1000
 

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Division Futures
Atlantic Division
30539Toronto Maple Leafs+175
30532Boston Bruins+375
30535Florida Panthers+400
30538Tampa Bay Lightning+700
30533Buffalo Sabres+800
30537Ottawa Senators+1000
30534Detroit Red Wings+2200
30536Montreal Canadiens+10000
Division Futures
Central Division
30552Colorado Avalanche+145
30553Dallas Stars+155
30554Minnesota Wild+700
30557Winnipeg Jets+1000
30556St. Louis Blues+1600
30555Nashville Predators+1800
30550Arizona Coyotes+6600
30551Chicago Blackhawks+6600
Division Futures
Metropolitan Division
30540Carolina Hurricanes+175
30542New Jersey Devils+225
30544New York Rangers+350
30546Pittsburgh Penguins+750
30543New York Islanders+1200
30547Washington Capitals+2500
30545Philadelphia Flyers+6600
30541Columbus Blue Jackets+8000
Division Futures
Pacific Division
30562Edmonton Oilers+170
30567Vegas Golden Knights+250
30563Los Angeles Kings+375
30561Calgary Flames+800
30565Seattle Kraken+1000
30566Vancouver Canucks+1400
30564San Jose Sharks+12500
30560Anaheim Ducks+15000
 

Nothing Can Stop What is Coming!!!
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That's a dumb ass post.
Oh wait it's useless MAGAQUEEN.
Lol
Go away this is not a conspiracy thread
Lol
 

Nothing Can Stop What is Coming!!!
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That's a dumb ass post.
Oh wait it's useless MAGAQUEEN.
Lol
Go away this is not a conspiracy thread
Lol
giphy.gif
 

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Opening night of the 2023-24 NHL season is Tuesday, with a tripleheader of games on ESPN and ESPN+: Nashville Predators-Tampa Bay Lightning (5:30 p.m. ET), Chicago Blackhawks-Pittsburgh Penguins (8 p.m. ET) and Seattle Kraken-Vegas Golden Knights (10:30 p.m. ET), the latter of which will include the Knights' Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony.
We're here to help get you up to speed with intel on all 32 teams, including the key players who were added or subtracted, best- and worst-case scenarios, X factors and fantasy tips, plus bold predictions.


1. Vegas Golden Knights

Last season: 51-22-9, 111 points. Won the Stanley Cup.
Stanley Cup odds: +1200
Key players added: None
Key players lost: F Teddy Blueger, G Laurent Brossoit, F Phil Kessel, G Jonathan Quick, F Reilly Smith

Most fascinating player: Ivan Barbashev. The Golden Knights' trade for Barbashev provided a major boost to their Cup run, as he posted six goals and 10 assists in 23 regular-season games and another seven goals and 13 assists in the playoffs. He was slated to be an unrestricted free agent, and in order to keep him (he signed a five-year contract worth $5 million annually), they had to part with one of the remaining original Golden Knights in Reilly Smith. The Golden Knights are counting on Barbashev -- a four-time double-digit scorer -- to continue to be a productive two-way forward who can be trusted in all situations.

Best case: They win the Stanley Cup for a second year in a row.

Worst case: Falling short of the title, along with the reasons why. So much of the formula behind the Golden Knights' success was rooted in being multifaceted. They had the depth that allowed them to rely on all four lines and all three defensive pairings for offensive contributions. They had a defensive structure that saw them limit some of the game's most talented players to zero points in the playoffs, as well as the depth that saw players like goaltender Adin Hill go from being a member of the regular-season rotation to one of the main reasons for winning the Cup.

X factor: Part of the challenge in being a defending champion is finding enough players on team-friendly deals who can serve in key roles. That makes what the Knights have done at the AHL level even more vital. Homegrown talents such as Nicolas Hague, Keegan Kolesar, Logan Thompson and Zach Whitecloud are proof that they've been able to develop key contributors on team-friendly deals. It was the case last season, when Paul Cotter, who did not see action in the postseason, still contributed 13 goals while playing in a bottom-six role. Cotter is expected to take on a greater role this season, and it's possible the Golden Knights could ask their next wave of homegrown talents to do the same.

