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Las Vegas bookmakers unimpressed by NHL free agent moves

Photo: Chicago Tribune/Getty Images

Las Vegas has made Jonathan Toews and the Blackhawks the favorites to hoist the Cup in 2015, but not because of their offseason moves.

What's a half-billion in player salaries buy these days? Not much, according to Las Vegas bookmakers.

After a three-day spending spree that saw changes seismic and small across the NHL landscape, the folks at Bovada.com surveyed the aftermath...and they were unimpressed.

Only one team, the Jason Spezza/Ales Hemsky-enhanced Stars, saw their odds of capturing the Stanley Cup improve significantly, from 33-1 on June 30 to 20-1 today. Importing two-thirds of another team's top line to act as a fallback behind Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn was smiled on by the bookies. Just imagine if the Stars had improved their defense.

Several clubs that fall into the long shot category were viewed more favorably. The Sabres went from 100-1 to 75-1. The Predators improved to 66-1 from 75-1, the Islanders went from 66-1 to 50-1, and the Blue Jackets jumped to 33-1 from 40-1. Improved depth buffed the perception of the Sabres, Preds and Isles. The Jackets? Guess that bold strike to re-sign defenseman Frederic St-Denis really opened some eyes.

Maybe the lesser known signings did carry some weight in Vegas because the stars sure didn't. A commitment to big-name additions like Brad Richards, Paul Stastny, Ryan Kesler, John Scott (ahem), Jarome Iginla and Thomas Vanek did nothing to improve the odds for the Blackhawks (7-1), Blues (12-1), Ducks (12-1), Sharks (14/1)  Avalanche (18-1) or Wild (18/1) respectively.

In fact, spending money hurt the image of nearly as many teams as it helped. The Devils added offensive-minded wingers Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat and dropped from 40-1 to 50-1. Pittsburgh made one of the best signings of the day in defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, but dropped from 10-1 to 12-1. Was Vegas expecting GM Jim Rutherford to be more active? Must have been, because the Penguins sure weren't penalized for losing Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. The Washington Capitals overspent (by a lot) in the hope that the two ex-Pens could improve their soft-touch blueline, but dropped from 33-1 to 40-1 for their troubles.

The Blackhawks and Kings (9-1) remained unchanged as the two favorites to skate the Cup in 2014-15, joining the Bruins, who slumped slightly from 17-2 to 9-1 after losing Iginla .

(S/T to The Score)

SI Now: How the West won NHL free agency

On Wednesday's SI Now, Sports Illustrated senior writer Brian Cazeneuve and reporter Sarah Kwak discuss the Western Conference's dominance in NHL free agency.

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