Now that the NHL's conference final pairings are set, it's time to ponder the possible Stanley Cup Final showdowns they could yield.

Before we get there, we do have some compelling storylines in the upcoming round. For example, both series feature a head coach facing one of their former teams. Dallas Stars bench boss Peter DeBoer is going up against the Vegas Golden Knights, who he led from 2019-20 to 2021-22.

Meanwhile, Florida Panthers head coach Paul Maurice faces the Carolina Hurricanes, who he guided for parts of 11 seasons over two separate stints, along with a pair of campaigns with their initial incarnation, the Hartford Whalers.

While that won't be a factor once we get to the Cup Final, there should still be plenty of narratives in the decisive series. Each remaining club has top-end talent and has been captivating to watch for one reason or another.

Here's how we rate the four potential scenarios:


4. Stars vs. Panthers

This would be the least appealing simply because it involves the two worst teams of the four. The Stars finished second in the Central Division at 47-21-14, while the Panthers snuck in with the second Eastern Conference wild-card berth and placed fourth in the Atlantic at 42-32-8.

Florida pulled off two monumental feats in getting to this point by dispatching the record-setting Boston Bruins in seven games and eliminating the Toronto Maple Leafs in five. Would it be fun to see if the lowest seed in a conference can win the Cup for the first time since the Los Angeles Kings in 2012? Sure. The Panthers are true underdogs (undercats?), and they've been a great story this spring. But this matchup as a whole doesn't elicit as much excitement as the others.

The Stars do have their share of skill. They boast the electric Jason Robertson, the current leader in the Conn Smythe Trophy race in Roope Hintz, rookie sensation Wyatt Johnston, and the ageless Joe Pavelski, who'll turn 39 in July. Pavelski is looking to win the Cup for the first time, but he's been terrific this season. So while his pursuit of that elusive championship is a storyline, this may not be the veteran forward's last dance.


3. Panthers vs. Golden Knights

No matter who prevails in Round 3, the Cup Final will feature two teams from so-called "untraditional" hockey markets. Of course, that term has lost meaning now that the Stars, Hurricanes, and several other southern-based and/or western-situated squads have won titles.