The Vegas Golden Knights will not have an easy road to defending the title or even winning the Pacific Division in 2023-24. In fact, many NHL picks don’t even have Vegas as the likeliest title threat here. During this offseason, Vegas will lose key players while contenders try desperately to upgrade their rosters in hopes of dethroning the champs.
Pacific Division: Offseason Outlook
Vegas Golden Knights
- 2022-23 Record (Finish): 51-22-9, 111 Points (Won Stanley Cup)
- 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +1400
The path for Vegas to repeat as champs begins in managing its cap. With Robin Lehner expected to return and Adin Hill nearing an extension, the team may need to let certain players walk. Among them include forwards Ivan Barbashev and Brett Howden.
And looking to next year, the team needs to give forward Jonathan Marchessault, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, and defenseman Alec Martinez new deals. Still, general manager Kelly McCrimmon has been adept at finding ways to reshuffle the lineup while circumventing the cap.
This team has most of its other stars locked in until 2025-26. And it still has eight picks in the first three rounds for the next three drafts, so that’s more ammo for McCrimmon to use if dealing for another star player. At 14-1 on the NHL odds, Vegas appears enticing as a Stanley Cup bet.
- 2022-23 Record (Finish): 50-23-9, 109 Points (Lost in Second Round)
- 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +900
The Oilers are the favorites to win the Cup from this division. But the team is hard-pressed to upgrade its current roster. With no more than $5 million in cap space, the Oilers still have to re-sign defenseman Evan Bouchard. They will also need to find a way to dump some contracts.
Forward Kailer Yamamoto is on an expiring deal, and defenseman Cody Cedi has two years left. But the elephant in the room is Jack Campbell and the $20 million the team owes him until 2026-27. The netminder had a terrible season and will be hard to move.
Behind Campbell, Stuart Skinner was solid in the regular season but got exposed in the postseason as did most of the supporting cast. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can each score 120+ points each season. But this team is tough to bet online with just them two.
Never. A. Doubt.
That’s the third of his career already! 👀 pic.twitter.com/lKDPj8X6Lw
— NHL (@NHL) June 27, 2023
Los Angeles Kings
- 2022-23 Record (Finish): 47-25-10, 104 Points (Lost in First Round)
- 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +2200
The Kings are reportedly going to make a strong push to make one last Stanley Cup run with captain Anze Kopitar in the final year of his deal. The hottest rumor is that Los Angeles is dealing for Pierre-Luc Dubois. The team could also use an upgrade in net.
Joonas Korpisalo was decent in the regular season but was outmatched by the Oilers in the playoffs. Los Angeles still has a few first or second round picks until 2025 and some top prospects like Quinton Byfield. It could package them to acquire someone like Connor Hellebuyck or John Gibson from its rival, Anaheim.
The team could also add more depth to its defense. The Kings don’t have much space after re-signing Vladislav Gavrikov. Shayne Gostisbehere and Carson Soucy are solid choices, while Brandt Clarke could join the roster full-time from the OHL.
- 2022-23 Record (Finish): 46-28-8, 100 Points (Lost in Second Round)
- 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +3300
Speaking of Soucy, he’s one of the Kraken’s most notable free agents. The defenseman could command double his $2.75 million price tag, so Seattle may look elsewhere. The team still has plenty of free agents to deal with, notably Vince Dunn and forward Daniel Sprong.
Seattle was one win away from making the Conference Finals, so this team may make some big NHL news by trading or signing a big-timer. The Kraken have over $20 million in cap room and could also elect to solidify its depth. The team needs a bottom-six forward and an upgrade in goal.
For the latter, Seattle could make a deal for Hellebuyck. The Kraken have all of its first-round picks until 2025 and three second-rounders for this Wednesday’s NHL Entry Draft. Seeing Vegas win the Cup in just its sixth season, the Kraken may not be too far away.
- 2022-23 Record (Finish): 38-27-17, 93 Points (Missed the Playoffs)
- 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +1800
The Flames enter another new era as head coach Daryl Sutter leaves and several players are potentially on the move. These include forwards Tyler Toffoli and Elias Lindholm and defenseman Noah Hanifin. The team is also reportedly trying to move goalie Daniel Vladar.
The three skaters are all in the final season of their deals. Either Calgary trades them to a contender looking for a rental or they go to teams with plenty of cap room to re-sign a long-term deal. But the Flames do not have much cap room and are no better than their provincial rivals.
Calgary was terrible on the online sports betting lines last season. It’s even worse when most of its highest-paid players have underwhelmed. Ryan Huska will need to light a fire (no pun intended) with this team as its salary-to-wins ratio is among the worst.
- 2022-23 Record (Finish): 38-37-7, 83 Points (Missed the Playoffs)
- 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +6000
The Canucks are not in the same dire financial straits as the other Canadian teams. But Vancouver still has just over $6.4 million in cap room and needs to fill a good chunk of its roster. Other than Quinn Hughes, Vancouver needs bodies on its left defense.
The team could also look to move some of their young-ish players commanding a lot of salary, like Brock Boeser and Conor Garland. And then there is J.T. Miller’s albatross of a contract, which does not end till 2030. It’s unlikely they move him, so moving one or both of the former two is more realistic.
Last but not least, star forward Elias Petersson is going to be a restricted free agent next season. The 102-point man will command a massive deal north of $8.5 million depending how he performs this 2023-24.
San Jose Sharks
- 2022-23 Record (Finish): 22-44-16, 60 Points (Missed the Playoffs)
- 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +20000
The Sharks continue its slow rebuild thanks to several large contracts left on the team. It’s unlikely San Jose can move the likes of Tomas Hertl or Erik Karlsson due to the remaining length and no-movement clauses attached. So maybe San Jose can take a page out of Los Angeles’ “rebuild.”
The Kings managed to return to the playoffs despite an aging core. San Jose could expedite the development of its prospects. Forwards William Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau could begin contributing as soon as this season.
San Jose also holds two first-round picks this draft, including the fourth-overall pick, which the sportsbook expects to be Will Smith. The Sharks also have $14 million in cap room, which it can use to solve its goaltending issues. Tristan Jarry and Frederik Andersen could be short-term solutions for this rebuilding/retooling season.
- 2022-23 Record (Finish): 23-47-12, 58 Points (Missed the Playoffs)
- 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +25000
The Ducks have a great opportunity to make some strides this coming season. The team has over $38 million in cap space, which it will use most of to re-sign its core stars: forwards Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras. Defenseman Jamie Drysdale could also use a new offer.
With Mason McTavish and this year’s second overall pick – expected to be Adam Fantilli – Anaheim has a young crop of players that could light the league up. John Gibson remains a stalwart in net and is inked until 2026-27.
But to keep Gibson pacified, Anaheim may need to use some of their salary to make some short-term signings and/or trades. It didn’t work out with John Klingberg last season. But the Ducks badly need veterans that can bring a defensive edge to this team.