Fantasy outlook: Jack Eichel appears in solid shape after a stretch of serious injury concerns. As demonstrated by his performance on route to winning the Knights' first Cup, the club's top center is more than capable of eclipsing the 85-point mark, while averaging close to four shots per contest.

Bold prediction: Logan Thompson reclaims the crease.
 

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2. Colorado Avalanche

Last season: 51-24-7, 109 points. Lost in first round.
Stanley Cup odds: +900
Key players added: F Ross Colton, F Jonathan Drouin, F Ryan Johansen, F Miles Wood
Key players lost: F J.T. Compher, F Lars Eller, F Darren Helm, D Erik Johnson, F Denis Malgin, F Alex Newhook, F Evan Rodrigues

Most fascinating player: Cale Makar. Injuries throughout the lineup forced the Avalanche to make adjustments. One of them was asking Makar to take on more, which is why he led the NHL in average ice time (26:22 per game), which meant he had to pick and choose his spots to attack. Having a healthier roster along with more secondary and tertiary scoring options could help Makar become more of an offensive threat. Injuries limited Makar to 60 games, but he still averaged more than a point per game, almost matching his output from the previous season, when he won the Norris.

Best case: Winning their second Stanley Cup in three seasons is the mission for the Avs. They have built a core around Makar, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Devon Toews, Valeri Nichushkin, Samuel Girard and Artturi Lehkonen, who were part of their 2021-22 title-winning team. Injuries and a lack of scoring depth were stumbling blocks in their bid to repeat last season. Like any Cup contender, salary-cap limitations forced the Avs to part with players such as J.T. Compher and Evan Rodrigues in free agency and Alex Newhook via trade. Yet like any Cup contender, they got creative with their cap space and made the necessary moves to provide more options to supplement their core with captain Gabriel Landeskog slated to miss a second straight season while recovering from knee surgery.

Worst case: A repeat of last season, which saw an injury-riddled campaign end with a first-round playoff exit. Part of what also plagued the Avs was their limited cap space, which made it difficult for them to find replacements for Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri, members of that Cup winning team that left in free agency. Trading draft picks for Ross Colton and Ryan Johansen while signing Jonathan Drouin and Miles Wood in free agency should give the Avs the needed secondary scoring and depth they lacked last season.

X factor: Could it be Jonathan Drouin? Over the past few seasons, Avs coach Jared Bednar has found results with skilled forwards who joined the team in free agency or via trade. Burakovsky and Kadri had the strongest years of their careers with the Avs, while Nichushkin went from a top-10 pick who struggled to find success with the Dallas Stars to a key top-six forward. Lehkonen is the latest example: The former Canadiens winger finished with his first 20-goal and 50-point season in his first full campaign with the Avs. Is it possible that Drouin will be the next forward who strikes it rich in the Rockies?

Fantasy outlook: On the blue line, Makar remains any manager's choice No. 1 defenseman, particularly in leagues that reward power-play points at a premium. Third-year defender Bowen Byram is hoping his first full, healthy season results in a haul near 50 points.

Bold prediction: Cale Makar scores 102 points.
 

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3. Carolina Hurricanes

Last season: 52-21-9, 113 points. Lost in Eastern Conference finals.
Stanley Cup odds: +750
Key players added: F Michael Bunting, D Dmitry Orlov, D Tony DeAngelo
Key players lost: D Shayne Gostisbehere

Most fascinating player: Seth Jarvis. What's the ceiling for Carolina's up-and-comer? He has become a genuine driver within the Hurricanes' offense and plays with control yet the slightly reckless abandon of a skater who wants to keep up with the likes of Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov. Carolina has become known for playing a tight defensive structure and is often pooh-poohed for not being "exciting" enough up front. Jarvis can be a catalyst for change there. Now going into this third NHL season and with a solid foundation of growth to build off, this could be a momentum-shifting year for the 21-year-old forward.

