Tampa Bay Lightning

Stanley Cup Odds (As of Feb. 28):

Tampa Bay Lightning (6.50)


Steve Yzerman was a dynamic player for the Detroit Red Wings, and if he hasn't already, Yzerman should garner the same reputation as a general manager for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The NHL trade deadline is behind us now, but Yzerman gave his already stellar Lightning team a jolt with the addition of defenceman Ryan McDonagh from the New York Rangers. Added in that deal from New York to Tampa Bay was forward J.T. Miller.

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Yes, the Lightning paid a hefty price, sending prospects and draft picks back to the rebuilding Rangers, but the Bolts should be all-in this season. They lead the NHL standings as of Wednesday. They lead the league in goals-for per game. They're top-five in the league when it comes to goals-against. They're receiving great goaltending from Andrei Vasilevskiy.

This was already a roster that likely had what it takes to make a deep playoff run.

Yzerman has only further solidified his team as the favourite in the East, as the Bolts look to make their third trip to the Eastern Conference Final in the last four years.

Stanley Cup Odds (As of Feb. 28):

Boston Bruins (8.50)

Boston Bruins

It probably didn't seem likely the Boston Bruins would actually be buyers at the trade deadline, but they've climbed within striking distance of the Atlantic Division lead and decided to pick up Rick Nash prior to Monday.

Nash made his Bruins debut on Sunday, and then scored his first goal with Boston two nights later against Carolina.

The Bruins have managed to slide only six points behind the Lightning and are among the Stanley Cup favourites - they've come a long way since October, when their odds to win it all were 20.00 at PlayNow.com before dipping down to 35.00 at the end of November.

Nash may be able to help them in the spring, although he hasn't garnered the best reputation as a playoff performer in the past.

The bigger concern? The health of Patrice Bergeron, currently out with a fractured foot.

Nashville Predator

Stanley Cup Odds (As of Feb. 28):

Nashville Predators (8.50)


The Nashville Predators already have one of the best defensive groups in the NHL, especially with that top four that attracted so much attention during the 2017 playoffs and Stanley Cup Final.

On Monday, the Predators added Ryan Hartman to their group of forwards, acquiring the 23-year-old winger who is a former first-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks and a year removed from a 19-goal campaign.

Yes, it cost Nashville a first-round pick this year. But imagine being general manager David Poile and seeing your team a year ago come within two wins of the Stanley Cup, with few precious opportunities to get back to the championship series. It's worth making that gamble, especially after seeing how last year's run galvanized the city of Nashville.

Even before the deadline, the Predators had been picking up steam. But they've now won five straight as of Wednesday, including a thrilling come-from-behind win over their division rivals from Winnipeg the previous evening.

Stanley Cup Odds (As of Feb. 28):

Vegas Golden Knights (8.50)

Vegas Golden Knights

Hear that? It's the sound of general manager George McPhee pushing his chips into the middle of the table.

No, this isn't the World Series of Poker. This is the Golden Knights, in their first season, as a buyer at the deadline with the potential to make a playoff run.

When this season began, the odds for the Golden Knights to win the Stanley Cup in their first year stood at 100.00. A real long shot. Well, they're a long shot no more, at odds of 8.50 as of Wednesday as they flirt with having the best record in the NHL during their inaugural campaign.

On Monday, with plenty of draft picks available to make a deal, McPhee unloaded a 2018 first-round pick, a 2019 second-round pick and a 2021 third-round pick to acquire Tomas Tatar from the Detroit Red Wings.

Tatar is on pace to reach the 20-goal plateau for a fourth straight season, while Vegas has surprisingly been the second highest scoring team in the league. Oh, don't worry. Vegas still has 11 picks in 2019 and that includes six selections in the first three rounds.

Winnipeg Jets

Stanley Cup Odds (As of Feb. 28):

Winnipeg Jets (11.00)


After years of building their core group of players through the draft - making good work of their opportunities to select in the top 10 - the Winnipeg Jets are not only headed toward a playoff berth but they're a team that should be tough to knock out in the post-season.

One of the biggest questions in the past had been goaltending. Connor Hellebuyck, 24, has been able to turn that around.

On Monday, Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff added to what now might arguably be the best top-nine group of forwards in the NHL with the addition of Paul Stastny from the struggling St. Louis Blues.

Going back to St. Louis was a conditional first-round pick, but the Jets have a team that could make a lengthy run this spring and it was time for Cheveldayoff - who has shown the patience of Job while taking the time to build a contender in that hockey-mad market - to make an aggressive move.

Honourable Mention

Stanley Cup Odds (As of Feb. 28):

Toronto Maple Leafs (10.00)

Toronto Maple Leafs

We're at the point now where the Toronto Maple Leafs could catch Tampa Bay for the Atlantic Division. A difficult task, sure, but still possible.

As of Wednesday, Toronto was five points back of Tampa Bay, which still had the luxury of two games in hand. While the Bolts are the favourites to win the Stanley Cup, that Atlantic Division race appears like it will come right down to the wire - a three-team race that includes the Bruins very much in the mix as well.

Getting Auston Matthews back in the lineup would certainly help the Maple Leafs.

Philadelphia Flyers

Honourable Mention

Stanley Cup Odds (As of Feb. 28):

Philadelphia Flyers (16.00)


Here's the thing with the Flyers: They will be in tough to come out of the Eastern Conference. Not saying it can't be done, but difficult given the opponents they could face in the post-season.

But consider where they stood in December. They endured a 10-game losing streak. They endured calls from the fan base to fire coach Dave Hakstol. Things have changed drastically since, as Philadelphia was 9-0-1 in its last 10 games (as of Wednesday) and winners of six in a row, one point back of the Capitals for the Metropolitan Division.

That's an impressive turnaround. What's even better? Not only could they make the playoffs and cause some damage in the spring, but when the season is done and the draft approaches, the Flyers could have a total of nine selections this year, including the possibility for two picks in the first round. One of those first-round picks is a conditional pick from St. Louis.

Not a bad position to be in.

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