NHL Bold Predictions 2018/19: Eastern Conference
NHL Bold Predictions 2018/19: Eastern Conference (Photo courtesy of NHL.com)

NHL Bold Predictions 2018/19: Eastern Conference

Five bold predictions for the NHL Eastern Conference. How will John Tavares and the Toronto Maple Leafs do? Where will Erik Karlsson get traded?... and more.

CP Ching

With the new NHL season just around the corner, we should expect a year full of surprises.

Several teams might climb the standings, meanwhile, others might take a step back in 2018/19.

In the spirit of the new NHL campaign, let’s have some fun and make five bold predictions. Last time we took a look at the Western Conference so this time let's see what could happen in the East.

1) The Toronto Maple Leafs will not get past the first round

The Toronto Maple Leafs made a huge splash this summer. They made a franchise-changing move in adding John Tavares.

But in order to fit Tavares into the budget, they parted ways with several key players in their forward group including James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Leo Komarov.

Even though, John Tavares is a top-five center in the NHL the Leafs lost a lot of forward depth and are depending on young players like Kasperi Kapanen,  Andreas Johnsson, and Par Lindholm to contribute more next year.

At the same time, Toronto didn’t do anything to improve their defense this summer, so there are obviously still holes on the blueline.

All in all, the Leafs should be good enough to take a top-three spot in the Atlantic Division. Whether they are able to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Boston Bruins in a seven-game series is another question.

Bold Prediction: The Leafs will get bounced out in the first round.

2) Erik Karlsson gets traded to the Vegas Golden Knights

Erik Karlsson rumors have been heating up again, and it looks like a trade might be inevitable at this point.

It doesn't look like he wants to re-sign with Ottawa long-term, and the Senators don't want to lose him for nothing in return. Therefore, before Ottawa’s bargaining power wears thin they might want to trade him sooner rather than later.

Although teams like Tampa Bay might be in the mix for number 65, the Senators would ideally want to trade him out West. Past rumors have suggested that the Dallas Stars and the Vegas Golden Knights might be the frontrunners to acquire him.

But given that Vegas has an abundance of cap-space, assets, and is hungry to add more star power, it makes a lot of sense for the Golden Knights to try and acquire him.

Bold prediction: Vegas Golden Knights completes a blockbuster deal to acquire Erik Karlsson.

3) Artemi Panarin gets traded to the Tampa Bay Lighting

Artemi Panarin made it clear that there is a chance he won’t be signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets long-term. Making this known doesn’t put the Blue Jackets in a good situation.

If they unable to negotiate terms it might be in the team’s best interest to trade him rather than losing him for nothing after next season.

Some rumors have suggested that he only wants to play in Los Angeles, Chicago or Florida. So this makes the Columbus Blue Jackets’ trading partners very limited.

Realistically speaking, Los Angeles doesn't really have the cap space for him. Meanwhile, teams like the New York Rangers and New York Islanders are far from being contenders so Panarin might not want to sign there long-term.

So the Tampa Bay Lightning might be the best fit. For one, the team is in Florida where Panarin owns a home and secondly, they are built to win now. As we have seen in the past, Steve Yzerman is not afraid to make big moves and he usually finds a way to get them done.

Bold prediction:  Artemi Panarin gets traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

4) The Buffalo Sabres will make the playoffs

It was a memorable summer for the Buffalo Sabres. The team made a blockbuster trade that saw them send Ryan O'Reilly to the St. Louis Blues for Tage Thompson, Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka, a 1st-round pick in 2019, and a 2nd-round pick in 2021.

On a separate deal, they were able to land a three-time 30-goal scorer in Jeff Skinner from the Carolina Hurricanes.

Above all, they won the draft lottery and took generational talent Rasmus Dahlin with the number one pick. The team also expects Casey Mittelstadt to make the jump to the NHL next season

The team looks a lot different from a year ago and we can’t forget they still have promising young players like Jack Eichel and Rasmus Ristolainen on their team.

With teams like the Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings on the downtrend, the Sabres look like they have a legitimate shot in moving up the standings and be the most improved team in their division.

If they are able to come out with a good start, securing a wild-card playoff spot might be a real possibility.

Bold prediction: The Buffalo Sabres will make the playoffs!

5) The Pittsburgh Penguins will win the Metropolitan Division

The Pittsburgh Penguins were unable to defend their title for a three-peat but their second-round playoff exit might have been a blessing in disguise.

This team has played a lot of hockey over the past few seasons, and having a little longer summer break might have been something they needed to recharge.

No doubt the Metropolitan Division is still one of the toughest divisions in the NHL, but the Penguins did not lose any big-name players this summer. In fact, some may argue that they have improved, as they were able to add Jack Johnson into the mix.  

Most importantly, they still have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in their prime, and the team looks like they have the pieces to take another shot at the Stanley Cup next season.

Bold prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins will win the Metropolitan Division.

Who do you think of these bold predictions? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to give us a follow on Twitter by searching (VAVELNHL_ENG).