With no end in sight to the COVID-19 pandemic, questions linger as to when and how the NHL will play next season. One proposed solution to concerns about cross-border travel restrictions is the creation of a seven-team all-Canadian division. The idea sits as a -105 underdog of becoming a reality, but has spawned considerable interest at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, with the Toronto Maple Leafs set as +175 favourites to finish first in an all-Canadian division next season.
The Maple Leafs are coming off a disappointing campaign. After struggling to stay in playoff contention prior to the league shutdown, the club struggled in the postseason, bowing out with a qualifying-round series loss to Columbus. Despite facing a salary cap crunch, though, Toronto has taken steps to shake up its roster.
The team parted ways with forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson in a pair of trades. As well, the signings of free agents Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton, and T.J. Brodie have added veteran leadership and toughness to a highly-skilled lineup that ranked third in the NHL in goals scored last season.
The Edmonton Oilers enjoyed the highest finish in the NHL standings last season among Canadian teams, winning 37 games and racking up 83 points, and are listed as +250 second favourites to claim top spot in an all-Canadian division at online betting sites.
The Oilers have not rested on their laurels during this offseason. In addition to signing defenceman Tyson Barrie and veteran forward Kyle Turris as free agents, Edmonton has also welcomed back promising Finnish forward Jesse Puljujarvi, who rejoins the club after spending last season in Europe. However, the team has faced criticism for failing to upgrade its goalkeeping, sticking with the tandem of Miko Koskinen and Mike Smith.
Goaltending is not expected to be a problem for the Calgary Flames, who sit third as a +600 wager to win an all-Canadian division. After taking a step back last season, which ended with yet another early playoff exit, the Flames made a splash by signing free agent netminder Jacob Markstrom. However, the move has failed to boost Calgary's Stanley Cup odds, which continue to lag at +3300.
Further down the all-Canadian division odds, the Winnipeg Jets closely follow Calgary at +650, while the Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens sit knotted at +750, and the Ottawa Senators trail as +2500 longshots.
The Canucks' rebuild finally bore fruit this past season, with Vancouver making the deepest playoff run of any Canadian team. Heartened by a surprising march to the first round of the playoffs, the Canadiens are hoping to take the next step after adding some much-needed offensive help with the recent additions of forwards Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson.