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The St. Louis Cardinals have acquired outfielder Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins, reports Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The deal is pending a physical. https://twitter.com/JesseSanchezMLB/status/941005900323741697 It wasn't immediately clear who the Cardinals were giving up. Ozuna, a two-time all-star who captured his first Gold Glove this past season, was among the better outfield options said to be available through trade this off-season. Several teams, including the Blue Jays, reportedly showed interest in the 27-year-old who is under team control through the 2019 season. He made $3.5 million this year and is arbitration eligible for 2018. The Cardinals, who lost out on the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes after he was traded to the Yankees from Miami, needed a big bat and Ozuna fills that role. He hit .312/.376/.548 with 37 home runs in 2017, producing 4.8 wins above replacement. More to come.
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky has a fractured orbital bone around his left eye, according to The Athletic's Aaron Portzline. The injury is reportedly quite swollen and it's currently unclear whether Dubinsky will need surgery. https://twitter.com/Aportzline/status/940990677420265472 Dubinsky appeared to suffer the injury on the first punch of a short-lived fight with Zack Kassian during Columbus's 7-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night. Watch the video of the incident at the top of the page. The 31-year-old has three goals and 12 points for the Blue Jackets in 31 games this season. [relatedlinks]
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky has a fractured orbital bone around his left eye and will miss 6-8 weeks, the team announced on Tuesday. Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen says the injury has not affected Dubinsky's vision. https://twitter.com/Aportzline/status/941005580692525056 Dubinsky appeared to suffer the injury on the first punch of a short-lived fight with Zack Kassian during Columbus's 7-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night. Watch the video of the incident at the top of the page. The 31-year-old has three goals and 12 points for the Blue Jackets in 31 games this season. [relatedlinks]
Here's another name to add to the list of free agent outfielders the Toronto Blue Jays are eyeing: Carlos Gomez. On Tuesday there were reports the club was looking at Carlos Gonzalez. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the other Carlos is now generating interest, as well. https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/940989264258568192 Gomez, 32, hit .255/.340/.462 with 17 home runs and 23 doubles in 105 games for the Texas Rangers last season. He's had trouble staying healthy over the past few seasons, but largely resuscitated his career since joining Texas in August 2016 after being released by the Houston Astros. The right-handed hitter was a star for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013 and '14 — posting 47 home runs, 47 stolen bases and an .838 OPS over two seasons — but hasn't been able to quite reach that level of production since. Gomez has above-average speed and has played the majority of his career in centre field. His defence has regressed in recent seasons, though, to the point where he now profiles as a slightly below-average defender, according to advanced metrics. [relatedlinks]
The Vancouver Canucks have a problem -- and it’s a good one. What started out as a murky goaltending situation has turned into a feel-good story for the Vancouver Canucks. When Ryan Miller left for greener pastures this summer, the Canucks were left with a huge hole to fill in net. Jacob Markstrom was left as the starter even though he had no No. 1 goaltending experience and only 96 starts in 109 NHL games. The Canucks, seeking some insurance, rolled the dice on another Swedish monster, signing 6-foot-7 Anders Nilsson to a two-year contract. Nilsson didn't come with any more experience, though, having only 77 games played in the NHL, 67 of which were starts. With only 163 NHL starts between them, the giant Swedish duo didn't exactly scream as a safe situation in net. Fast forward three months and 31 games, the Canucks have gotten off to a start no one expected as they're in the hunt for