NHL Free Agent Tracker & Odds: Leafs Are 2019 Stanley Cup Favorites with Tavares

  • Who did your team (re)sign in free agency and lose on the open market?
  • How did the 2018 free agency period impact the 2019 Stanley Cup odds?
  • Should bettors be wagering on the teams that made the biggest moves?

In mid June, no team stood above the pack in the 2019 Stanley Cup odds. There was a cluster of eight teams between +900 and +1200, a fitting recognition that predicting the NHL playoffs is one of the most difficult handicapping exercises in professional sports.

The hurricane that was free agency has drastically changed the forecast, however.

By signing John Tavares to a seven-year, $77 million contract, the Toronto Maple Leafs became the new lead dog in the Stanley Cup hunt, according to online sportsbook Bovada, jumping all the way from +1000 to +700.

Tavares’ former club, the NY Islanders, took the biggest hit, dropping from +6000 to +8000.

Tavares wasn’t the only big name on the move, of course. Below, find the most significant signings of free agency, followed by the full list of all 31 teams, with before and after odds for the 2019 Stanley Cup, and lastly, a deep dive into a couple intriguing options.

2018 Free Agency: Significant Signings

  • Anaheim Ducks
    • Added: Brian Gibbons (LW); Carter Rowney (C); Luke Schenn (D)
    • Lost: J.T. Brown (RW)
    • Re-signed:
  • Arizona Coyotes
    • Added: Michael Grabner (LW)
    • Lost: Zac Rinaldo (LW); Luke Schenn (D); Scott Wedgewood (G)
    • Re-signed: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (D); Niklas Hjalmarsson (D); Brad Richardson (C)
  • Boston Bruins
    • Added: John Moore (D); Joakim Nordstrom (LW); Tim Schaller (LW); Chris Wagner (C)
    • Lost: Jaroslav Halak (G); Nick Holden (D); Anton Khudobin (G); Rick Nash (RW); Riley Nash (C)
    • Re-signed: Sean Kuraly (C)
  • Buffalo Sabres
    • Added: Carter Hutton (G); Scott Wedgewood (G)
    • Lost: Chad Johnson (G); Robin Lehner (G)
    • Re-signed: Scott Wilson (C)
  • Calgary Flames
    • Added: James Neal (LW); : Derek Ryan (C)
    • Lost: Matt Bartkowski (D)
    • Re-signed:
  • Carolina Hurricanes
    • Added: Calvin de Haan (D); Josh Jooris (RW); Petr Mrazek (G)
    • Lost: Joakim Nordstrom (LW); Derek Ryan (C); Cam Ward (G)
    • Re-signed:
  • Chicago Blackhawks
    • Added: Chris Kunitz (LW); Brandon Manning (D); Cam Ward (G)
    • Lost:
    • Re-signed:
  • Colorado Avalanche
    • Added: Matt Calvert (LW); Ian Cole (D); Philipp Grubauer (G)
    • Lost: Jonathan Bernier (G); Blake Comeau (LW)
    • Re-signed:
  • Columbus Blue Jackets
    • Added: Riley Nash (C); Thomas Vanek (RW)
    • Lost: Matt Calvert (LW); Ian Cole (D); Jack Johnson (D)
    • Re-signed:
  • Dallas Stars
    • Added: Blake Comeau (LW); Anton Khudobin (G); Valeri Nichushkin (RW); Roman Polak (D)
    • Lost: Antoine Roussel (LW)
    • Re-signed: Remi Elie (LW)
  • Detroit Red Wings
    • Added: Jonathan Bernier (G)
    • Lost: Xavier Ouellet (D); Thomas Vanek (RW)
    • Re-signed: Tyler Bertuzzi (LW); Martin Frk (D); Mike Green (D)
