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Senators in crisis: Hoffman, Caryk deny harassing Karlsson; Lee suspended

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Thanks to the decision to keep this year’s pick or risk sending an even better first-rounder to the Colorado Avalanche in 2019,* the looming draft weekend was already going to present the Ottawa Senators with tough questions.

Now GM Pierre Dorion probably dreams about things being that simple.

PHT’s Adam Gretz covered the strange situation between Mike Hoffman, his fiancé Monika Caryk, Erik Karlsson, and his wife Melinda Karlsson earlier this week.

First, a summary of the statements and accusations regarding cyber-bullying:

Melinda Karlsson filed a protection order alleging that Caryk underwent “a campaign of harassment that has plagued the Karlssons after the death of their son and through much of the last NHL season.”

Hoffman responded in a statement that “there is a 150 per cent chance that my fiancé Monika and I are not involved” in the cyber-bulling activities, which Karlsson alleged happened via “burner accounts” on Twitter and Instagram. (Gretz’s post delves deeper into that strange web of accusations.)

The Senators also put out a statement stating that they were “investigating the matter with the cooperation of the NHL.”

A more detailed response from Hoffman and Caryk

The Ottawa Citizen’s Bruce Garrioch conducted an exclusive interview with Hoffman and Caryk, which is worth your time to read in full.

In short, they took further measures to adamantly refuse involvement in the harassing messages.

Some interesting additional details surface as Caryk claimed that she first learned of the accusations late in the regular season (March 22), which eventually led to a discussion between Mike Hoffman and Erik Karlsson during a practice. Caryk says she received word from Taylor Winnik, wife of Daniel Winnik.

“I got a horrific email from a girl named Taylor Winnik, and I believe her husband plays in the NHL, saying that I’m a horrible and disgusting person, accusing me of writing negative stuff about the fact that Erik and Melinda lost their child,” Caryk said. “It’s all untrue. Just to state the facts. That was the first time that I was aware of any of this.”

If that’s not enough to get your head spinning, consider that the Ottawa Citizen’s Don Brennan reports that Melinda Karlsson “could be liable for defamation” if her claims are proven to be inaccurate.

It’s unclear what the next twists will be in that scandal. Either way, the Senators were already rumored to be shopping Hoffman (and possibly still looking to trade Karlsson), so this only heightens that need. Naturally, the Senators are unlikely to get full value for Hoffman thanks to this crisis.

What’s next?

Again, it’s fair to point out that the Senators were already in a position where it would make sense to trade both Karlsson and Hoffman even before this situation surfaced publicly.

Hoffman’s agent Robert Hooper told the Ottawa Citizen that he hopes the situation gets resolved quickly, but therein lies the challenge. With the investigation(s) ongoing, will a team be willing to deal with questions about the situation? If nothing else, a new team would want some assurance that the situation would be put behind Hoffman. They’d face the type of questions sports teams hate to deal with even if that’s so.

For what it’s worth, Garrioch reports that as many as 10 teams are interested in trading for Hoffman, with the Buffalo Sabres reportedly being in especially hot pursuit. He also reports that the New Jersey Devils, Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes are joined by several Central Division teams (Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild) as among those inquiring about the winger.

The Senators also must grapple with Karlsson’s future. Would he sign a contract extension, preferably during this summer, a time when the franchise is in desperate need for positive news? How much would Karlsson’s trade value sink if they had to move him, but he’d still want to pursue unrestricted free agency instead of signing a deal with his new team? Would the Senators keep him around for 2018-19 alone in part to save face and avoid giving the Avalanche a high-end draft pick as part of the Matt Duchene trade?

* – Garrioch reports that the Senators are expected to keep their 2018 first-rounder (fourth overall), which means they’d send their 2019 first-round pick to Colorado.

An awful time; Lee update

A lousy follow-up to a run within one overtime goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final now feels more like a minor setback for the Senators, considering all the toxic news surrounding the organization.

