Nathan Gerbe has spent most of his life trying to prove people wrong.
Usually that revolves around his size; he's listed at 5-foot-5, 178 pounds. Now, though, he's out to prove to one specific group of people, the decision-makers with the Buffalo Sabres, that buying out the final year of his contract was a mistake.
Gerbe spent three weeks in July looking for a job, finally signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Carolina Hurricanes that will pay him $550,000 if he's in the NHL.
"Nathan has had success on the NHL level and should compete for a job with the Hurricanes during training camp," Ron Francis, vice president of hockey operations, said in announcing the deal.
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Gerbe has plans on doing more than just competing for a job. He's planning on winning one and making the most of his chances in Carolina.
"Something that drives me and fuels me is being a player who's tough to play against,” Gerbe told the Raleigh News & Observer. "Get out on the ice, get rolling, get the energy going and help my team any way I can. It's going to be different playing for another team, but I'm fired up to get down there."
Gerbe had five goals and five assists in 42 games with the Sabres last season, but when the regular season started in January he was just returning to the ice after June back surgery.
"I was hurt in 2011 and it was something I didn't notice right away," he said. "I kept going and played 40-some games [in 2012-13], which probably did not help me. I got to the point I struggled to take off my skates and put on my clothes.
"My recovery from surgery took about seven months. I was cleared to work out the day the lockout ended, and I jumped right into games, without a workout, which may not have been the smartest thing to do. But I've gotten stronger in the offseason and feel healthy and ready to go."
There will be spots open in the top-nine forward group for the Hurricanes, especially at right wing on the second line, which likely will feature center Jordan Staal and left wing Tuomo Ruutu, and the third line, which could consist of 2013 first-round pick Elias Lindholm centering Jeff Skinner.
"There's a lot of open spots on the bottom-six of our lineup," captain Eric Staal told NHL.com. "I'm interested to see kind of where everything falls, and how competitive it is and who steps up. Those roles are really important. You see those teams like Chicago, they have a balanced attack with guys that contribute on those bottom lines, and that's important. We're going to need other guys to come in and step up."
That's just what Gerbe plans on doing when training camp opens.
"I was a little shocked that happened," Gerbe said of his buyout. "Then it becomes something that drives you to work harder. I want to prove everyone wrong, and especially prove it to one team up north."