31 Thoughts: Intriguing NHL futures bets for 2020–21 season

NHL handicapper Andy MacNeil joins Follow The Money to discuss why he thinks the Maple Leafs deserve to be favourites in the North Division this season, and why he's making a futures bet with Jacob Markstrom to win this year's Vezina Trophy.

• Flames, Jets a good bet to win Canadian division?
• Can Evander Kane opt out of NHL season?
• Multiple teams aggressively pursuing Dubois

I’m not much of a bettor when it comes to hockey. I twist myself into enough of a mental pretzel while on the job — why add to it? Plus, no player/agent/coach/GM/whoever needs to wonder if my questions about a groin injury are really about an extra $50 on the moneyline.

But I do look to see what’s out there. Finally, North America is escaping the puritan anti-gambling shackles to join the rest of the planet. These futures bets stood out (but don’t wager anything you’re uncomfortable losing):

Washington (+600 to win East/+1800 to win Cup)
I thought Washington would be a favourite in the league’s toughest division, figuring the value would be with the Islanders, Rangers or Philadelphia. But a couple of sites had them behind Boston, Philly and Pittsburgh, and even with the Rangers.

At least two very good teams are going to flunk this test, but… the Capitals? I find it hard to believe.

Calgary/Winnipeg (+750 to win Canadian Division)
If you’re Canadian, and you refer to this as the North Division, your citizenship is revoked. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.

Toronto is the oddsmakers’ beauty queen, but six different teams could win it. All of them are talented, but flawed. The Flames and Jets were the least respected among that group. Fine, we can all decide what we like or don’t like, but it’s not impossible for either win the 56-game rush to the playoffs.

Carey Price (+1600 to win Vezina)
Price had the 11th-best odds at one site. That’s ridiculous. Besides, the Canadiens say they want to rest him, but, as my grandmother always said, “You plan, God laughs.” We’ll see.

Elias Pettersson (+2000 to win Hart)
Last year, someone bet me that Pettersson wouldn’t win a Hart by the time I turn 55. (I’m 50, although I look 25.) I didn’t take that wager, because, as a voter, it’s not the right thing to do. It doesn’t change the overall philosophy, though. He’s going to win one, sooner rather than later.

Miro Heiskanen/Seth Jones (+2000 to win Norris Trophy); Charlie McAvoy (+2500); Ivan Provorov (+5000)
The first two got the “playoff bump.” Heiskanen led Dallas to the Stanley Cup Final, while Jones never left the ice in multiple overtime games against the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Those types of performances elevate contenders in voters’ minds.

Zdeno Chara’s departure makes McAvoy an even more high-profile piece on a high-profile team. As for Provorov, those huge odds are generally suckers’ bets. But would anybody be shocked if he won it this year?

Patrik Laine (+2500 to win Rocket Richard)
This is a business relationship between Laine and the Jets, but there’s no reason it can’t be mutually beneficial. The hotter he gets and more he increases his value, the better Winnipeg does during the season and the more the market opens up. I think he has a big year.


1. It’s a fluid situation and may develop over time, but neither the NHL nor the NHLPA was aware Monday night of any plans for Evander Kane to not play this season. In his 73-page bankruptcy filing to the Northern District of California, the Sharks’ winger suggested he may “terminate his contract and may opt out of the season, as allowed under current rules, because of health concerns given the recent birth of his first child. Should he terminate his contract or opt out at a point in the season, (Kane) will not receive his salary.”

San Jose Hockey Now’s Sheng Peng reported that Arkansas-based Centennial Bank is suing the forward for more than $8 million. Kane’s document, indicating liabilities of almost $27 million, was filed last Saturday. The opt-out deadline for San Jose players was Christmas Eve. (Kane and the Sharks’ organization declined to comment.)

His filing was a Chapter 7 (liquidation) as opposed to a Chapter 13 (restructuring/renegotiating debts). The Players’ Association in particular would play a significant role in any termination conversation, with five seasons and $29 million remaining on Kane’s contract. One lawyer suggested last night that Kane’s remaining salary may not allow liquidation, but this is out of my expertise.

2. According to several sources, interested teams are “not screwing around” when it comes to Pierre-Luc Dubois. I’m not sure what path GM Jarmo Kekalainen is going to walk, but Columbus knows the centre is coveted. No one wants to lose out on an opportunity to acquire Dubois because other clubs took the process more seriously. Montreal and Winnipeg are definitely among the pursuers, but there are more, some of whom haven’t received much attention. Are the Blue Jackets willing to move this quickly?

