The eight AAF teams have locations and coaches, and the Birmingham installment now has a General Manager.
Wyshynski: It’s been indicated that the Islanders don’t have much interest in Robin Lehner, which is confusing because he’s arguably the best goalie available on the UFA market. If I were Lou Lamoriello? I’d sign Jonathan Bernier, who had a career reawakening with the Avalanche, to a one-year deal. I’d hope that Thomas Greiss can figure himself out. And then a pray that either Ilya Sorokin or Linus Soderstrom is ready to make the jump in the next two seasons.
Kaplan: First, I’d hesitate to give any of the goalies on the market a more than a two-year deal. The available crop is damaged goods, and the Islanders have been saddled by too many bad goaltending contracts to be fooled again. That said, I’d look to a known commodity: Craig Anderson. The 37-year-old still has plenty of good hockey in him and the Senators are shopping him. Anderson is under contract for two more seasons — a perfect bridge deal for the Islanders’ transition — and hey, his $4.75 million cap hit is certainly manageable, especially if the team finds itself with extra cap space if a certain center decides to sign elsewhere.
The Bears haven’t won more than six games in a season since going 8-8 in 2013, but over 6.5 wins in 2018 is a minus-140 favorite. Can new head coach Matt Nagy do what John Fox couldn’t and win when favored? Fans in Chicago hope so, as the team lost outright in seven of its eight games as a favorite during the Fox era.
Last season was all about exceeding expectations for the Saints, who went 11-5 en route to winning the NFC South, despite entering 2017 as the division long shot at 6-1. New Orleans is no long shot in 2018. The team is favored to win the NFC South, but history suggests that a division title is no guarantee. In the three most recent seasons the Saints entered as division favorites (2012, 2014 and 2015), they failed to win it each time.
The Falcons have won at least 10 games in each of the previous two seasons, despite entering with single-digit win totals both times. Can Atlanta do it again? Fans and those who back the Falcons this season will be hoping for a fast start. After their season opener at Philadelphia, where they are a 4.5-point underdog, the Falcons are currently favored in eight of their next nine games.