Best case: Carolina finally puts it all together and wins the Cup. Season after season it feels like the Hurricanes have inched closer to that championship version of themselves. For one reason or another it hasn't happened for Carolina, although it came close in making the Eastern Conference finals last spring. Even more impressive was the fact that the Hurricanes reached that stage without Svechnikov, who tore an ACL in March. Svechnikov is healthy again, and assuming he and the club's other top skaters stay that way, the Hurricanes could become the beasts of the East. Michael Bunting was a key offseason signing whom Carolina expects will bring a certain edge -- and skill -- to its top nine, and Dmitry Orlov is a terrific addition to an already great blue line. There's nothing standing in Carolina's way now, right?

Worst case: More of the same: The Hurricanes dominate the regular season, start well in the postseason and then fizzle out. That would be the biggest disappointment of all. Carolina being swept by Florida in the conference finals was a tough enough pill to swallow. If that letdown doesn't fuel the Hurricanes' fire and propel them to something greater, what will? Carolina has too many good players, and too good a coach in Rod Brind'Amour, to keep letting opportunities to achieve their full potential slip away.

X factor: Goaltending. Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta are both back and project to be the Hurricanes' tandem once again. Are two aging goaltenders enough for Carolina to reach that aforementioned promised land? Andersen had a strong 2022-23 as the Hurricanes' No. 1 (.903 SV%, 2.48 GAA), but that was only when the 34-year-old was available -- and not battling various injuries. It has been a pattern for Andersen throughout his career. But Carolina is counting on him and Raanta to keep them steady between the pipes. Will they be up to that task?

Fantasy outlook: The Hurricanes run six deep on defense, and the top question is whether Brent Burns can repeat again at age 38. As a backup, Tony DeAngelo returns to the club as a potential power-play specialist.

Bold prediction: Brett Pesce isn't traded.
 

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4. Edmonton Oilers

Last season: 50-23-9, 109 points. Lost in second round.
Stanley Cup odds: +900
Key players added: F Connor Brown, F Mattias Janmark, F Lane Pederson
Key players lost: F Nick Bjugstad, D Oscar Klefbom, F Klim Kostin, D William Lagesson, D Ryan Murray, F Kailer Yamamoto

Most fascinating player: Stuart Skinner. What Skinner does in the regular season will clearly carry value. That's how he was able to earn the starting job going into the playoffs. It's just that both he and the Oilers are now at the stage in which what's done in the regular season is overshadowed by what does, or does not, happen in the playoffs. Skinner's maiden postseason came with questions considering he finished with a 3.68 GAA and a .883 save percentage. Those were further amplified in the second round when Skinner was pulled in three of the Oilers' four defeats.

Best case: Winning the Stanley Cup. This is the expectation for a team that has a pair of Hart Trophy candidates who have combined to win the award in three of the past four seasons: Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. While it has been a gradual incline from the 2019-20 season, when they reached the qualifying round, the Oilers have done more to strengthen their case as a legitimate Cup contender. They made it to the Western Conference finals in 2021-22, and while their Cup hopes ended in the second round last season, their two most recent exits came at the hands of the teams that would win it all in the Avalanche and the Golden Knights.

Worst case: Getting eliminated in either the first or second round. What further complicates the Oilers' championship aspirations is where they stand within the conference landscape. They're trying to win a Cup at a time in which the Avs and Golden Knights are the most recent winners, teams such as the Kraken and Stars believe this most recent postseason further legitimized their approach, and changes including trading for Pierre-Luc Dubois could get the Kings beyond the first round. Even then? What makes assessing the Oilers challenging is how recent Cup winners such as the Capitals, Blues, Lightning and Golden Knights all went through some sort of crucible before winning it all. Could that also be the case for the Oilers?

X factor: How much of a difference will their tactical changes make? The Oilers spent quite a bit of the preseason installing a new neutral-zone system while also changing their defense from man-to-man to zone. One of the questions facing the Oilers throughout the offseason was how do they solve the defensive issues that plagued them in the second round against the Golden Knights? Fixing those issues became a concern given that the Oilers held a one-goal lead in all of their losses to Vegas. Especially considering that the Oilers were in the bottom five among playoff teams in shots allowed per 60, goals allowed per 60 and high-danger chances allowed per 60 in 5-on-5 play.

Fantasy outlook: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (104 points) and Zach Hyman (83) aren't likely to replicate their outstanding numbers from last season, but still have the wherewithal to finish in the top 25 and 35 in scoring, respectively.