a playoff spot. Today the Canucks are comfortably sitting 11th in goals-against average, just behind Winnipeg and Anaheim. Individually, Nilsson has six wins and a .921 save percentage, while Markstrom is 6-1-1 with a .944 save percentage in games where he’s had at least 30 shots. If not for their goaltending, I’d have to wonder where the Canucks would be right now. I once had a coach who rewarded starts based on wins: “Win and you're in” was his philosophy. But the problem was that as much as a goalie thinks he can control the outcome of a game, the reality is you don't. You can give your team a chance to win and be in the game, but goalies can’t score goals. It was an awful feeling that left me silently hoping for the other goalie to lose so I could play. It was the most awful and selfish I have ever felt as a teammate in my life. I wanted to play and he wanted to play. It was nothing against him personally, but it bred selfishness in both of us and that’s not how a team is supposed to be. [radioclip id=3779139] So how should a coach handle a situation where there is no true starter, but two good goalies instead? I would handle it exactly how Canucks coach Travis Green has so far. The Canucks need to find a No. 1 for the foreseeable future and this entails seeing how both of these goalies handle all situations. How they respond in a game after a win, or after a bad game. How they handle playing a streak of four games in a row. This is about the future, so give them both the opportunity to show what they can do. The Canucks have bred a healthy goaltending situation based on "team," where both goalies know the door of opportunity is open. That's all an athlete can ask for. Here are my personal top five NHL goaltending tandems since 1980: 5. Mike Richter and Glenn Healy, New York Rangers These two won the Presidents' Trophy and brought the Rangers their first Stanley Cup in 54 years. 4. Grant Fuhr and Bill Ranford, Edmonton Oilers Fuhr was the best goalie in the world at this stage in his career and Ranford went on to win his own Stanley Cup as a starter with Edmonton in 1990. 3. Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins Fleury, who was in the backup role, carried the team three playoff rounds last year until Murray was healthy enough to play and finished off the job, giving the Penguins back-to-back Stanley Cups with this duo. 2. Billy Smith and Rollie Melanson, New York Islanders The Islanders won three Cups with these two and no one was more competitive than 'Battling' Billy Smith. 1. Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog, Edmonton Oilers Three Stanley Cup wins with the Oilers and both went on to be goaltending legends in their own right. [relatedlinks]
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – When John Gibbons gets the chance to meet with prospective additions to the Toronto Blue Jays, he pitches them on a talented veteran team backed by the support of a strong fan base. “We're coming off a tough year, no doubt, but you got guys like Russell Martin, (Josh) Donaldson,” the manager said Wednesday. “It's a good veteran team, it's got the potential and chance to win some. It's a pretty good group and really it's one team, one country; that's a selling point.” Some persuasive recruiting could help the Blue Jays address their multiple needs after an 86-loss season in which the club scored the fewest runs in the American League and had some thin rotation depth exposed. Gibbons wasn’t in attendance at the Blue Jays’ meeting with CC Sabathia Tuesday, but the manager made it clear that he’d like to add to his rotation in a meaningful way. “Ideally you get one of those guys,” he said. “An ace or close to an ace.” [brightcove videoID=5677940333001 playerID=2540680026001 height=360 width=640 autostart=false] At the same time, there aren’t many of those arms available, as Sabathia might be the fifth-best free agent starter remaining behind Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn. You can basically rule out Arrieta or Darvish, who would eat up most or all of the Blue Jays’ available cash for 2018, but Sabathia’s expected to be available on a more reasonable deal after posting a 3.69 ERA in 148.2 regular season innings and adding to that with a 2.37 ERA in four playoff starts. “I love him. I've always liked him. He's coming off a big year,” Gibbons said. “He's a workhorse, man. He's