In early June, assistant GM Randy Lee received second-degree harassment charges. Moments ago, the Senators announced that Lee has been suspended. Here’s an excerpt from their statement (read it in full here):

That said, the questions that must be answered by Randy are unlikely to be addressed until his next court date – on July 6, 2018 – we believe the best way to live our values and enforce our standards of behavior is to suspend Randy Lee until the allegations against him are ruled upon by the courts.

Less than two weeks later, this long-brewing issue between Caryk and Karlsson prompted the filing of that protection order. The Senators now have little choice but to trade Hoffman, and might be wise to move Karlsson.

(One also cannot ignore the tragic passing of former GM Bryan Murray on Aug. 12, 2017.)

Those major events were the most jarring, yet it’s really staggering to consider the mass of other negative developments, some of which stand as unforced errors.

After leaving a gig in the front office, Senators icon Daniel Alfredsson expressed a hope many fans have expressed: Eugene Melnyk no longer being the team’s owner. Many of those fans put up a “Snow Must Go”-like billboard calling for Melnyk to do just that.

Following that brutal 2017-18 campaign, Dorion kept embattled head coach Guy Boucher around, yet he also threw him under the bus and essentially acknowledged that Boucher is on thin ice.

Things only get odder and worse the deeper you dig on this team. Just about anyone can see that this has been a disastrous year or so for the Senators, though.

It’s difficult to believe that Karlsson set up Hoffman for a beautiful goal only about a year ago.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Tavares and beyond: five years of possible free agents

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While NHL fans get to brag about the unpredictability of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, NBA fans score a decided advantage when it comes to off-the-court/ice sizzle.

More often than not, hockey fans can only imagine seismic shifts like LeBron James’ latest “decision.”

(One bold exception is the profoundly dysfunctional Ottawa Senators, who provided us with hockey’s answer to the strange Bryan Colangelo burner account scandal by way of that drama between the significant others of Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman.)

So, like the Toronto Raptors watching Lebron mercilessly crush their playoff dreams, hockey fans grow accustomed to seeing fun spending sprees fizzle away. Could it happen again with John Tavares?

TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Tavares and his representatives are “focused” on negotiating with the New York Islanders right now. Pierre LeBrun was also involved in that segment, and rained on our speculative parades even more:

Allow a simple response to the Tavares sweepstakes possibly ending before it truly begins: boo. Boo to that.

Now, sure, there’s the chance that business picks up in July. Maybe sooner. Still, reports like those above remain discouraging for those of us who want to grab the popcorn.

[Which teams would benefit the most from potential buyouts?]

It actually inspires a fun activity: let’s go over the next few years and ponder some of the big names who could auction off their services.

Naturally, because hockey, this list factors in the sad, cruel likelihood that the biggest names will bow out, so there are consolation prizes. Also, this list focuses mainly on would-be UFAs, as RFAs hold very little leverage (thanks, CBA).

This summer (2018)

Biggest fish who might not make it: Tavares

Would begging help?

/kneels

The fascinating Ilya Kovalchuk talk is a helpful reminder of how rare it is for an impact NHL player to explore free agency. At 27, Tavares figures to be exactly that. Despite all the turbulence surrounding the Islanders, Tavares generated 84 points in 82 games during 2017-18, the second-best output of his career.

He’s also put to rest any real worries about some of the freak injuries he suffered. Tavares played 82 games twice in the last four seasons, only missing nine games since 2014-15.

Tavares hitting the market wouldn’t just change the fate of a team. If he landed in the right direction, it could create a new contender. You simply don’t see a franchise center become available often; this would be as close as the NHL gets to a Lebron-type seismic shift.

Which means he’ll probably kill all the drama with an extension soon. *Grumble*

Big name with a better chance to actually hit the market: John Carlson

Before more grumbling commences, there’s this:

There’s evidence that Carlson struggles at time in his own end, particularly stretching back to before this past season. After a dazzling 68 points and a Stanley Cup victory, someone’s paying up, and it should be fun to witness that situation develop. You just do not see defensemen of his ilk hit it big very often, either.

Now that you mention it, hopefully a risky Carlson deal doesn’t scare off teams from next year’s incredible crop.

