The 2015-16 season has just come to an end but here are five NHL teams in a good position to win the Stanley Cup for the 2016-17 season. 

The Pittsburgh Penguins are your 2015-16 Stanley Cup champions. That’s a phrase that nobody thought was possible back when Penguins center Evgeni Malkin guaranteed that the Penguins would make the playoffs on January 23. Thanks to a well-balanced team and some bold moves by general manager Jim Rutherford, the Penguins were able to win their fourth championship in franchise history and their first since 2009.

However, it is never too early to start looking at who are some of the favorites to raise the cup. The Penguins will face a very tough road if they want to repeat because there are a number of teams who look like they are going to be extremely good next season. It’s still very early and teams haven’t even started signing free agents yet. However, it’s obvious to see that some teams are in an extremely good position.

The Penguins became the first Eastern Conference team to win the championship since the 2010-2011 Boston Bruins. Will another team from the Eastern Conference win in 2016-17? Here are five early favorites to win the Stanley Cup next season.

5. Nashville Predators

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Why they could win the Stanley Cup

The Predators had a very successful 2015-16 season, pushing the Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks to the brink in the Western Conference Finals before losing in Game 7. San Jose has a lot of questions to answer this offseason, especially with an aging roster and not an ideal amount of cap space to add to the roster. Nashville, on the other hand, has a very talented young roster led by Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen.

Nashville has the cap space necessary to add some improvements even if they sign Forsberg to an expensive extension. Pekka Rinne is a huge bounce back candidate after he had one of his roughest seasons as a pro in 2015-16. Shea Weber is aging but he’s still one of the better defensemen in the NHL. Roman Josi is a dark horse Norris Trophy candidate for next season. With the right improvements, they could win the Stanley Cup.

Why they won’t win 

The Predators are a bit of an aging team because they rely quite heavily on Weber and Rinne, both of whom showed their age at times last season. Losing out on Jimmy Vesey could be huge for them. Vesey was a perfect fit for the Predators. They’ll need to find talent in a rather barren free agent market if they want to win the cup. That’s easier said than done.

4. Chicago Blackhawks

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Why they could win the Stanley Cup

Even after a disappointing season that came to an end thanks to the St. Louis Blues in the first round, the Blackhawks will be returning a majority of their team for next season. People seem to think that this will begin the decline of the Blackhawks. It seems like every time people start thinking that the Blackhawks are dead, the team makes it a point to prove them wrong. As long as the Blackhawks have Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Corey Crawford, they’ll contend for the foreseeable future. They are a proven team who seems to know how to win in the postseason. Oh, and they have the best head coach in the NHL in Joel Quenneville.

Why they won’t win

The Blackhawks need to add more scoring depth to their lineup. Considering their cap situation, that will be tough to do even if they trade Andrew Shaw and find someone to take Bryan Bickell off their hands. They will have to find more guys like Artemi Panarin. Guys like him do not come along every season. Chicago was very lucky to find him and they’ll likely need to add more cheap, young guys like him to win the Stanley Cup. Good luck Stan Bowman.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins

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Why they could win the Stanley Cup

They have one of the most talented rosters in the NHL. Pittsburgh will be returning a majority of their roster next season. Led by Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Murray, and Phil Kessel, the Penguins appear to be a serious threat to win back to back Stanley Cups, at least on paper. Elite talent is a valuable currency in the NHL and very few, if any, teams have as much of it as the Penguins. They have a nice blend of expensive contracts and entry-level contracts. Mike Sullivan proved that he is a very good head coach.

Why they won’t repeat

Even with a very talented roster, the Penguins are going to find it extremely difficult to upgrade their team this offseason. According to CapFriendly, the Penguins are going to push the salary cap ceiling even with long-term injured reserve moves. Moving goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury could certainly help with that and allow them to keep either Beau Bennett or Justin Schultz. Perhaps it allows them to hang onto Matt Cullen or Ben Lovejoy. One thing is for sure: the Penguins will have to do some fancy salary cap maneuvering to repeat. That seems to be the price for winning the Stanley Cup. If so, that’s a price that every other team would love to pay.

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