always pitched well against us. One of the great competitors in the game for a number of years. I thought he looked strong last year.” It’s an intriguing possibility, not only because of Sabathia’s experience pitching in the AL East, but because of his connection to Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins. At the same time, the Yankees still appear interested in the left-hander, and he has a comfort level in the Bronx after nine seasons. His representatives could be using the Blue Jays and Angels as a way to gain leverage. Plus, the Blue Jays need more than pitching. They must bolster their bullpen but are remaining patient in the relief market, according to executives and agents. Part of the rationale for exploring value plays instead of jumping in on a multi-year deal for an established arm? Spending big on arms now could cut off some options on the position player side. Considering that Atkins still hopes to add an infielder and an outfielder, the club could wait on the starting pitching market too, Sabathia included. As Gibbons said. “We need some more offence, there's no doubt about that in my mind.” If that's the priority, a push for rotation help might take time. [relatedlinks] A few more notes from Disney's Swan and Dolphin Hotel… • Rival teams ask the Blue Jays about their top prospects "quite frequently," Atkins said Tuesday. While the Blue Jays "have to" consider those asks, it'd be a surprise if they traded a top prospect for anything but another long-term piece. • If Josh Donaldson has a monster year in 2018, Gibbons won’t be surprised. “He knows he'll be a free agent unless, of course, we sign him,” Gibbons said. “So that will motivate him more and he might have a monster year. I expect him to have a monster year, because that's what he thrives on.” • One of Donaldson's potential suitors may be moving closer to a deal for another bat. The Cardinals feel they're close to a deal for a hitter and the Marlins' Marcell Ozuna could be their target, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. • Gibbons echoed Atkins' praise for Joe Biagini, who projects as the Blue Jays fifth starter unless they add to the rotation. "He's got a lot of upside." • Aledmys Diaz initially caught Gibbons' eye at a workout in Florida before he signed with the Cardinals in 2014. "I loved what the kid was doing," Gibbons recalls. Nearly four years later, Diaz provides the Blue Jays with insurance behind Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis. • The Blue Jays have been in touch with veterans such as Tulowitzki, Donaldson, J.A. Happ and Justin Smoak about some of their potential moves this winter. Atkins also checks in with Gibbons regularly. "He asks me all the time, and I give my opinion," Gibbons said. • Told that he placed 30th on NBC Sports' list of baseball's handsomest managers, Gibbons looked across the room toward recently-hired Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire. "Well, that's shocking, especially since good Gardy's back," he joked. "But, hey, beauty's only skin deep. Ugly is to the bone." Gibbons thought he should have ranked a little higher. "Hey, not in the Top 20 but somewhere bottom 10, a little higher than (30th)."
The hot stove has been quiet this winter regarding free agent Jose Bautista, and it looks like his camp is trying to change that. The slugger’s agent, Jay Alou, is telling teams at the winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., that Bautista has identified the issue that caused him to struggle so mightily this past season, according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. https://twitter.com/nickcafardo/status/940938491457888256 Bautista, who turned 37 in October, hit 23 home runs for the Toronto Blue Jays this past season, but regressed by several important measures. His batting average (.203), on-base percentage (.308), slugging percentage (.366) and OPS (.674) were the worst he’s produced in any season since 2005. The Blue Jays declined their end of Bautista’s $17-million mutual option for 2018, rendering him a free agent after an iconic 10-year stint with the team. [relatedlinks]