Bold prediction: The Oilers will win the Stanley Cup.
 

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5. New Jersey Devils

Last season: 52-22-8, 112 points. Lost in second round.
Stanley Cup odds: +1000
Key players added: F Tyler Toffoli
Key players lost: D Damon Severson, D Ryan Graves, G Mackenzie Blackwood

Most fascinating player: Timo Meier. It's time for Meier to spread his wings in New Jersey. The Devils landed a major prize in trading with San Jose for Meier last season and the forward produced nine goals and 14 points in 21 games for New Jersey after coming aboard. He dealt with injuries though -- in the regular season and again in the playoffs -- so it still seems like New Jersey hasn't seen all of what Meier will eventually offer its offense. GM Tom Fitzgerald got the business side taken care of when he inked Meier to an eight-year contract extension in June. That shows a commitment on both sides to see Meier shine for the Devils. How will that manifest now in the season ahead, when a more established Meier will be playing off the likes of Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier and more?

Best case: New Jersey is a Cinderella story no more. And that's a good thing. The Devils are just a good team, and they can parlay that into being a great one throughout an 82-game regular season. What's next after that? Playoffs. New Jersey got the satisfaction of beating their rival New York Rangers in a first-round series last April. Best case? That outcome again is just an appetizer for the Devils. Instead of tapping out in the second round, New Jersey wields its way to greater heights on the back of Hughes, Bratt and Meier dominating offensively while Dougie Hamilton & Co. lock down the blue line. Vitek Vanecek performs between the pipes and there's no dip in the Devils' production as they push their way well into the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Worst case: New Jersey folds under the newfound pressure of being a contender. The Devils won't catch any team off guard this time around and their struggles will be amplified and harder to overcome than they were last season. Frustration settles in when their goaltending tandem of Vanecek and Akira Schmid can't stand up to the tougher competition and even more cracks begin to show. Eventually, the Devils succumb to their own demons and don't even reach the second round.

X factor: How will New Jersey's blue line adjust without Severson and Graves? Severson was traded to Columbus in June and Graves signed with the Penguins as a free agent. Losing both leaves a defense gap with which the Devils will be grappling. New Jersey can expect only so much development out of Luke Hughes and there's a lot more riding now on Hamilton, John Marino and even Colin Miller to keep New Jersey's defensive game tight. They'll need help from the Devils' forwards, too. Getting beat too easily off the rush has been an issue for New Jersey in the past; if it remains one in their future, that could detract from an otherwise strong season ahead.

Fantasy outlook: Vanecek is the 1A starter, but Schmid showed flashes last season. The crease here should generate value regardless, so earning minutes will determine how much value they each have.

Bold prediction: Hischier wins the Selke Trophy.
 

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6. Toronto Maple Leafs

Last season: 50-21-11, 111 points. Lost in second round.
Stanley Cup odds: +1000
Key players added: F Max Domi, F Tyler Bertuzzi, D John Klingberg, F Ryan Reaves, G Martin Jones
Key players lost: F Michael Bunting, F Alexander Kerfoot, F Ryan O'Reilly

Most fascinating player: Ilya Samsonov. What a revelation Samsonov was for the Leafs last season. Signed to a one-year deal with low expectations, the 26-year-old quickly took hold of the No. 1 job and turned in the best performance of his career. Now, after an arbitration hearing with Toronto landed him another one-year pact, can Samsonov do it all over again? His .919 SV% and 2.33 GAA in 2022-23 helped keep Toronto consistent right up to the playoffs -- during which Samsonov suffered an injury that sidelined him in the second round. Had Samsonov been available -- and had the Leafs not been forced to put Joseph Woll in against Florida -- would Toronto have come through that second-round series? Is Samsonov that much of a factor in their success? Could be.

Best case: Toronto got over the proverbial hump by beating Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs last season. Check. Done. So, the Leafs must push forward into the next phase -- and that's being Cup contenders. Toronto has the talent to be a top-five team in the league year after year, and it is. The Leafs' best case is translating all that regular-season success (not to mention optimism) into the playoffs and not being overwhelmed by expectations. General manager Brad Treliving took one major potential distraction off the table by signing Auston Matthews to a four-year extension. And Treliving added some snarl with Ryan Reaves, forward depth in Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi, and a solid veteran defender in John Klingberg to bolster the back end. Change can do a team good, and that's what the Leafs are hoping for here.