3. Hopefully, there’s eventual clarity on why Dubois wanted the change of scenery. He bought a place in Columbus last season. There’s something we’re not seeing.

4. Keith Yandle can’t catch Doug Jarvis’s consecutive games played streak (964) this season, but he’s got the longest active streak (866), and is fourth all-time. In this condensed, intense year, teams are going to need depth and he’s going to play, but, as we begin the season, the streak is clearly in jeopardy.

No one plays almost 10 years in a row without a ton of pride, a determination to go out there every night. Yandle wasn’t skating with the main group before Florida claimed Gustav Forsling and Noah Juulsen on waivers. He may work his way back into the lineup, but he’s not in the top six now.

Yandle has ultimate control over his situation with a no-move clause, so only he can decide if he’s willing to go elsewhere, but it’s very hard to move money right now. I’d heard there were some talks with the Islanders (Florida taking back money to ease New York’s cap crunch), but that obviously didn’t happen.

5. Jeremy Colliton’s two-year extension in Chicago puts that team’s major components on the same timeline. GM Stan Bowman, Colliton, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews. (Get healthy, Jonathan.) All up in the summer of 2023.

6. Montreal was very smart to make sure Victor Mete didn’t end up anywhere near waivers. Three goalies might be unwieldy, but it’s not a stunner Toronto isn’t exposing Aaron Dell. The biggest worry was New Jersey, which claimed Eric Comrie from Winnipeg.

Edmonton had let it be known that Jujhar Khaira was available, so his appearance was not a surprise to other clubs. Toronto has liked him before, they’ve got too many bodies now. Have to admit I thought someone would bite on Oliver Kylington.

7. Ottawa’s top six looks nice with Brady Tkachuk-Josh Norris-Drake Batherson, and Tim Stuetzle-Derek Stepan-Evgenii Dadonov. Those two lines played together during the team scrimmage Monday night. Logan Brown was dressed for the opposing team, and there are rumours of his availability. But the Senators have said they still believe in his talent.

8. Bowen Byram’s quick learning curve means rumblings that Colorado could move a defenceman. I’ve seen some rumours about Ian Cole, but I’m not convinced. He’s won, and he’s built for the meaner postseason.

9. Whenever a player shows up this late on a PTO, I assume there’s a deal awaiting him. With Christian Djoos claimed by Detroit and Brendan Guhle out six weeks — it makes sense for Anaheim and Ben Hutton.

10. This may interest only me, but do teams do video tributes this season? Alex Pietrangelo returns to St. Louis. Zdeno Chara to Boston. Canadian versions: T.J. Brodie to Calgary; Jacob Markstrom and Christopher Tanev to Vancouver. No (or very few) fans. The raw emotion won’t be there. Do you wait? Do you do it anyway, just for proper respect?

11. There’s no no-move or no-trade protection in Mike Hoffman’s St. Louis contract. Then again, if the Blues are challenging in the West, as they expect to be, they’re not moving him anyway.

12. This will come as a surprise to no one, but several teams and agents indicate extension talks have been very, very tricky. If you’re an absolute cornerstone stud, everyone’s going to find a way, but even players on the next tier are running into challenges. Teams are extremely wary of term in a flat cap.

13. The AHL announced Monday that Hayley Moore will leave the NWHL’s Boston Pride at the conclusion of their season to become its Vice President of Hockey Operations. In asking around about Moore, the word most often mentioned was “passion.” It’s such a critical trait. Seasons are long, things go badly, and the planet’s a bit of a hellscape right now. You need people who can keep their passion in tough times.

Moore has a reputation for doing things “beyond the job description.” When you’re building something, like the NWHL is trying to, are you willing to pitch in when necessary when it’s not technically your responsibility? In her case, the answer was yes. Good lesson for young people trying to get ahead.

14. The NBA has a rule that there must be eight players in uniform, or a team must forfeit. (Last Saturday, an injured Philadelphia 76er had to dress so they wouldn’t forfeit to Denver.) The NHL doesn’t have anything that specific, but Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Monday on a media Zoom call they don’t want teams playing “significantly shorthanded.” The AHL is contemplating a “14-and-2 rule,” 14 skaters and two goalies or no go. But the numbers could change before its season begins.

15. The AHL is also considering what to do if officials have to be quarantined. As it stands, as long as one referee is available, games will be a go.

