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Rumblings: Tanking doesn't pay in draft

10/14/2014

With the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes hooking up Tuesday night, it’s still a little early to call it the Connor McDavid Bowl.

After all, it’s only a week into the regular season!

But it sure looks like both those clubs are headed for long seasons. With such an exciting draft set for June headlined by McDavid, you’re going to get people speculating about the "tanking" angle as the losses pile up for the Sabres and Hurricanes.

I don’t think the league shares the same concern as others at this point. For the Sabres, it will be pointed out that they did in fact go out and add veteran players such as Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges over the summer, among others. If they were really trying to finish last, why would they add anyone?

And certainly when you hear the anger in Ted Nolan’s voice after Monday’s embarrassing loss to Anaheim, you know the Sabres' head coach isn’t going to wave the white flag this season.

"They should come and watch a game with me," said Sabres GM Tim Murray, who was livid at Monday night’s performance by his team.

"We finished in the basement last year by a long shot. We signed some good veteran players to help the culture here. I don’t think we showed we were tanking by doing that," he said. "When Josh Gorges says he will come to Buffalo and we trade away a second-round pick to get him, to me, that’s the farthest thing from tanking. Listen, we know we have a long way to go. We know we’re not a playoff team today, but we got more competitive in the offseason and I think that’s what we did. It hasn’t worked out so far, but that was the intention."

In Carolina, it’s not like the Hurricanes were planning on Jordan Staal breaking his leg or Jeff Skinner suffering another concussion. As one source told ESPN.com on Tuesday, why would Peter Karmanos want this team to stink when he’s trying to sell it?

The "tanking" issue always gets more attention in special draft years, and this is a special draft year.

It’ll get even more attention as both the Sabres and Hurricanes start to move players ahead of the March deadline.

This is also part of the reason the NHL has altered the draft lottery. The odds of the last-place team getting the first overall pick have gone from 60 percent to 20 percent over the history of the lottery, and for the June 2016 draft, it’s going to really change when individual draws are made to determine the top three picks.

The bottom line is that, as the NHL moves forward, losing won’t always pay off come June.

METHOT TALKS HANG OVER SENATORS

When the Ottawa Senators signed Bobby Ryan to a long-term extension earlier this month, it removed what would have been the team’s biggest distraction in terms of a negative, nagging storyline.

But another loose end remains. Top-four blueliner Marc Methot is an unrestricted free agent after the season and contract talks have not produced an extension to this point.

The Senators made a contract offer two weeks ago but to no avail. It’s believed talks will resume this week.

What’s clear is this: the Senators' front office does not want this to drag on all season into the trade deadline. There’s been enough drama over the past couple of years (Daniel Alfredsson's and Jason Spezza's exits) and the belief is that either Methot signs over the next month or so, or the Senators look at the trade market for him.

As it is, Ottawa has eight NHL blueliners on one-way contracts, so the belief is that the Senators were eventually going to move a body. But the preference would be keep a signed Methot and trade another defenseman. Whether that happens depends on further contract talks.

The Methot camp has used Brooks Orpik, among others, as a comparison in talks; the Capitals signed Orpik for five years and $27.5 million last summer ($5.5 million AAV).

It’s believed the last offer Ottawa made was for around $4.7 million a year, short of what Methot would likely agree to.

Tick tock ...

GAGNE BACK IN THE NHL

Pretty neat story to see Simon Gagne back in the NHL fold after the veteran winger signed a one-year, $600,000 deal with the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.

The expectation is that he’s going to be a role player for the team, doing fourth-line duty and perhaps not always in the lineup, but a solid depth piece to add given the meager salary.

Gagne missed all of last season, unable to catch on with an NHL club. This time he parlayed a camp tryout with the B's into a contract. It got interesting last week when the Bruins asked him to stick around for another week while they figured out some roster details. Gagne agreed, and it paid off Tuesday.

And know this: Had the Bruins not tendered a contract, I’m not sure Gagne would have tried to catch on with any other team. I think it was Boston or pack it in for good.