Wednesday, July 18, 2018
New York Islanders

NHL Betting: Free Agency Winners So Far This Summer

The summer of 2018 will be remembered in the NHL as the time when John Tavares shook up the Eastern Conference playoff picture dramatically by leaving the New York Islanders to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs. While the Islanders were left without their captain and franchise player, the Maple Leafs secured one of the best 1-2-3 center punches in the league with Tavares joining Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri. No other team came even close to upgrading the way that Toronto did. However, there were a handful of other teams that made substantial upgrades to improve their overall outlook heading in to next season. Here is a look at the biggest NHL free agency winners so far this summer.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The addition of Tavares immediately elevated the Maple Leafs to Stanley Cup favorites according to the sportsbooks. While that might have been an overreaction when you consider the teams they leapfrogged to earn that status, there is no doubt that Toronto is much better with the addition of an NHL superstar in the prime of his career. Tavares will join Matthews, Kadri, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Patrick Marleau to give the Maple Leafs one of the best forward cores in the NHL. While they failed to upgrade defensively, the hope is that the firepower they have up front combined with the development of several young defensemen will help them take the next step following back-to-back first round playoff exits. Tavares was the biggest name on the free agent market by a long shot. Signing him to a long-term deal made Toronto the biggest winner of this summer’s free agency period.

La Liga

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres didn’t need to sign any big name free agents to end up on this list. That’s because after Tavares signed with Toronto, Buffalo’s GM Jason Botteril found a trade partner for Ryan O’Reilly and shipped him to the St. Louis Blues. The trade netted the Sabres a first round pick, a second round pick, a top prospect in Tage Thompson and veterans Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka to fill out their forward lines. The move also frees up the No. 2 center spot for top prospect Casey Mittelstadt and opens even more cap space for Buffalo to add in areas of need. Factor in the addition of free agent goaltender Carter Hutton and it’s clear the Sabres deserve a spot on this list.

Calgary Flames

While some are torn on whether or not Calgary should have traded defenseman Dougie Hamilton, they did improve a major area of need by adding Elias Lindholm up front while still getting defenseman Noah Hanifin in the trade they made with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Flames didn’t stop there though, as they signed James Neal to a five-year, $28.75 million deal that most around the league didn’t even see coming. The additions of Lindholm and Neal drastically improve Calgary’s top-six forward core. As long as Hanifin continues to progress as a top-four defenseman, the moves the Flames made this summer should really improve their chances to contend for a playoff spot next season.

St. Louis Blues

The Blues were on the other side of the O’Reilly deal with Buffalo. While the cost was fairly high, the reality is that St. Louis had already added a first round pick after the trade that sent Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets at last year’s trade deadline. Plus, the Blues were reportedly shopping Sobotka and Berglund in an effort to get their contracts off the books. That information makes the deal to acquire O’Reilly look even better, especially considering he is still under contract at a reasonable price for the next three seasons. In addition to that trade, St. Louis added another center in Tyler Bozak, winger David Perron and backup netminder Chad Johnson in free agency. The additions of O’Reilly and Bozak down the middle combined with Perron on the wing and Johnson backing up Jake Allen should dramatically improve the Blues’ chances of making the playoffs next season. After a busy summer, it’s clear St. Louis deserves to be on the list of the biggest winners of the NHL free agency period.

Odds To Win Stanley Cup

Toronto Maple Leafs +700
Tampa Bay Lightning +900
Boston Bruins +950
Nashville Predators +1100
Vegas Golden Knights +1100
Washington Capitals +1200
Pittsburgh Penguins +1200
Winnipeg Jets +1400
San Jose Sharks +2200
Edmonton Oilers +2500
Philadelphia Flyers +2500
Los Angeles Kings +2500
St. Louis Blues +2500
Minnesota Wild +2600
Anaheim Ducks +2800
Dallas Stars +2800
Calgary Flames +2800
Columbus Blue Jackets +3000
Chicago Blackhawks +3000
New Jersey Devils +3500
Colorado Avalanche +3500
Florida Panthers +4000
Montreal Canadiens +6600
New York Rangers +6600
Detroit Red Wings +6600
Carolina Hurricanes +7000
Vancouver Canucks +7000
New York Islanders +8000
Buffalo Sabres +8000
Arizona Coyotes +8000
Ottawa Senators +15000

*Odds courtesy of BetDSI Sportsbook.

About Geoff Harvey

Geoff Harvey has been setting his fantasy rosters since his days in the womb, just don't ask him how he used to get his waiver-wire reports back then. He's a lifelong fan of sports, especially the fantasy and betting aspects.

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