He swears frequently, has been known to wear a mask in arenas, and always gives the proverbial 110 per cent when performing. Yet Hockeytown's Eminem is not a hockey player. In anticipation of the rap god's first major project in four years — new album Revival drops Friday — we've scoured Marshall Mathers' back catalogue to compose our NHL Power Rankings: Eminem Edition. As usual, all 31 teams are ranked top to bottom in order of current strength. As an added bonus, we've picked a song title from Slim Shady's extensive body of work that embodies the state of each club. (Click on the linked tracks at your own NSFW risk.) [relatedlinks] 1. Tampa Bay Lightning After sitting out nearly an entire season, Steven Stamkos (who conspicuously shares the same initials as Slim Shady) has combined with Nikita Kucherov to form the most dangerous duo in hockey. They're first and second, respectively, in the Art Ross race. Appropriate Eminem song: "Bad Meets Evil" 2. Los Angeles Kings On a mission for the Pacific Division crown, the Kings won an incredible eight consecutive games prior to Tuesday's loss to the Devils. Their plus-25 goal differential is the best in the West. Appropriate Eminem song: "On Fire" 3. Nashville Predators No one in the Central Division has more victories over the past 10 games (seven) than the Predators, who easily commit the most penalties in the league (13.6 PIM per game). Appropriate Eminem song: "Bully" 4. St. Louis Blues Who knew Brayden Schenn could lead a contending team in scoring? Who knew the St. Louis Blues would be this good? Who knew GM Doug Armstrong would still be looking for an extension after orchestrating the Schenn deal? Appropriate Eminem song: "Who Knew" 5. Winnipeg Jets Backstopped by Connor Hellebuyck — whose save percentage has swelled from .907 to .920 year over year — Winnipeg has gone from bubble team gone bad to a legit contender in the tough Central. Appropriate Eminem song: "Stronger Than I Was" 6. Washington Capitals Just when you thought Alex Ovechkin had lost a step, the man has 21 goals through 32 games and is hungry to reclaim the Rocket Richard Trophy. Appropriate Eminem song: "Remember Me?" 7. Vegas Golden Knights The Knights' consistency and perseverance is remarkable, but is a serious run at the playoffs — which becomes more possible with every passing day — the smart play when you have this many tantalizing trade rentals? Appropriate Eminem song: "Just Lose It" 8. Columbus Blue Jackets Artemi Panarin registered a crazy five primary assists in a single game last week for the Metropolitan-leading Jackets. We still can't believe Chicago let him go. Appropriate Eminem song: "Insane" 9. New York Rangers Were it not for a horrid start, the Rangers would be the toast of their division. The Blueshirts have points in eight of their past 10 outings. Big things. Appropriate Eminem song: "The Apple" 10. Toronto Maple Leafs Five of high-scoring Toronto's top six point-getters — Auston Matthews, Nazem Kadri, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, Mitch Marner — were drafted and developed by the team. Appropriate Eminem song: "We Made You" 11. New York Islanders With the Islanders unveiling their plans for Belmont Park and Doug Weight's group battling for the Metro's top seed, you have to believe John Tavares's chances of re-signing in New York are pointed upward. Appropriate Eminem song: "Loyalty" 12. New Jersey Devils No NHL team dresses more U.S. citizens than the New Jersey Devils, whose season could well share the title of Eminem's new LP: Revival. Appropriate Eminem song: "We As Americans" 13. Dallas Stars Alexander Radulov fell down during a shootout attempt Monday, picked himself up and still scored on Ondrej Pavelec. Appropriate Eminem song: "You're Never Over" 14. Minnesota Wild Under Chuck Fletcher, Minnesota has made headlines with big trades, massive free agent signings, and a name-brand coaching change... and yet something is preventing the Wild from being great, not good. A three-game string of wins is a promising sign. Appropriate Eminem song: "Never Enough" 15. Boston Bruins Winners of eight of their past 10, the Bruins are healthy, hold games in hand, and look like the best bet to take the final seed in the Atlantic. Appropriate Eminem song: "Chance to Advance" 16. San Jose Sharks After a sluggish start, ageless, shirtless, knee-cartiledge-less Joe Thornton is back to his rightful spot atop the Sharks' assist leaders and San Jose is back in the playoff mix. Appropriate Eminem song: "Deja Vu" 17. Pittsburgh Penguins All due respect to Casey DeSmith, but the Pittsburgh Penguins' goalie depth isn't quite the same since