Jordan & Eric Staal (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
With Connor MCDavid and Jack Eichel, two elite talents, available at the top of the draft in 2015, will tanking become a problem for the NHL this season? And if it does - would the league do anything about it?
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.
It can be argued the New York Islanders trading Thomas Vanek to the Montreal Canadiens at last season's trade deadline for a prospect and a conditional second-round pick is an example of the league approving a one-sided deal. Vanek, however, was eligible for unrestricted free agency at season's end with no intention of re-signing with the Islanders. GM Garth Snow attempted to use the approaching deadline to pump up Vanek's trade value, but with time running out, he was forced to settle for the best available offer.
Disguising an effort to tank the season as a straightforward hockey trade isn't easy. If, for example, the Carolina Hurricanes attempted to trade Eric Staal (who's under contract through 2015-16) at a rock-bottom asking price, it would surely set off alarm bells at league headquarters. That trade could be rejected outright, or the league could demand it be amended to improve the return going to the Hurricanes.
Attempting to tank the season doesn't guarantee landing the top prospect in the draft. The NHL recently implemented changes in the lottery system. Effective next season, the odds for the 10 highest-finishing non-playoff clubs were more favorably adjusted. In 2016, the lottery will be used to assign the top three drafting slots, rather than just the winner of the first overall pick.
NO TRADE MARKET FOR KYLE BRODZIAK…YET
The Minnesota Wild could attempt to move center Kyle Brodziak this season. Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports the Wild tried to trade the 30-year-old center during the summer and that probably hasn’t changed, since they don't wish to carry a fourth-line center/winger earning $3 million this season. His annual cap hit is more than $2.8 million.
Heika notes Brodziak, who's also entering the final year of his contract, is prepared for the trade rumors he'll have to endure as a pending free agent. Though Brodziak expected a trade during the summer, he said he spoke with GM Chuck Fletcher, who told him to focus on returning and contributing this season.
Considering the lack of available centers around the league at the present time, the Edmonton Journal's Jonathan Willis believes the steady Brodziak would be a good fit with a numbers of teams. That includes the Oilers, who enter this season with rookie Leon Draisaitl centering their second line. Willis believes Brodziak wouldn't cost much, perhaps a mid-round draft pick and/or a prospect.
Brodziak's salary and cap hit for this season is why he remains in Minnesota. Eighteen of the NHL's 30 teams currently have $3.6 million or less in cap space. Taking on a player with a cap hit near $3 million is an expensive proposition this early in the season. As for the other dozen clubs with more cap space, they're either under self-imposed cap ceilings and unwilling to spend more, or have no need to add a fourth-line forward.
If the Wild hope to move Brodziak during the first half of this season, they'll have to wait for injuries to create openings on rival teams, pick up part of his remaining salary or attempt a dollar-for-dollar swap.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Bleacher Report, Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.