Worst case: Another crash and burn in the postseason. The recipe for Toronto is simple: Don't just make the playoffs; make the most of an opportunity when you get there. And that starts with building chemistry early on and sustaining consistent habits all the way through spring. The Leafs know what's expected, and they have enough depth to potentially go all the way. Falling short, again, would have to produce more significant alterations to the team than what it already has gone through over the past three months. Patience, it seems, always runs short in Toronto.

X factor: William Nylander. Leafs' coach Sheldon Keefe is starting Nylander at center this season instead of on the wing, and that's enough to challenge any skater. However, this also happens to be a contract year for Nylander -- the status for which is already generating headlines of its own. The last time Nylander went up against the Leafs looking for a new deal, it led to a stalemate lasting well into the regular season. Is the uncertainty of what lies ahead for Nylander likely to weigh on him -- or the team -- as this season stretches on? And how will Nylander handle the added responsibilities, game after game, at the center spot? He has done it in short spurts before but never for a sustained period. There's a lot riding on Nylander to perform -- individually and for the entire team.

Fantasy outlook: Tyler Bertuzzi feels like a natural replacement for Michael Bunting on the top line and could be in for big fantasy boost with his new linemates.

Bold prediction: Toronto wins two playoff rounds.
 

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7. Dallas Stars

Last season: 47-21-14, 108 points. Lost in Western Conference finals.
Stanley Cup odds: +1500
Key players added: F Matt Duchene, F Craig Smith, F Sam Steel
Key players lost: F Max Domi, F Luke Glendening

Most fascinating player: Miro Heiskanen. He consistently averages ice times that run longer than an episode of "Abbott Elementary." He can take on the challenge of facing a top line while being at the controls of a penalty kill and a power-play unit. And now that he showed he can score more than 70 points in a season, Heiskanen has become too hard to ignore. Heiskanen's all-around performances were one of the reasons the Stars finished a point shy of being the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. It was also one of the reasons they were two wins away from the Stanley Cup Final and went from a wild-card entrant that was knocked out in the first round in 2021-22 to entering the 2023-24 season as a team in a championship window.

Best case: Finding a way to build upon what they did last season by at least returning to the Western Conference finals. One of the questions facing the Stars prior to last season was whether they had enough offensive production. Under Peter DeBoer, the Stars had nine players who scored more than 10 goals and were sixth in goals scored. That production carried over into the postseason, which is how they were able to overpower the Wild in the first round, outlast the balanced Seattle Kraken in the second round and pose challenges to the team with the strongest depth in the NHL in the eventual Cup champion Golden Knights. Replicating the Stars success from last season would further legitimize that the Stars are in a championship window.

Worst case: Losing Jake Oettinger to a long-term or season-ending injury. In the span of three seasons, Oettinger has gone from a promising prospect playing in a tandem to being one of the few goaltenders capable of starting more than 60 games at a time in which more NHL teams are using tandems. Oettinger started in 76% of the Stars' regular-season games while leading the league in starts, in addition to being in the top 10 in shots faced and saves. So what would happen in the event something prevented Oettinger from playing for an extended period? The Stars do have veteran Scott Wedgewood, who has 98 games of NHL experience. Beyond that? The two goalies the Stars have under contract throughout their system --- Matt Murray and Remi Poirier -- have a combined three games of NHL experience, with all of them belonging to Murray, who made his debut in 2022-23.

X factor: It could depend upon the impact made by Thomas Harley and Nils Lundkvist. Part of the offseason discussion about the Stars has centered around their defense, which in itself is a bit of a complex issue. The Stars' defense was among the strongest units in both the regular season and playoffs in several 5-on-5 categories. What makes Harley and Lundkvist players to watch is that they could add more layers to the Stars' defensive dynamic. Harley averaged 0.47 points in the playoffs on a defensive unit that had most of its members average less than 0.31 points in the regular season. A lack of right-handed options is why Heiskanen was moved to the right. That, however, also presents Lundkvist with a chance to potentially challenge Jani Hakanpaa, who is also right-handed, for a top-four role.

