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Projecting the 2016 conference finalists in the 2017 playoffs

As the Sharks and Penguins battle for the Stanley Cup, which of the final four teams is best set up to win the sport's ultimate prize in 2017? Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs have involved a brand-new set of contenders. Instead of the usual teams competing in the Conference finals, such as the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings or New York Rangers, this year's final four included the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues, four teams that have combined for just two conference finals appearances in the past four seasons.

Was this a single-season achievement, or is it a more lasting changing of the guard? To answer that question, consider how each of these teams will look at this time next year and what challenges each team will need to overcome to make a return appearance and reach the ultimate goal.