16. There may be no bubble, which was tough on everyone’s mental health, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. Dallas had to shut down, Pittsburgh and Vancouver cancelled a day of practice, and Colorado, Columbus and Nashville have had larger groups “unfit to play.” The stress is real.

You talk to people around these teams, and it’s a scramble. You’re making sure there are no false positives. You’re contact tracing. You’re worried about your families. You’re wondering how much exposure there is. You’re trying to figure out the best course of action. The league may have a short window to reschedule games before the playoffs, and “all options will be on the table” to get as many in as possible. If two teams lose games, and it makes more sense to re-schedule in the other’s building (for travel reasons), that could potentially happen.

17. Commissioner Gary Bettman made headlines on Monday by saying, “The magnitude of the (financial losses for this season) when you add it all up starts with a ‘B.’ We’re out of the ‘M’ range and into the ‘B’ range.”

One story I heard: There were some owners who thought the only sensible plan for 2020–21 was to play 82 games starting Feb. 1. They wanted to go right through the Olympics (but would consider taking a break for them). Reasoning: There was a better chance of getting fans in the buildings by the playoffs and felt it made no sense to play 48 to 56 games if there was no proration of salaries. The pushback was that summer hockey wasn’t well received on television and next season needs to be on a normal schedule.

18. Changes to the CBA played out in two high-profile situations last week: Mathew Barzal and Corey Crawford. Barzal’s qualifying offer after this deal will not be $10 million, as it would have been under the previous document. It’s $8.4 million. The new figure is determined by the lesser of the salary of the final season of the deal ($10 million in Barzal’s case) or 120 per cent of the average annual value.

As for Crawford, there was a change in over-35 contracts. Under previous rules, the Devils could not have escaped his cap hit. However, they structured his deal in a way that they could. Now, multi-year 35-plus contracts where a) compensation is the same or goes up and b) there is no signing bonus after year one are no longer subject to a cap hit in case of retirement.

19. I will always remember the aftermath of 2013 Stanley Cup Final Game 4 with Crawford. He had a horrible night with his glove hand, but the Blackhawks overcame it to beat Boston 6–5 in overtime, tying the series 2–2. He stood at his stall for almost an hour, answering the same questions over and over again. The next day, I had an early flight to Chicago and went right to the rink for practice. Crawford was on the ice well before everyone else with then-goalie coach Stephane Waite. That’s what it takes.

20. Still lurking: Michael Grabner. He is not signed, and not retired. He’ll see how things play out.

21. The Rangers signed 2020 first-rounder Braden Schneider to an AHL-only deal, and that’s going to be a trend. Schneider plays for WHL Brandon, but until that league plays, he can go to the AHL. The WHL is going to try, though. One possibility: a 24-game schedule starting late February, weekend games only.

From province to province, there could be differences in who plays where. Some teams in their own building, some teams in hubs (Kelowna could be one, for example). American teams might have to move into Canada, because there are questions about how many want to play. It’s an enormous challenge. This will determine where Schneider — and others — compete.

22. Sportlogiq’s had a good (or bad) summer, depending on your point of view. Chris Boucher left for an NHL job, and now, Matt Perri, its director of hockey operations, is going to Arizona.

23. Six years after retirement, Olli Jokinen is ready for the next phase of his life: coaching. Jokinen has enormous respect for Paul Maurice, who he played for in Winnipeg, and the two talked about the position created when Todd Woodcroft went to NCAA Vermont. (It went to Dave Lowry.) There was also the possibility of a KHL job, but it fell through.

Since retirement, he’s run the South Florida Hockey Academy, “and since day one, I’ve loved coaching,” he said. “My goal is to be a head coach in the NHL. I understand it’s even a harder grind than as a player. I understand there are limited spots, and it might be a few years for things to get back to normal.”

Jokinen made it clear he’s willing to work his way up the ladder, knowing nothing will be handed to him. He’s spoken with Alex Tanguay, who took a job with AHL Iowa, about that path. “There’s not one coach (I played for) I didn’t learn anything from, and there are lots of coaches I didn’t understand how good they were until I was done.” Jokinen had a great line, saying, that late in his career he didn’t understand why he wasn’t playing much, but looking back on it, recognizes “I wouldn’t have played myself, either.”

24. Jokinen, who said he’s been watching games in Finland, shouted out Florida’s Eetu Luostarinen as someone who looked good to him. “Plus, he’s playing in my hometown (Kuopio).”