Some other notables: Joe Thornton, James Neal, James van Riemsdyk, David Perron, and Paul Stastny.

[Six players who should stay put this summer, six who should move]

Next summer (2019)

Biggest possible names: Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty

For some, Karlsson is the top draw (myself included). Old-school types might claim that Karlsson “can’t play defense,” even after he managed to drag a mediocre Senators team to within a goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final (yes, that was only a year ago). For those types – who also probably believe that Alex Ovechkin “just figured things out this year” – then Doughty is the jewel.

The truth is that both are really, really good.

They also both carry some mileage into their next deals after being remarkable bargains, as they’re both 28 and log big minutes. There’s a strong chance that Doughty might just re-sign with Los Angeles, possibly as soon as this summer, and the same could be true regarding Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the Coyotes. (Preemptive boo.)

Now, Ryan Ellis and the Predators? That could be fascinating.

These guys won’t become UFAs … right?: Sergei Bobrovsky, Artemi Panarin, Tyler Seguin.

Buckle up, Blue Jackets fans.

Other interesting possibilities

  • Marc-Andre Fleury: He could finish his career with Vegas, but this past season could really drive up his asking price, and his age (already 33) could scare the Golden Knights off.
  • Pekka Rinne: By this time, you’d think Juuse Saros would be ready to carry the torch in Nashville.
  • Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski: Two Sharks centers with intriguing futures. Pavelski, in particular, could age out (turns 34 on July 11).
  • Matt Duchene: With the mess Ottawa’s in, who knows? Duchene leaving would really make a bumpy trade look even worse. Yikes.
  • Blake Wheeler: Winnipeg’s going to need to pay Patrik Laine, Connor Hellebuyck, and Kyle Connor. Could an under-the-radar star get squeezed out in the process?

Summer of 2020

Biggest fish to land: Avoiding a lockout or limiting the damage.

*sigh*

Interesting possibilities

  • Roman Josi: David Poile is responsible for some salary cap wizardry, yet at some point, the Predators are going to need to make some choices.
  • Nicklas Backstrom: Already at 30, and with Braden Holtby also slated for possible free agency during the summer of 2020 (let’s assume Holtby re-signs), it remains to be seen if Washington can/will retain the Swedish center. He deserves an upgrade from that $6.7 million cap hit, one way or another.
  • Corey Crawford: Currently at 33 and the Blackhawks remain in a perpetual cap crunch. Hmm.
  • Holtby: Just in case the Capitals try to save money in net.
  • Tyson Barrie and Torey Krug: Two explosive scoring defensemen who are a bit underrated. Krug, in particular, might be tough for the Bruins to retain. Justin Faulk deserves a mention, too, although his situation could be very different in mere weeks for all we know.
  • Alex Galchenyuk: Will his inevitable split from Montreal happen before free agency 2020?

Even more aimless speculation in later years …

Summer 2021

Aging stars: Alex Ovechkin, Ryan Getzlaf, Tuukka Rask, Henrik Lundqvist, Dustin Byfuglien.

Intriguing prime-age names: Dougie Hamilton, Jaden Schwartz, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Devan Dubnyk.

Summer 2022

Last chances at big deals? Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, P.K. Subban, Claude Giroux, Kris Letang, Patrice Bergeron.

Intriguing prime-age names: Johnny Gaudreau, Filip Forsberg, Aleksander Barkov, Seth Jones.

***

Interesting stuff, right?

Of course, many of those players are likely to sign extensions, in most cases with their current teams. The same could be said for players who get traded to new teams. Some of the older guys might just retire. Restricted free agents may also add some spice to summers.

There’s even a chance that a new CBA could open the door for more movement in the future.

Looking at the lists above, it’s easy to envision fun scenarios, even if recent hockey history suggests blander solutions. Then again, re-signing players like these could force other important players to get traded, so team-building nerds should have something to chew on even if free agency isn’t as fun in reality as it can be in our heads.