  • Edmonton Oilers
    • Added: Kyle Brodziak (C); Tobias Rieder (RW)
    • Lost: Eric Gryba (D)
    • Re-signed:
  • Florida Panthers
    • Added: Michael Hutchinson (G)
    • Lost: Connor Brickley (LW)
    • Re-signed: Jared McCann (C)
  • Los Angeles Kings
    • Added: Ilya Kovalchuk (LW)
    • Lost: Tobias Rieder (RW)
    • Re-signed: Drew Doughty (D)
  • Minnesota Wild
    • Added: Matt Bartkowski (D); Eric Fehr (C); Matt Hendricks (C); J.T. Brown (RW)
    • Lost: Matt Cullen (C)
    • Re-signed:
  • Montreal Canadiens
    • Added: Xavier Ouellet (D); Tomas Plekanec (C)
    • Lost: Daniel Carr (LW)
    • Re-signed:
  • Nashville Predators
    • Added: Connor Brickley (LW); Zac Rinaldo (LW)
    • Lost:
    • Re-signed:
  • New Jersey Devils
    • Added: Eric Gryba (D)
    • Lost: Brian Gibbons (LW); Michael Grabner (LW); Jimmy Hayes (RW); John Moore (D)
    • Re-signed: Eddie Lack (G)
  • New York Islanders
    • Added: Tom Kuhnhackl (RW); Leo Komarov (RW); Robin Lehner (G)
    • Lost: Valtteri Filppula (C); Calvin de Haan (D); Jaroslav Halak (G); Chris Wagner (C)
    • Re-signed: Thomas Hickey (D)
  • New York Rangers
    • Added: Fredrik Claesson (D)
    • Lost: Paul Carey (C)
    • Re-signed: Vladislav Namestnikov (C)
  • Ottawa Senators
    • Added: Paul Carey (C)
    • Lost: Fredrik Claesson (D)
    • Re-signed: Chris Wideman (D)
  • Philadelphia Flyers
    • Added: James Van Riemsdyk (LW)
    • Lost: Valtteri Filppula (C); Brandon Manning (D); Petr Mrazek (G)
    • Re-signed:
  • Pittsburgh Penguins
    • Added: Matt Cullen (C); Jimmy Hayes (RW); Jack Johnson (D)
    • Lost: Tom Kuhnhackl (RW); Carter Rowney (C)
    • Re-signed: Bryan Rust (RW); Riley Sheahan (C); Dominik Simon (C)
  • San Jose Sharks
    • Added:
    • Lost: Eric Fehr (C)
    • Re-signed: Logan Couture (C); Tomas Hertl (C/LW); Evander Kane (LW); Joe Thornton (C)
  • St. Louis Blues
    • Added: Tyler Bozak (C); Chad Johnson (G); David Perron (LW)
    • Lost: Kyle Brodziak (C); Carter Hutton (G)
    • Re-signed: Robby Fabbri (C/LW)
  • Tampa Bay Lightning
    • Added:
    • Lost: Chris Kunitz (LW)
    • Re-signed: Slater Koekkoek (D); Ryan McDonagh (D); J.T. Miller (C)
  • Toronto Maple Leafs
    • Added: Adam Cracknell (RW); Josh Jooris (RW); John Tavares (C)
    • Lost: Tyler Bozak (C); Leo Komarov (RW); Tomas Plekanec (C); Roman Polak (D); James Van Riemsdyk (LW)
    • Re-signed: Martin Marincin (D)
  • Vancouver Canucks
    • Added: Jay Beagle (C); Antoine Roussel (LW); Tim Schaller (LW)
    • Lost: Nic Dowd (C)
    • Re-signed: Darren Archibald (RW); Sven Baertschi (LW); Derrick Pouliot (D)
  • Vegas Golden Knights
    • Added: Daniel Carr (LW); Nick Holden (D); Paul Stastny (C)
    • Lost: James Neal (LW); David Perron (LW)
    • Re-signed: Brandon Pirri (C); Ryan Reaves (RW)
  • Washington Capitals
    • Added: Nic Dowd (C)
    • Lost: Philipp Grubauer (G)
    • Re-signed: John Carlson (D); Michal Kempny (D); Devante Smith-Pelly (RW)
  • Winnipeg Jets
    • Added:
    • Lost: Matt Hendricks (C);Michael Hutchinson (G); Paul Stastny (C)
    • Re-signed: Joe Morrow (D)