Fantasy outlook: New to Dallas on a one-year deal, Matt Duchene is in position to kick his production back into gear after last season's humdrum campaign in Nashville. Not to the tune of 83 from 2021-22 but definitely more. Defenseman Miro Heiskanen is, far and away, the Stars' No. 1 fantasy option on the blue line.

Bold prediction: Jake Oettinger wins the Vezina Trophy.
 

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8. Florida Panthers

Last season: 42-32-8, 92 points. Lost in Stanley Cup Final.
Stanley Cup odds: +2000
Key players added: D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D Dmitry Kulikov, D Niko Mikkola, D Mike Reilly
Key players lost: F Anthony Duclair, F Patric Hornqvist, D Radko Gudas, D Marc Staal, G Alex Lyon

Most fascinating player: Sergei Bobrovsky. Which Bobrovsky will Florida get when the season opens? Will it be the Vezina Trophy-caliber goalie who carried the Panthers in net to an unexpected Stanley Cup Final appearance? Or will Bobrovsky struggle to show up like a $10 million-a-year player should and force Florida into either giving him time to recover or turning the No. 1 job over to someone else? Is there a long leash there from coach Paul Maurice given Bobrovsky's stunning postseason numbers (.915 SV%, 2.78 GAA)? It's been a wild ride for Bobrovsky with the Panthers so far, undulating between excellent and exasperating. We'll see what version of Bobrovsky will show up in 2023-24.

Best case: Florida was the feel-good story of last season when it defied critics (and oddsmakers) to boldly go into the playoffs and all the way from there to a Cup Final. It would be easy to dismiss the Panthers' success as a one-off feat and assume they won't recreate it. That would be a mistake. If Bobrovsky can pick up where he left off, and if Matthew Tkachuk plays at the Hart Trophy-like level he did for much of the previous eight months and if the plethora of defensemen GM Bill Zito signed to sustain Florida's back end perform well while Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour recover from injury, then Florida would (and should) be considered a top contender in the Eastern Conference. The stars have aligned before above these Panthers; there's no reason it can't happen again.

Worst case: There's a long list of things that will need to go right for Florida to touch the success it had last season. It's not clear how long the Panthers will be without Ekblad and Montour, leaving a gaping hole in the blue line that's even more pronounced now that Radko Gudas has moved on too. If Florida gets run aground defensively and is leaning too heavily on (A) Bobrovsky and (B) the ability to outscore its own issues every night, that doesn't project to end well. The worst case for Florida is it starts slow and falls too far out of postseason reach to make the type of Cinderella run that captivated us all in 2022-23. Going from three wins away from a championship to no playoff opportunity at all would be a tough pill to swallow.

X factor: Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Someone has to step up for Florida on the back end. Could that be the veteran? This is a pivotal juncture for the 32-year-old player, who was bought out by Vancouver and now joins a young, hungry Panthers team that recently became familiar with winning. That alone should ignite Ekman-Larsson and help bring out his best game, something we haven't seen the most of since he was patrolling Arizona's blue line over five years ago. It's an opportunity to not only massively impact the Panthers' back end but also to show the rest of the league that, at least for the time being, Ekman-Larsson can still be an important player for his team.

Fantasy outlook: Injuries to Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour will keep the team's two best fantasy defenders on the sidelines until what sounds like November or December. It's a massive opportunity for Gustav Forsling.

Bold prediction: Patrick Kane signs with the Panthers.
 

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9. New York Rangers

Last season: 47-22-13, 107 points. Lost in first round.
Stanley Cup odds: +1300
Key players added: F Blake Wheeler, D Erik Gustafsson, G Jonathan Quick
Key players lost: F Patrick Kane, F Vladimir Tarasenko, D Niko Mikkola

Most fascinating player: Igor Shesterkin. Shesterkin is the Rangers' backbone. That's not to say New York isn't more than just goaltending; it is. But the team's success rides heavily on how well Shesterkin performs. There's nothing wrong with that; Shesterkin has the Vezina Trophy to prove how elite his skill set is. And yet, some have deemed his 2022-23 season a "down" one, even though Shesterkin collected a .916 SV% and 2.48 GAA. Shesterkin simply couldn't make up for all the Rangers' shortcomings -- but he will be looked at to do so this year anyway. New York is facing a certain amount of transition under new coach Peter Laviolette. Being able to rely on Shesterkin to give New York a chance every night he's in net -- and that'll be most of them -- is something they won't take for granted.

