Rumor Roundup: Will tanking be a problem in 2014-15?

Jordan & Eric Staal (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks is no fan of the current NHL draft lottery system, believing it rewards teams that perform poorly. He suggests some teams could attempt to tank the season in order to better their odds of landing the first overall pick.

Brooks wonders if the Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames or Carolina Hurricanes decide at the NHL trade deadline to trade their best player for a seventh-round pick if the league would reject such a deal. Given how lopsided that trade would be, one suspects the league would reject it based on proportionality. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Will the Buffalo Sabres try to add star power?

Lyle Richardson
Buffalo Sabres. (Tara Walton/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The Buffalo News’ John Vogl observes the Sabres will have considerable cap space for 2015-16 if GM Tim Murray wants to invest in experienced talent to play alongside their promising youth. He points out the Sabres currently have 15 players under contract totalling $37.7 million, leaving them $13.3 million from the cap floor and “a colossal $31.3 million” under the cap limit.

Vogl considers this an opportunity for the Sabres to “dream big,” suggesting they attempt to acquire a notable star like San Jose’s Joe Thornton, Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg or Washington’s Alex Ovechkin. Read more

Torrey Mitchell just doesn’t get it, so he should sit

Torrey Mitchell (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

There’s no doubt Torrey Mitchell of the Buffalo Sabres is feeling a little badly this morning. Probably not as badly as he did more than six years ago when a reckless play he made almost ended Kurtis Foster’s career and helped inspire the NHL to change its icing rules, but pretty remorseful nonetheless.

If you need any further proof that some hockey players just don’t ever seem to get it, that no number of rules or suspensions will ever get them to change their ways, look no further Torrey Mitchell. Because if anyone should have realized the perils of pushing an opponent from behind into the boards, the way he did to Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson in a pre-season game Sunday night, it should be Mitchell. Read more

Can the Buffalo Sabres get Connor McDavid AND Jack Eichel?

Matt Larkin
Buffalo drafting Jack Eichel, left, and Connor McDavid back to back is a wild idea, but it's not as impossible as you may think. (Getty Images)

McDavid or Eichel. Eichel or McDavid. What about both?

The latter is a question only one team has the luxury of asking this season. The Buffalo Sabres, talked up as one of the franchises most likely to land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, have a strong chance to become Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel’s future home. The tandem headlines the most exciting draft class in years. Each projects as a generational talent. We have the next Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin on our hands if the scouts are right.

One storyline I haven’t heard yet, however: what if Buffalo lands McDavid and Eichel?

It’s far-fetched, even borderline silly. At this moment, however, the odds of one NHL team picking first and second in the draft are better than they’ve ever been, excluding the zany days in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the Montreal Canadiens were gifted the first few selections.

The reason is three words long: New York Islanders.

Read more

Steven Stamkos on the subway and other bizarre phone interviews

Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos is on the cover of the latest issue of The Hockey News. I was tasked with getting ‘Stammer’ on the phone for the article, which also included interviews with teammates, family and others who know the captain.

And as it happens, Stamkos has impeccable timing that stretches far beyond his goal-scoring prowess. The day Stamkos was supposed to call me, he was given my office number and my cell phone number, since I would be commuting home at one point. In Toronto, the subway line is almost entirely underground, with only a handful of stops offering daylight – and therefore, cell phone signal. Just as my train pulled into one such stop, my phone rang. I pulled one earbud out and with my iPod still blaring into the other side of my head, answered the phone as I jumped onto the station platform. It was Stamkos.

Read more

10 RFAs who missed training camp and how their disputes were resolved

Jamie Benn (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Ryan Johansen’s contract negotiations with the Columbus Blue Jackets are…contentious. Yesterday started with Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen drawing a line in the sand by insinuating the start of training camp as a cut off point. Later on, team president John Davidson took aim at Johansen’s agent Kurt Overhardt by saying the numbers he was throwing out made no sense and were embarrassing.

This sounds like it could be one of the bigger RFA battles the NHL has had in recent years, but there’s still a little time before training camps open. And it’s not like it would be the first time a player has missed the start of training camp with a contract dispute.

It actually used to happen a lot more in the NHL. In the 1990s, it was a regular, yearly thing most teams would have to deal with at one point or another. The only great leverage an RFA without arbitration rights has is to stay home and make the team sweat. It maybe doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but the Johansen situation is hardly unique to the NHL today. Heck, Torey Krug, Jaden Schwartz, Reilly Smith, Darcy Kuemper and Cody Eakin are going through their own, less-publicized negotiations right now too.

We take a look at some of the more recent RFAs who missed all or a portion of training camp over a contract dispute and what the outcome was. We didn’t want to look too far back at every situation because market conditions have changed, especially when looking back past the 2004-05 lockout. Anything before then is basically no influence on Johansen’s situation. Just don’t call these guys holdouts.

Derek Stepan, New York Rangers
Prior to last season, Stepan missed 16 days of training camp before settling on a bridge deal with the Rangers. Stepan ended up signing a two-year deal that has a $3.075 million salary cap charge. Read more

Scouting reports from Traverse City, part one

Buffalo's Sam Reinhart (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The annual Traverse City prospects tournament is in the books for another year and this time, Columbus came out on top despite losing 2014 first-rounder Sonny Milano in the first game.

Despite boasting some of the biggest names in the tournament, the Sabres ended up dead-last, losing to the Blues in their final match to go winless overall. Coach Chadd Cassidy believes bad starts doomed the squad and the fairly young group just couldn’t get over the pressure once they got down.

But how did the individuals fare at the tourney? Here are my thoughts on players from the first four teams. Since games were staggered between two rinks, I saw more of some squads than others and the amount of reports reflects that.

Read more

Rumor Roundup: What will the Senators do with Bobby Ryan & Marc Methot?

Bobby Ryan (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Contract talks between the Ottawa Senators and defenseman Marc Methot have apparently reached a stalemate. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports Methot, whose current annual cap hit is $3 million, is believed to be seeking a deal comparable to Brooks Orpik, who earlier this summer inked a five-year deal worth $5.5-million annually with the Washington Capitals.

Methot, 29, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Up until now the Senators have had success re-signing several key free agents. They recently re-upped goaltenders Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, along with wingers Milan Michalek and Clarke MacArthur.

Garrioch notes the Senators currently have seven defensemen under one-way contracts. He speculates they could trade Methot if unable to reach agreement on a new deal before the season begins.

If Methot is shopped the asking price could be a scoring winger. Garrioch reports the Senators seek a top-nine forward. Given the lack of available talent via free agency, they could go the trade route. Garrioch cites sources claiming Carolina’s Alexander Semin, New Jersey’s Damien Brunner and Buffalo wingers Drew Stafford and Chris Stewart might be available. Read more