The Tampa Bay Lightning failed to qualify for the playoffs last spring for the first time in four years, but prepare for the new season amid high expectations and sitting as +275 favourites on the odds to win the Atlantic Division at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Last season the Lightning squandered a solid 13-7-1 start by recording just nine wins over their next 31 games to quickly fall out of playoff contention before closing out their schedule on a high with wins in 17 of their final 25 contests.
The club’s swoon corresponded with a season-ending injury to captain Steven Stamkos, who appeared in a career-low 17 contests. The four-time 40-goal scorer was reportedly healthy entering training camp earlier this month, and currently sits at +2500 odds to win the Hart Trophy.
The Lightning made one big move during the off-season, shipping sniper Jonathan Drouin to Montreal in exchange for top defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev. Tampa Bay also added veteran leadership by signing three-time Stanley Cup winner Chris Kunitz, and defenceman Dan Girardi.
Defence remains a major concern for the Canadiens, who closely trail Tampa Bay as a +350 bet to repeat as Atlantic Division champions.
The departure of 16-year veteran Andrei Markov leaves a big hole on Montreal’s back end. That will likely put added pressure on franchise goaltender Carey Price, who committed to the club by signing an eight-year contract extension over the summer, and sports +2000 odds of taking home Hart Trophy honours for the second time in four years.
The Canadiens must also contend with a revitalized Toronto Maple Leafs squad that closely trails them on the Atlantic Division championship odds at +375. The Maple Leafs exceeded expectations last season, clinching a berth in the post-season for just the second time since 2004.
Auston Matthews’ 40-goal campaign last season made him the first Maple Leafs player to win rookie of the year honours since 1966, fuelling his strong +850 odds in Hart Trophy betting.
The Senators look to build on a surprising 98-point campaign but will be without Erik Karlsson to start the season, as the former Norris Trophy winner recovers from off-season surgery, while the Panthers tumbled to 81 points last season after winning the Atlantic Division crown in 2016.