Countdown: Which team has the biggest championship window?

Which teams have the best chance to win a Stanley Cup in the next five years? For some, the window is wide open, for others it’s already painted shut.
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Sixteen teams make the playoffs every year, and it goes without saying, they all have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. It seems every few years we see a team squeak into the playoffs on the final weekend of the season, then storm their way to the final.

But for all intents and purposes, there are only six to 10 teams every year that we’d classify as true Cup contenders. Even though we’re well aware first-round upsets are as common as centers getting thrown out of faceoff circles for cheating, we can’t resist rating the field for hockey in April, May and June.

In this exercise, we wondered which teams have the best chance of winning the Cup in a five-year window. And we ranked them accordingly. As you’d imagine, this year’s leading contenders are at the top of the list. They’re excellent now, they’ll be good again next year and probably the year after. For many, we think they’ll be among the favorites through the entire five-year window.

Further down the list you get teams who are going through rebuilds and might not make the playoffs this season, but are trending well to make some noise in Years 2, 3, 4 or 5.

Near the bottom are teams coming off impressive runs, but the roster is getting old and the cupboards are bare. They’re likely five to seven years away from being relevant again.

1. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Five-year peak: Open Window
All the pieces are in place right now and in the near future. Time to execute and get it done. Potential for a dynasty.

2.WINNIPEG JETS
Five-year peak: Open Window
They learned to lose last spring, a key lesson for budding dynasties. Several Jets players are still trending up.

3. CALGARY FLAMES
Five-year peak: Open Window
Most of their dynamic core is still young and/or on team-friendly contracts. Consistent goaltending the only issue.

4. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Five-year peak: Years 1, 2 and 3
We know about fitting in deals for Matthews and Marner. Can window extend beyond Andersen’s renewal in 2021?

5. SAN JOSE SHARKS
Five-year peak: Years 1, 2 and 3
Roster has age spots, but there’s at least three or four prime years left. Pavelski will be 37 in 2021-22, Burns will be 36.

6. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Five-year peak: Years 1, 2 and 3
Thirty-two is the new 29. It’s too early to put the Pens on the clock. You can never count these guys out.

7. WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Five-year peak: Years 1 and 2
The fire in the belly isn’t as hot – until April and May roll around. Some key personnel are starting to grey.

8. BOSTON BRUINS
Five-year peak: Years 1 and 2
A lot of key pieces going well into seventh inning of their careers. It’s all about peak management.

9. NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Five-year peak: Years 1 and 2
A team-friendly contract haven. But Rinne turns 37 in November and Josi will command $10 million in 2020-21.

10. VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Five-year peak: Years 1 and 2
A cap crunch is coming, as in this summer. There’s no heir apparent for Fleury, and he turns 35 next season.

11. COLORADO AVALANCHE
Five-year peak: Years 2 through 5
Crucial young pieces in place and another high pick coming in June. But Grubauer has to be the man.

12. DALLAS STARS
Five-year peak: Years 2 through 4
Not great depth, but prime personnel at key positions, plus cap room. The defense corps needs to raise the bar.

13. ST. LOUIS BLUES
Five-year peak: Years 2 through 4
Give this team solid goaltending and they’re in the hunt again. It would be a mistake to dismantle strong pillars.

14. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Five-year peak: Years 4 and on
Impressive young parts, but 2021-22 and beyond is a more reasonable scope. Asset development is the trick.

15. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Five-year peak: Years 3 and 4
Older forward group, younger back end. Will need masterful coaching to bring it all together before Giroux ages out.

16. EDMONTON OILERS
Five-year peak: Years 4 and on
The team with the best player is always in the running. But help is needed everywhere, especially payroll management.

17. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Five-year peak: Years 3 and on
Some gaps on the roster, but premier coaching fills in the cracks. Lamoriello’s success with UFAs will be pivotal.

18. BUFFALO SABRES
Five-year peak: Years 3 and on
Many building blocks in place, but more needed to make a run. Establishing successor to Hutton in 2021 will be telling.

19. CAROLINA HURRICANES
Five-year peak: Years 3 and on
If they can land a bona fide goalie in off-season, they soar up this list. But forward reinforcements a must.

20. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Five-year peak: Make a push now
Balanced lineup, but what happens if Panarin and Bobrovsky leave town? A very sticky situation.

21. MINNESOTA WILD
Five-year peak: Flat for a while
They can’t seem to get over the hump. Muddling along on the cusp of relevance but never breaking through.

22. MONTREAL CANADIENDS
Five-year peak: Year 3 or 4
A team with Price is always capable, but not enough thoroughbreds to move. Aging back end tightens window.

23. ANAHEIM DUCKS
Five-year peak: Year 2
With aging leaders, it’s now or never – and now is a long shot. Watch for rebuild on the fly, then maybe Year 6.

24. FLORIDA PANTHERS
Five-year peak: Year 4
Some notable skaters, but who’s stopping the puck in years to come? Perhaps a UFA goalie signs on in a few seasons.

25. ARIZONA COYOTES
Five-year peak: Year 5
Decent youth sprinkled around, but blueline will need a rebuild soon. Focus has to be on developing draft picks.

26. NEW YORK RANGERS
Five-year peak: Year 5 and on
Rebuild needs many pieces and at least five years of runway. Decent prospects in place at every position.

27. NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Five-year peak: Beyond 5 years
Hodgepodge lineup requires more depth to even challenge for playoffs. Only six players signed past 2019-20.

28. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Five-year peak: Beyond 5 years
It was good while it lasted. Paying the price for years of dominance. Vets will have to embrace rebuild.

29. DETROIT RED WINGS
Five-year peak: Beyond 5 years
A sink to draft-lottery status will assist with the slow overhaul. Plenty of near-future gaps on blueline and in crease.

30. LOS ANGELES KINGS
Five-year peak: Beyond 5 years
Big battleships need a lot of time and space to turn around. And this behemoth will be an unwieldy righting.

31. OTTAWA SENATORS
Five-year peak: Beyond 5 years
Sign Stone and Duchene, or trade them. Just don’t watch the paint dry. Even keeping them won’t move the needle.

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