25. From 31 Thoughts: The Podcast: Dallas’s Tyler Seguin explained the labrum injury that hobbled him during Return to Play. It stemmed from a blocked shot just before the pause last March.

“I blocked a shot outside my knee… and didn’t think much,” he said. “Once we started quarantining, my knee was giving me issues, and it turned out I had two tears. So because of that, I couldn’t do any lower body workouts. I could only do upper body and core. If I went on the ice, it was just kind of shooting around, but I couldn’t skate hard. When training camp came, I skated a little bit the week before…. When we got to Edmonton, I was in a practice the day before out first game against Nashville, and something went wrong with my hip. I felt it right away and knew it wasn’t good.”

Seguin dealt with it through rehab and injections, but, after considering an MRI, decided to avoid it.

“I honestly said I didn’t want to know… because I wanted to play.”

After the Stars lost in the final, he returned to Dallas and “found out the labrum was completely torn off.”

That injury can derail a career, but Seguin said he and the doctors are optimistic.

26. When asked about the reaction to his Instagram post about his “favourite cologne,” Sexual Noir Pour Homme, Seguin laughed and said the instructions were to “lay on the couch and look sexy.” As you can imagine, he got clobbered on the Stars’ group chat.

27. Anthony Duclair, on the experience of being his own agent: “I wanted ownership of my own life and career.” He liked hearing unfiltered commentary of his play: “Hearing it from GMs themselves was eye-opening. I enjoyed the experience.”

Was there anything in particular that stood out to him?

Duclair demurred, saying, “I’ll have to get back to you on that one.”

Florida’s Bill Zito was the first GM he talked to, and the one “I spoke to the most.” (They have a history from Columbus.) What did he tell Zito?

“I wanted them to believe in me.”

Duclair was complimentary of Ottawa, saying he was “as shocked as anyone” that things didn’t work out there. He denied there was a three-year deal at $4.25 million on the table — “I’m not an idiot. That’s not true.” — and said there were one- or two-year options available. Nashville was also a serious consideration for him.

28. Duclair on the Auston Matthews/Connor McDavid skates in Arizona: “Those were the best skates I’ve ever had in my life. That just elevates your training to a different level. Guys are going hard… playing like it’s a Game 7. It kinds of sucks there were no cameras there, because there were some highlight-reel goals people will never get to see.”

What was the most impressive thing you saw?

“A backhand one-hander by McDavid…. Perfect, sauce, bar-down on one hand going full-speed, guy on his back. I’ve never seen that before. And we all paused and looked at each other — ‘What just happened?' kind of thing.”

After Jeff Marek finished asking Duclair 36 questions about minor/junior hockey, Duclair revealed hs favourite memory of being coached by Patrick Roy: “Him doing a video session, screaming at the boys in his boxer shorts, once.”

Just boxers, nothing else?

“Just boxers.”

29. Jordan Subban still wants to play. Like many in the AHL or overseas (he spent last season in Austria), he’s been squeezed by the realities of COVID. So he’s keeping himself in shape, ready for the next opportunity. In the meantime, he’s launched Ujimaa, a marketplace for BIPOC and female-owned businesses.

While playing at AHL Utica, Subban took online courses in computer programming and app development. What’s the most eye-opening thing about running a business?

“It’s not even one thing. It’s almost a combination of all the things,” he answered. “Incorporating the business, building the website and all the details that have to go into it. Maybe (I was) a little bit naive, and I don’t know if it’s common for entrepreneurs who are starting their first business, but you think there’s going to be a time where things settle down. You have the website built or the business built… but no, it’s every day, it’s something new, it’s constant, it’s updating things, just making sure it’s running smooth.”

30. Subban, as you know, comes from an extremely competitive family. So here was the question: It’s dinner time, everyone is hungry (parents Karl and Maria, sisters Nastassia and Natasha, brothers PK and Malcolm), and there is one extra steak. Who gets it?

“I do,” he answered without hesitation.


“I don’t ask questions. My dad, he’s said it a lot, my mom has said it — I’m just willing to do whatever to get what I want, I guess.”

31. I will miss Kevin Quinn’s “Ooooooovvvvvvverrrrrrrrrtimmmmmmmmmmme winner!” The goal horn in Edmonton, an ecstatic home crowd and that call always made me smile. Every time I disagreed with Drew Remenda, he gave me a look like, “We’ll settle this in the dojo.” I imagined I’d end up like one of Royce Gracie’s opponents, gasping for breath on the mat. You welcome new co-workers, but hate to lose long-time partners.

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