Best case: New York thrives under Laviolette, and the fresh start provided after a couple of disappointing postseason runs. The Rangers revel in Shesterkin's excellent play but also get key contributions from their top six forwards -- led by Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad -- and enjoy another Norris Trophy-type season from Adam Fox on the blue line. The Rangers' young stars -- including Kaapo Kakko -- pop off as significant point producers, and there's no obvious flaws to New York's new system. Not only does the team make the playoffs, but the Rangers find themselves back again in the mix to push beyond just a first-round showing.

Worst case: The Rangers are counting on depth players like Blake Wheeler and Erik Gustafsson to come in and fill the gaps left behind by exiting skaters. When that doesn't happen, the Rangers' lack of contributors becomes an increasing problem. When Laviolette's tinkering proves unsuccessful, there are questions raised about whether New York was right to even move on from previous bench boss Gerard Gallant. Regardless of how good the Rangers' offensive core is, they can't make up for the team's defensive deficiencies, and New York flames out before the postseason begins.

X factor: Attitude. Chris Kreider has talked about it. There's a certain chip on the Rangers' shoulder after the way their previous two seasons have gone, with one ending in the Eastern Conference finals and the other in a first-round exit versus New Jersey. Can't New York actually use that pain to its advantage now? It's one thing to talk about being frustrated; it's another to see the changes made in the wake of failure and not do something about it on the ice, where it actually counts. The Rangers have a chance to rally around their prior disappointment. Would that actually have an effect on their outcome this season? Stranger things have happened. But talk alone is cheap.

Fantasy outlook: The defense remains strong for fantasy, with Adam Fox challenging for best overall among defenders, Jacob Trouba remaining a source for counting stats and K'Andre Miller finding value.

Bold prediction: Kaapo Kakko takes flight and lives up to his draft pedigree.
 

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10. Boston Bruins

Last season: 65-12-5, 135 points. Lost in the first round.
Stanley Cup odds: +1800
Key players added: F Milan Lucic, F James van Riemsdyk, D Kevin Shattenkirk
Key players lost: F Patrice Bergeron, F Tyler Bertuzzi, F Nick Foligno, F Taylor Hall, F David Krejci, D Connor Clifton, D Dmitry Orlov

Most fascinating player: Brad Marchand. The newly minted Bruins captain has been one of the team's most consistent contributors for over a decade, and now he's taking on a leadership mantle vacated by franchise legend Patrice Bergeron. Will that added responsibility alter how the feisty Marchand conducts himself on the ice? Or will it inspire even better play out of the 35-year-old, who impressively has maintained a near point-per-game output throughout his career to date?

Best case: Boston endured a devastatingly poor finish in the playoffs last season that frankly overshadowed its wildly successful, historically dominant regular season. In a perfect world that disappointment fuels the Bruins' fire to not only be an Atlantic Division contender but pushes them through a long postseason run from there. That might not include the precursor of another Presidents' Trophy bid, especially given all the players Boston has lost since last season ended. It might actually be better for the Bruins to build their way up slowly, getting to construct a new identity under second-year coach Jim Montgomery and rallying around their impressive core helmed by Linus Ullmark, Charlie McAvoy, David Pastrnak, Marchand and more. There's a great deal of talent in the Bruins' ranks; best-case scenario is they make the most of it.

Worst case: It's not easy replacing the number of key players Boston had to let walk out the door. GM Don Sweeney was hamstrung by a lack of cap space and that (partially) led to Orlov, Clifton, Hall and Bertuzzi exiting the organization. Bergeron and Krejci have retired. There are clear holes Boston must fill in the lineup, and the players Sweeney did add are all veterans in the later stages of their careers who can best be expected to contribute in depth roles. That might not be a recipe for success in the increasingly competitive Atlantic, where teams like Buffalo, Ottawa and Detroit will be right in the mix for a playoff spot when they weren't before. The Bruins could fall behind early in that race and never recover, finally fulfilling the yearly prophecy from outside voices that they are, in fact, no longer able to keep pace with the up-and-comers around them.