Cap Friendly was an excellent resource for this post. Their tools can help you go on your own dorky hockey adventures, possibly unearthing more interesting names. (You’d need to wait until the summer of 2023 to get excited about Nathan MacKinnon, though.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Six players who should be traded this summer

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Ah, yes. The offseason. That one month of craziness and mayhem after the Stanley Cup gets awarded where the NHL’s general managers get together and make the majority of their moves to assemble their teams and shape their organizations.

One of the busiest times is the four or five days surrounding NHL draft — which is less than two weeks away — where the majority of the league’s significant trades will get made.

Sometimes teams make themselves better. Sometimes teams make themselves worse. Either way it is always fascinating to watch unfold, even if it tends to underwhelm us in terms of the moves that actually get made.

Sometimes the trades that don’t get made are more interesting than the ones that do get made.

Either way, there will be trades, and they could involve significant players. With that said let’s start taking a look at some of the candidates to be on the move with six players that probably should, for one reason or another, be moved this summer.

[Related: Six players who should stay put this summer]

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators.  Whether it happens during the summer or before the trade deadline this split just seems inevitable, even before all of Tuesday’s news broke. He is entering the final year of his contract, he was quite clearly on the trade block all of last season, and even though the Senators front office seems determined to try and sign him to a new long-term contract extension it just seems like it is a long shot at this point.

If he rejects the Senators’ offer in early July — when they can officially sign him to a new deal — the team is going to have little choice but to move him. The team itself is almost certain to stink this year so that one extra year of Karlsson isn’t going to make much of a difference, and you can’t afford to lose a franchise player for nothing as a free agent. As painful as it would be to move a player like this the Senators have to make sure they get something back in return.

Vegas made a run at him before the trade deadline and has the salary cap space, prospects, and future draft picks to deal from to try again.

Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators. Simply put, the Senators are a mess in more ways than one and while Hoffman is an extremely productive player and signed for two more years it would probably be best for everyone involved to just go scorched earth with this thing and tear the whole bloody thing down to the ground.

Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes. My first instinct when I hear or read speculation about a Jeff Skinner trade is to laugh about it and dismiss it because we’ve been hearing this stuff for what seems like five years now.

Every summer, every trade deadline it is the exact same thing — the Hurricanes might trade Jeff Skinner! Jeff Skinner could be on the market! Is this the year the Hurricanes finally trade Jeff Skinner!?

Hey, look, maybe all of those times he has in fact been available for trade. Maybe the Hurricanes have fielded offers or shopped him around. General manager talk. Trades get discussed. Players get offered. It is part of the business. But through it all Skinner has always still been there in Carolina. He is always still there in Carolina. And that has not been a bad thing for the Hurricanes because Skinner has been one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL at a salary cap hit that is probably a bargain.

But allow me for one year, for one time, to join the chorus of people saying … “hey, maybe this is the year?”

Because this really could be the year.

The environment is certainly right for it. Skinner is entering the final year of his contract, the Hurricanes have a new owner that seems to be looking to shake things up, and that all makes Skinner a logical candidate to be moved.

It’s a tough situation because the Hurricanes have some flaws and one of those flaws is not having players that can finish and put the puck in the net. Skinner is one of the few players on the team that has proven he has the ability to do that, so it it’s a hard sell to move him, especially when he is still in his prime years.

But all of the pieces for a trade just seem to be in place, and there are no shortage of teams in the league that could be in the market for him (looking at you, Los Angeles).

Philipp Grubauer, Washington Capitals. Grubauer is good enough to be a starting goalie but is stuck on a team that also happens to have one of the best goalies in the NHL in front of him. Braden Holtby still has two years left on his contract and is coming off of a Stanley Cup win where he was mostly fantastic, cementing his status as one of the best, most productive postseason goalies in league history (that is not hyperbole! Just look at the numbers).

He is not going anywhere.

Grubauer, on the other hand, is ready for a full-time starting job, is a due a raise as a restricted free agent on a team that will not have a ton of salary cap space and has some important players that it has to try and re-sign, and there are at least two teams in the NHL that might be a good, young starting goaltender away from becoming a playoff team in the Carolina and New York (Islanders) that should be willing to pay for him.

