By Dave Schwab

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Sunday’s hard-fought 2-0 victory over the Nashville Predators to close out the 2017 NHL Finals in six games to lay claim to the Stanley Cup and the NHL title for the second year in a row. Home ice prevailed in the first five games of that back-and-forth battle, but in the end the Penguins found a way to win that deciding game on the road as even money +100 underdogs.

While the party rages on in Pittsburgh in light of Sunday night’s victory, the other 30 NHL teams in the league, including the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights, are busy with their offseason plans to try and close the gap with the Penguins in an attempt to knock them off their lofty throne.

Looking back at the list of Stanley Cup Champions since the 2008/2009 season, Pittsburgh has now laid claim to three NHL titles. Next on the list when it comes to multiple winners over the course of those nine seasons would be the Chicago Blackhawks with three magical runs to a Stanley Cup Finals best-of-seven series victory. The Los Angeles Kings fill in the gaps on the list with two world title runs and the only other NHL team with a championship run on the resume during this same nine-year time frame is the Boston Bruins back in the 2010/2011 season.

The betting odds to win next season’s Stanley Cup in June of 2018 have already been released and it is no big surprise that Pittsburgh has been opened as a +800 favorite to pull off the threepeat. With the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel leading the offensive attack, and the duo of Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury manning the net, this group remains a powerful obstacle to get by over the course of a seven-game set. The Penguins were not necessarily dominant in this year’s run to the title with 16 wins against nine losses, and there were some close calls along the way, including a seven-game series against Washington in the Eastern Conference Semifinals followed by a full seven games against Ottawa in the conference finals.

The last time any NHL team won three Stanley Cup titles in succession were the New York Islanders back in 1980 when they won the first of four NHL titles in a row to completely dominate the first half of that decade.

There is a logjam of +1200 second-favorites on the 2018 NHL futures list to win the Stanley Cup including Chicago, the Edmonton Oilers, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals. Most bettors probably think that the Blackhawks offer the best value at those odds following their totally unexpected early exit from this year’s playoffs in a stunning four-game sweep at the hands of Nashville. This major upset kicked off the Predators’ impressive run to this year’s NHL Finals out of the Western Conference.

My pick as the team with the best value in this group would be Edmonton. This team is young, talented and hungry, which is the right combination of traits needed to make a legitimate run at a world title. Connor McDavid is the face of the Oilers’ organization and is on the cusp of becoming the NHL best player in the league after posting a total of 100 points in the regular season (30 goals and 70 assists).

Moving down the NHL futures list, I also believe there is some great value in Nashville at +1400. The Predators lost their top scorer Ryan Johansen in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against Anaheim and still managed to give Pittsburgh all it could handle in the Stanley Cup Finals.

A few other teams that have caught my eye from a value standpoint include the Minnesota Wild at +1600 and the Ottawa Senators at +3300. If you want to bet on Las Vegas to win it all in its first season, the opening odds are set at +15000, which are by far the longest odds on the board.

Comment about early betting odds to win the 2018 nhl stanley cup