the departure of Marc-Andre Fleury, the World's Greatest Teammate™. Thankfully, Matt Murray and Fleury are both healthy enough to face each other Thursday. Appropriate Eminem song: "Without Me" 18. Chicago Blackhawks Corey Crawford's health is essential to the Blackhawks' playoff bid, but the threat of the perennial power house missing an invite to the dance is real after GM Stan Bowman traded away Niklas Hjalmarsson, Scott Darling and Artemi Panarin. Appropriate Eminem song: "Stan" 19. Calgary Flames Jaromir Jagr, 45, doesn't own a key to the Flames practice facility, but he does have the guy with the keys on speed dial and has rang him up at ungodly hours so he can squeeze in a late-night workout. Considering hockey's eldest pro has scored just once this season, there's a growing sense this might finally be his last NHL campaign. Appropriate Eminem song: "Till I Collapse" 20. Anaheim Ducks Ryan Getzlaf is back this way, Ryan Kesler shouldn't be far behind, and the Adam Henrique trade is paying off dividends. Anaheim appears to have remained within striking distance after stumbling through what should be the toughest portion of its schedule. Appropriate Eminem song: "Survival" 21. Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall backed his coach when "Fire Hakstol!" calls rained during Philly's 10-game losing skid, and the Flyers responded with a perfect 3-0 trip through Western Canada, then tacked on a home win versus Toronto. Appropriate Eminem song: "Anger Management" 22. Edmonton Oilers Not unlike the lead single from Mr. Mathers' new album, Connor McDavid is burdened with the task of living up to the perfection those on the outside expect from him every time the bright lights shine. Appropriate Eminem song: "Walk on Water" 23. Montreal Canadiens The healthy return of Carey Price jolted the Canadiens back from the dead, but with Montreal dropping three in a row, we remember this team will only go as far as its goalie takes it. Appropriate Eminem song: "I'm Back" 24. Carolina Hurricanes The NHL's longest playoff drought may be extended once again, but the good news in Carolina is the securing of a new majority owner. Appropriate Eminem song: "Business" 25. Vancouver Canucks The Sedins are now both members of the 1,000 Point Club and have become more valuable to Vancouver right now with the painful injuries to Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi. Appropriate Eminem song: "Legacy" 26. Colorado Avalanche A big victory over Pittsburgh here, and a bounce-back season from Nathan MacKinnon there, and yet the Avalanche still needs so many pieces to be taken seriously. Appropriate Eminem song: "Searchin'" 27. Florida Panthers The Roberto Luongo injury certainly doesn't help, but the Panthers have been in a downward spiral since ownership started picking at a good thing about a year ago at this time. Appropriate Eminem song: "How Come" 28. Detroit Red Wings In the battle of Detroit vs. Everybody, the odds are on Everybody. The hockey team repping Eminem's stomping grounds got off to a hot start but has tumbled down to the earth fast. One win over its past 11 games won't help populate the D's beautiful new arena. Appropriate Eminem song: "Welcome to Detroit City" 29. Buffalo Sabres The Sabres rang in December with their third consecutive shutout loss and haven't defeated a team in playoff position in well over a month. Buffalo is reportedly willing to trade anyone and everyone not named Jack Eichel. Appropriate Eminem song: "Cleanin' Out My Closet" 30. Ottawa Senators This weekend's big outdoor game at the capital to celebrate the NHL's 100th birthday comes at an awkward time, as Elliotte Friedman reports that the free-falling Senators have requested yes-trade lists from all players with movement protection in their contracts. Erik Karlsson backtracked and said he was taken out of context when he said, “When I go to market, I’m going to get what I’m worth, and it’s going to be no less, no matter where I’m going." Appropriate Eminem song: "Love the Way You Lie" 31. Arizona Coyotes Losers of four straight (again) and owners of an NHL-worst minus-39 goal differential, the Coyotes are languishing 20 points behind the desert's expansion team and Houston is licking its chops. Appropriate Eminem song: "So Bad"
The Indiana Pacers have been awarded hosting rights for the 2021 NBA All-Star weekend, per Adrian Wojnarowski.