X factor: Charlie McAvoy (and the Bruins' defense). It still feels like McAvoy doesn't earn enough attention for how good he is patrolling Boston's back end. This season will require the most out of all the Bruins' best players, but eyes will be on the likes of McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm (another under-the-radar defender) to help stabilize Boston early on when there could be some growing pains with the skaters being introduced up front. The Bruins lost some physicality with Clifton going to the Sabres, and the now-departed Orlov was a superb pickup for them at the trade deadline last spring. Now it's on Boston's incumbents to pick up the slack, helping the Bruins keep from (possibly) missing a beat.

Fantasy outlook: Replacing the total lost offensive talent of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci won't be simple, as Charlie Coyle and James van Riemsdyk are next up for the scoring lines. Brad Marchand might not rebound from his 129th overall showing last season, but Charlie McAvoy might improve on his 92nd-place finish.

Bold prediction: Contrary to popular prediction, the Bruins make the playoffs.
 

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11. Tampa Bay Lightning

Last season: 46-30-6, 98 points. Lost in first round.
Stanley Cup odds: +2200
Key players added: F Luke Glendening, F Tyler Motte, F Conor Sheary
Key players lost: F Corey Perry, F Alex Killorn, F Pat Maroon, F Ross Colton

Most fascinating player: Victor Hedman. Tampa Bay is going to need everything out of Hedman now that Andrei Vasilevskiy is going to miss significant time with an injury. Hedman has been the Lightning's backbone on the blue line (and elsewhere) for essentially his entire career. But the pressure on Hedman to be Tampa Bay's top blueliner will only be amplified now with Vasilevskiy out. Hedman is 32. He's battled injuries, and the 24-plus minutes per game the veteran is averaging don't come without significant wear and tear on a nightly basis. Still, who can count out a talent like Hedman? The way he supports the Lightning at 5-on-5 and both special teams units is nothing short of impressive. What can he offer the Lightning now -- when they're a little more down and out?

Best case: Tampa Bay set the bar high with two Stanley Cup wins and a Cup Final appearance since 2020. Given the loss of Vasilevskiy in net and the void left by Alex Killorn departing in free agency, the best case for Tampa would be seeing its depth start to shine long before the playoffs. Brandon Hagel and Tanner Jeannot explode in top-six or top-nine roles that take some pressure off the Lightning back end and allow the team time to establish a strong identity amid some changes (particularly up front). By the time Vasilevskiy is able to come back, the Lightning are still on the playoff bubble and ready to challenge for an Eastern Conference slot.

Worst case: Tampa Bay can't overcome the early roadblocks in its way, and that ultimately decides where the Lightning end up -- outside the playoffs for the first time since Jon Cooper took over as the club's full-time head coach. Distractions abound with Vasilevskiy's injury and Steven Stamkos' contentious contract extension talks. And then there's the state of Tampa Bay's defense if Hedman can't be their usual workhorse. Will Mikhail Sergachev be able to fill in and carry a heavier load? Has Tampa Bay lost too many of its veteran voices in Killorn and Maroon especially that it can't fight through the inevitable rough patches ahead? This could be the year we see the Lightning window truly begin to close.

X factor: Nikita Kucherov. Any success the Lightning have offensively is bound to be driven by Kucherov. He is still one of the league's most dynamic, dominant forwards (Kucherov just pocketed 113 points in 82 games last season) and can do a great deal to buoy any lagging confidence his team has in itself with some singularly stellar individual performances. It's rare that one player can genuinely be a difference-maker night after night, particularly when Atlantic rosters around the Lightning have been beefed up over the last few months, but Kucherov has the firepower to flip every switch on for Tampa Bay. They might need that more than ever this year.

Fantasy outlook: Mikhail Sergachev will be pushing Hedman for a larger share of the pie again, and he earned it last season, beating Hedman for overall value.

Bold prediction: The Lightning miss the playoffs.
 

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