2011 Stanley Cup Betting Odds

A (very) early look at the 2011 Stanley Cup Futures

The National Hockey League just crowned their Champion, but there is no such thing as looking for value too early. The Chicago Blackhawks won the title for the first time since 1961, behind terrific young offensive talent in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The two goal scorers will most likely be with the team for a while, and that fact alone makes the Hawks worth a look.

They open as the favorites to win the Stanley Cup again in 2011 at 11/2. Chicago’s core roster will stay the same, as most big names have contracts through at least 2011. Toews and Kane are locked up through 2015; Marion Hossa is under contract until 2020.

The only bigger name to become an unrestricted free agent is John Madden, and lately that is more because of his namesake the football coach/announcer, than because of his production. The 37-year-old scored 10 goals and added 13 assists leaving his point total under 30 for only the fourth time in his ten-year career.

Goalie Antti Niemi will be a restricted free agent, but there will be a number of well-known goaltenders available for free this summer. The Blackhawks will have to do some creative work due to salary cap restrictions, but they should be able to contend next season.

The Pittsburgh Penguins (6/1) and Washington Capitals (13/2) are available at about the same price. Both teams suffered surprising early outs in this year’s playoffs and are looking to bounce back next season. They have the two best players in the league on their rosters in Alex Ovechkin (Capitals) and Sidney Crosby (Penguins). That alone makes them favorites to contend for the Cup year in and year out.

The Penguins will lose some of their older players to unrestricted free agency, but they’re not losing anybody they won’t be able to make up for. Sergei Gonchar (35) and Bill Guerin (39) are nearing or at the end of their careers and Ruslan Fedotenko’s numbers are on the decline.

The Capitals will want to resign RFA Nicklas Backstrom and Eric Fehr as well as UFA Eric Belanger, but they are set to be at the top of the pack again. They will most likely let goalie Jose Theodore go, and go with their youthful tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Michael Neuvirth.

The San Jose Sharks are an interesting pick at 9/1. They have played great regular seasons for the last six years, but have struggled in the postseason. It looked like they were finally going to get over the hump this year, when they defeated playoff nemeses Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings, before losing to the Blackhawks in four.

Evgeni Nabokov will be an unrestricted free agent, and it is time for the Sharks to move on from their perennial number one goaltender. Sharks Captain Rob Blake announced his retirement and won’t be with the team next year.

Expect a change among forwards too, where big names Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley are taking too much cap room. Little Joe Pavelski showed what he can do in this year’s playoffs, and the Sharks will have to make tough personnel decisions. Marleau will be an unrestricted free agent, and the Sharks might have to let him walk.

However this offseason turns out, the Sharks will be among the top teams in the league again, and offer good value at 9/1.

So do the Flyers at 15/1. They gave the Blackhawks a great fight in the finals and could be back next year. They have very few free agents, and will keep their team together. A couple of key additions could get the Flyers back to the Cup and might help them win the championship next season.

It is hard to call the Canadiens a long shot after the playoff run they had, but they surprised in this year’s postseason. They have a young goaltender tandem, which will give them a steady situation in net. They need to replace a couple of aging players on defense, but they should be back in the playoffs next season.

The Habs are not the favorite to win it all, but I see their chances a lot better than the 30/1 odds that Bodog offers.

Keep following offseason moves and betting dynamics on the Stanley Cup futures, as this is a very early look at the prices.

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