This marks the all-star game's first return to Indiana since 1985, when the game was played at the Hoosier Dome and the West defeated the East 140-129. Ralph Sampson was the game's MVP. The state's first ever all-star game was held in Fort Wayne in 1953. Los Angeles hosts this year's edition, with Charlotte and Chicago to follow in 2019 and 2020. [relatedlinks]
The Indiana Pacers will host the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 13, 2017
“We’re finding ourselves.” That quote, from the Edmonton Oilers dressing room after an impressive 7-2 rout in Columbus, is both a good-news and bad-news scenario. Yes, on a three-game road trip where the Oilers chased two of the game’s best goalies, Carey Price and Sergei Bobrovsky, and dominated the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 1–0 loss, the Oilers looked a lot more like that Western Conference powerhouse they were 12 months ago. Yet, when the Oilers look at the standings, they “find themselves” so far down the tables that it simply might be too late. [relatedlinks] For now, however, Edmonton is seeing some signs that this might be more than a three-game blip on the radar. Here are some takeaways after a road game, and a road trip, that just might be the Oilers' finest three-game run all season:
The return of Connor McDavidNow that Connor McDavid is back at full health and eight cylinders, you get a more fulsome picture of how sick he must have been with that flu bug he carried through most of the first 25 games. Amazingly, he remained a point-per-game player during that span, but now that he’s got some weight back and is feeling stronger, man, McDavid is unstoppable. The Oilers captain had two assists in a 6-2 win at Montreal, was the best player on the ice in Toronto, and had 1-3-4 at Columbus. [brightcove videoID=5678464481001 playerID=2540680026001 height=360 width=640 autostart=false] He’s been good all season, but not McDavid good. When McDavid is this dominant, the Oilers win games.
Survival goaltendingWhen Cam Talbot went down for what's expected to be at least a couple of weeks, most folks wondered if that would be the death knell on Edmonton’s season. Well, Laurent Brossoit has gone 3-2 in the last five games, and one of those losses was that 1-0 defeat in Toronto. You can critique some goals that have gone in all you want, but the fact is Brossoit has given his team every chance to win on four of the five nights. Sure, it’s easy to play when your team takes a 5–0 lead. But he’s handled the workload, and under the circumstances that’s all you can ask. [snippet id=3636171]
Here for the good timesRemember Columbus head coach John Tortorella? The guy who changed his act? Who matured in his new gig in Columbus? He stepped to the microphone after the game just long enough to tell the press corps that he wouldn’t answer any questions after the game. Don’t worry though, folks. He talks after the Blue Jackets win. [brightcove videoID=5678583913001 playerID=2540680026001 height=360 width=640 autostart=false]
Teams that are special... for a changeThe Oilers have drawn the least penalties of any team in the NHL with just 80 power-play opportunities, which is strange because the Oilers entered the game with the league’s top Fenwick (54.43) and No. 2 Corsi (53.89). So they have the puck plenty, but haven’t drawn the commensurate amount of penalties. Hmmm... What’s worse, both the special teams have been brutal. On Tuesday, however, Edmonton got a key power-play goal to go up 2–0, and had two on the day. The penalty kill, meanwhile, killed off both Blue Jackets power plays on a rare night when Edmonton won the special-teams battle. [brightcove videoID=5678567547001 playerID=2540680026001 height=360 width=640 autostart=false]
Developing storyYoung players don’t ascend in a straight line, and defenceman Matt Benning was overwhelmed off the start of the season with the extra minutes he was given with Andrej Sekera on IR. Winger Jesse Puljujarvi, meanwhile, went to the farm out of training camp because he simply was not ready for prime time. Bennett is a 23-year-old in only his second pro season. Puljujarvi is still 19 years old. There are going to be growing pains here. Well, on Tuesday Brian’s boy had a goal and an assist, and his defensive game has steadied. Puljujarvi has discovered that, at six-foot-four, he can knock some people off some pucks at this level, and he has the skill level to hang on a line with McDavid and Milan Lucic, going 1-1-2 at Columbus. Sure, it might be too late this season. But Benning will be a steady NHL D-man for years to come, and at the home of a Columbus team that passed on Puljujarvi to draft Pierre-Luc Dubois, the big Finn made them jealous Tuesday.