2019 Stanley Cup Odds
(Before & After Free Agency)

  • Toronto Maple Leafs: +700 (up from +1000)
  • Tampa Bay Lightning: +900 (no change)
  • Boston Bruins: +950 (up from +1100)
  • Nashville Predators: +1100 (no change)
  • Vegas Golden Knights: +1100 (no change)
  • Pittsburgh Penguins: +1200 (no change)
  • Washington Capitals: +1200 (no change)
  • Winnipeg Jets: +1400 (down from +1000)
  • San Jose Sharks: +2200 (no change)
  • Edmonton Oilers: +2500 (down from +1800)
  • Los Angeles Kings: +2500 (up from +3000)
  • Philadelphia Flyers: +2500 (no change)
  • St. Louis Blues: +2500 (up from +2800)
  • Minnesota Wild: +2600 (up from +3000)
  • Anaheim Ducks: +2800 (down from +2200)
  • Calgary Flames: +2800 (up from +3000)
  • Dallas Stars: +2800 (no change)
  • Chicago Blackhawks: +3000 (down from +2200)
  • Columbus Blue Jackets: +3000 (down from +2500)
  • Colorado Avalanche: +3500 (up from +4000)
  • New Jersey Devils: +3500 (up from +4000)
  • Florida Panthers: +4000 (no change)
  • Buffalo Sabres: +6600 (up from +8000)
  • Detroit Red Wings: +6600 (up from +7500)
  • Montreal Canadiens: +6600 (no change)
  • New York Rangers: +6600 (up from +7000)
  • Carolina Hurricanes: +7000 (down from +6600)
  • Vancouver Canucks: +7000 (up from +8000)
  • Arizona Coyotes: +8000 (no change)
  • New York Islanders: +8000 (down from +6000)
  • Ottawa Senators: +15000 (down from +10000)

Which Team is the Best Value for the 2019 Stanley Cup?

It’s not the Maple Leafs

The Leafs’ offense is going to be scary-good. They finished second in the league in goals last season (3.38 GPG) and that was with Auston Matthews only playing 62 games. The blow of losing leading goal scorer James Van Riemsdyk (36 goals) is more than attenuated by adding Tavares, who’s averaged 34 goals over the last four years.

Matthews, who scored 40 as a rookie, is still on the rise, as is last year’s leading point-getter Mitch Marner (69 pts) and 2014 first-rounder William Nylander (61 pts). Add in 38-year-old Patrick Marleau, who still managed to notch 27 genos in his first season as a Leaf, and you have the makings of the best offense in the NHL.

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What the Leafs still haven’t figured out is how to keep pucks away from their own net.

This team had a negative shot differential last year of -136, which was 23rd in the NHL. Their top-four on D currently projects as Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Nikita Zaitsev, and Ron Hainsey. Among those players, only Rielly had a positive Fenwick %, and just barely (50.4%). Gardiner was 49.4% while Hainsey and Zaitsev were horrendous at 46.2% and 45.7%, respectively.

No GM can ice that top four and expect to win four playoff rounds when the Arizonas and Ottawas of the world have been weeded out.

Until the situation on the back-end is addressed, fade the Leafs at +700.

Is it still the Blue Jackets? Depends on Panarin

The Blue Jackets looked like good value a few weeks ago when they were at +2500. They have solid depth both up front and on defense, they out-chanced their opponents night-in and night-out last year (52.21% Fenwick, 7th in the NHL), and they have a goalie who could reasonably get hot at the right time in Sergei Bobrovsky. Those are the traits of a team that can go deep.

But now they’ve fallen from +2500 to +3000. What gives?

Artemi Panarin gives.

Unquestionably CBJ’s most lethal offensive threat (27 goals, 82 pts), the Russian, who is in the last year of his contract, is suddenly on the trade block after informing the team that he wouldn’t be signing an extension and will, instead, test the free-agent market in 2019.

Perceived as a rental, Panarin isn’t likely to return equal value in a trade, at least not for the 2018-19 season, and his loss would deprive Columbus of its leader in almost every offensive category, including goals (27), assists (55), points (82), plus/minus (+23), and PPG (7).

Pierre-Luc Dubois had a fantastic rookie season (20 goals, 48 pts) but requiring him to shoulder even more of the offense in a division that still boasts Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, and Taylor Hall is a big ask.

Until the Jackets confirm that they’re retaining Panarin — at least to start the year — or pull off a favorable trade that can replace his offensive production, stay away from the Jackets.


Alexander is the MTS editor-in-chief. Frank, Alex, and Geoff brought him in when they realized that their betting expertise far surpassed their grammatical abilities. He loves overanalyzing college basketball trends. Talking to him during the first weekend of March Madness is like talking to a wall. A very focused wall, but a wall nonetheless.

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