As NHL training camps get set to open it remains a tight two-way race atop the odds to win the Atlantic Division, with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning deadlocked as +150 co-favourites at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The Maple Leafs have enjoyed a honeymoon of sorts on the NHL odds since signing free agent centre John Tavares, and also sit with the Lightning as +750 favourites on the Stanley Cup odds.
Fresh off an 84-point performance last season, his ninth with the New York Islanders, Tavares arrives in Toronto as a -250 betting favourite on the odds to be named the next captain of the Maple Leafs, and joins an already formidable offence that features Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. However, the club has yet to come to terms with restricted free agent William Nylander, who recorded 61 points in each of his first two full NHL seasons.
The Lightning prepare to open camp after racking up a franchise-record 113 points to finish atop the Eastern Conference standings last season. While Tampa Bay refrained from diving deep into the UFA market, the club kept busy by inking winger Nikita Kucherov and defenceman Ryan McDonagh to lengthy contract extensions, and have also been tied to trade speculation swirling around Ottawa Senators superstar defenceman Erik Karlsson.
The Boston Bruins closely trail the favourites at +250 on the Atlantic Division odds, well ahead of the Florida Panthers at +1200, while the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres sit knotted at +3300 on those futures.
The Bruins took a leap forward last season, finishing one point behind the Lightning in the division standings, and earning their first playoff series win in four years, a seven-game victory over Toronto.
A 17-5-2 stretch run brought the surprising Panthers to within a single point of earning a playoff spot last year, and the off-season addition of winger Mike Hoffman is expected to bolster a Florida offence that ranked a middling 15th in the NHL last season.
The Sabres are aiming to take a serious run at ending a lengthy seven-year playoff drought. Conversely, the Canadiens face tempered expectations after finishing 28th overall last season, and report to training camp preoccupied by the ongoing drama generated by the uncertain future of captain Max Pacioretty.
Winners of just 30 games last season, their lowest full-season win total since 1989, the Red Wings lag at +5000 on the odds to win the Atlantic Division, while the Senators look toward a long campaign as distant +6600 longshots on those betting lines.