While there is a lot of benefit to keeping two outstanding goalies (especially when it comes to the workload over a full season) there simply may not be enough room for both of them.

Ryan O'Reilly, Buffalo Sabres. My colleague James O’Brien recently put together a strong argument for why the Sabres should keep Ryan O’Reilly (read it here), whose name has surfaced in trade speculation heading into the summer. And it makes sense. But allow me to offer the counterpoint: The Sabres stink, have holes all over their roster, and could probably get a pretty strong return on a two-way center that plays big minutes. It might also be good for him to get him out of Buffalo where the losing seemed to really to take its toll on him this season.

Milan Lucic, Edmonton Oilers. The Edmonton Oilers need salary cap space. They missed the playoffs by a mile, have significant cap space tied up in their young core, and have to find a way to not only fill out a roster around that core, but also have it be a roster that is good enough to complement them.

This is not going to be easy!

Somebody, simply, has to go.

The easy and most sensible answer is Lucic but there is one very big problem with that: Nobody is really going to want to take on that contract. He still has five years remaining on his contract (a contract that includes a no-movement clause) at a salary cap hit of $6 million per season. Who is going to want to take on that commitment for a 30-year-old winger that managed just 34 points in 80 games this past season, including only 27 at even-strength, despite playing a healthy chunk of the season alongside Connor McDavid?

To move him the Oilers are either going to have to 1) Throw in one hell of a sweetener, or 2) pick up a significant portion of the salary.

Neither option is ideal.

But neither is that $6 million salary cap hit for what Lucic is likely to produce this season.

Sometimes you just have to take a little bit of a hit to try and make yourself better.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Monika Caryk, fiancee of Mike Hoffman, accused of harassing Melinda Karlsson

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The Ottawa Senators seem to have some problems.

On the ice they were one of the worst teams in the NHL this past season and entered an offseason where it seemed likely that their franchise player — defenseman Erik Karlsson — was going to be traded.

Now that the offseason has actually arrived things have managed to get infinitely worse.

It all started around the NHL scouting combine when assistant general manager Randy Lee was charged with harassing a hotel shuttle bus driver. That hotel employee has since filed an order of protection against Lee, who will miss a portion of the NHL draft as he will be due in court.

The Senators only comment on the matter to this point has been that they are reviewing the situation.

On Tuesday, things became even more bizarre.

It was then that the Ottawa Citizendropped a bombshell of a report that states Karlsson’s wife, Melinda, has filed an order of protection against Monika Caryk, the fiancee of Karlsson’s teammate, Mike Hoffman, due to “a campaign of harassment that has plagued the Karlssons after the death of their son and through much of the last NHL season.”

From the Citizen‘s report:

“Monika Caryk has uttered numerous statements wishing my unborn child dead,” says Melinda Karlsson’s sworn statement to the court.

“She also uttered that she wished I was dead and that someone should ‘take out’ my husband’s legs to ‘end his career.’

“Monika Caryk has posted over 1,000 negative and derogatory statements about me as a professional.”

There is a lot to unpack here, but what makes it all especially disturbing is the sequence of events between November of 2017 and March of this year.

It was in November that the Karlssons announced that they were expecting their first child.

Tragically, their son, Axel Michael, was stillborn in March. Shortly after the passing of Axel, Karlsson publicly blasted an Internet troll in the comments section of his Instagram post mourning the loss of their son.

The comment that sparked Karlsson’s response was left by the username “@Sandydandy45” and said: “I feel bad for the baby he didn’t have a chance with Melinda popping pain killer medication everyday.”

Karlsson wrote in response: “How dare you. You have been making fake accounts and buying hacked ones for months to harass me and my wife but this is an all new low even for you. You are a disgusting person.”

The Citizen notes that the “@SandyDandy45” account, as well as a Twitter account that used an anti-bullying event to criticize Melinda, have since been deleted.

Hoffman, who has been a member of the Senators since the 2010 season, two years after Karlsson made his debut with the team, issued a statement to the Citizen.

Reached on Tuesday afternoon, Hoffman said, “There’s nothing really for me to say, at this time. That’s all I can say.”

In a subsequent comment, Hoffman said, “There is a 150 per cent chance that my fianceé Monika and I are not involved in any of the accusations that have been pursued (that are) coming our way. We totally understand there’s no place for cyberbullying.

“We’ve offered to co-operate and do anything it takes to find out who is doing this, and support (the Karlssons). Obviously this is a tough time that they’re going through, and we want to find out who is doing this, because for some reason it’s coming into our court, and it’s 150 per cent that it’s not us.

“We have nothing to hide. We’re willing to co-operate in any way to solve this and figure it out, and prove that it wasn’t us.”

More from the Citizen in terms of the ongoing investigation:

A peace bond, issued under section 810 of the Criminal Code, is similar to a restraining order, which typically only applies in family court situations. A peace bond is an order of protection issued by a justice of the peace when a person fears injury to themselves or to their property, or fears that someone is likely to commit a criminal offence, though one has not yet been committed.

This newspaper has also learned that there is an active Ottawa police investigation into the criminal harassment (stalking) allegations and that it is being probed by central district detectives. No criminal charges have been laid against Caryk and none of the allegations against her has been tested in court. No conditions have been set out in the bond either, since it appears to not have been served on Caryk.

Given the sub-par performance of the team on the ice this past season, the financial situation of the organization, and the fact Karlsson is a free agent after this upcoming season, it has been speculation that he could be traded this summer. Hoffman, who still has two years remaining on his current contract that pays him more than $5 million per season, is also rumored to be on the trade block.

UPDATE: The Senators have issued a statement:

“We are investigating this matter in co-operation with the NHL and will take whatever steps are necessary to protect the safety and privacy of our players and their families.”

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Lightning open as early favorites to win 2019 Stanley Cup

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The Washington Capitals haven’t even had their Stanley Cup parade yet and not one trade or free agent signing has been made, but we still have the (very) early odds on the 2019 Stanley Cup via the folks at Bovada.

Opening at the top of the list: The Tampa Bay Lightning at 9/1.

The Lightning make sense as an early favorite given that they were in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final this season (the third time in four years they advanced as far as the NHL’s final four teams) and will be returning pretty much everybody from that team.

Right after the Lightning on the list are the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights, and Winnipeg Jets, all at 10/1.

The Capitals, who could potentially lose their top defenseman this summer (and maybe even their coach?) open as 14/1 favorites, behind all of the aforementioned teams as well as the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins (both of which open at 11/1).

The biggest long shot at this moment? The Ottawa Senators at 100/1 and … well … that seems just about right given the way the 2017-18 season went for them and the very real possibility that their best player, Erik Karlsson, is playing for somebody else.

Here are the complete odds, via Bovada.

Tampa Bay Lightning — 9/1

Boston Bruins — 10/1

Toronto Maple Leafs — 10/1

Vegas Golden Knights –10/1

Winnipeg Jets — 10/1

Nashville Predators — 11/1

Pittsburgh Penguins — 11/1

Washington Capitals — 14/1

Edmonton Oilers — 18/1

Anaheim Ducks — 22/1

Chicago Blackhawks — 22/1

Columbus Blue Jackets — 25/1

Dallas Stars — 25/1

Calgary Flames — 28/1

Philadelphia Flyers — 28/1

Los Angeles Kings — 30/1

Minnesota Wild — 30/1

San Jose Sharks — 30/1

Colorado Avalanche — 40/1

Florida Panthers — 40/1

New Jersey Devils — 40/1

St. Louis Blues — 40/1

Montreal Canadiens — 50/1

Carolina Hurricanes — 60/1

New York Islanders — 60/1

Buffalo Sabres — 66/1

New York Rangers — 70/1

Detroit Red Wings — 75/1

Arizona Coyotes — 80/1

Vancouver Canucks — 80/1

Ottawa Senators — 100/1

Related

What will Capitals roster look like next season?
After improbable debut, where do the Golden Knights go in year two?

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.