Potential trade fireworks could steal the show at NHL Draft

Potential trade fireworks could steal the show at NHL Draft

23/06/2017, Canada, Multi Sports, SportsNet Publication, Article # 22931367

CHICAGO – The strongest gusts of activity ahead of the NHL entry draft had very little to do with the teenagers waiting to be called to the stage at United Center.

There were trade winds blowing throughout the Windy City after a league-wide roster freeze was lifted on Thursday morning, and the possibility for some fireworks certainly seemed present with Round 1 looming on Friday night.

The early days of this off-season have taken on a different feel because of the Vegas expansion draft. Indeed, Golden Knights general manager George McPhee remains a key player this weekend since he’s still got 12 defencemen on his roster and has had extensive talks with all 30 teams in recent weeks.

“We have to move some contracts,” McPhee said Thursday night.

He’s not alone. There are some intriguing names out there.

Matt Duchene may finally be moving on from the Colorado Avalanche, if the whispers are true, and there remains plenty of smoke around Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk. New York Islanders defenceman Travis Hamonic’s name continued to dangle out there even after the team acquired Jordan Eberle from Edmonton.

Vegas could still part with veterans such as Marc Methot and Alexei Emelin. The Minnesota Wild were contemplating a trade involving one of their promising blue-liners – either Marco Scandella, Mathew Dumba or possibly Jonas Brodin.

Trades, we have come to learn, are difficult to pull off in a league choked by the salary cap.

But it should help that the upper limit has been bumped to $75 million for 2017-18 and a few franchises managed to unload unwanted contracts to Vegas in expansion.

There was also a sense that the market had been freed now that McPhee isn’t completely ruling the kingdom. He did a masterful job of making sure teams did business with him, rather than each other, in the lead-up to the expansion draft and it slowed the anticipated redistribution of players.

“Now that that’s all done with, it opens a new phase here,” said Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving.

“As with a lot of my counterparts, we were talking a lot about expansion draft,” added Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion. “I think now that the expansion draft has been gone, regular trade talk will come back on.”

The draft is still fundamentally about the kids. All of the best organizations in the league are built on homegrown talent and, even if top prospects Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick aren’t on the same tier as Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, they’re going to provide a boost to New Jersey (No. 1 pick), Philadelphia (No. 2), Dallas (No. 3) or whoever else might end up with them.

Treliving pointed out that there are still “really good players” in this draft class even if most will need extra seasoning before they’re ready to make an impact in the NHL.

However, we are often enthralled by the here and now, and this is basically a 10-day window where teams can attempt to get better immediately. Think about it: The period to have discussions with free agents opens after the draft and the large majority of signings are completed by July 2 or 3.

We typically see trades during this same stretch, but not many happen once you get to mid-July and beyond.

There is a lot of pressure to make something happen if you’re, say, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello and shopping for a defenceman. The Canadiens, Oilers and Flames could use one, too.

Habs general manager Marc Bergevin conceded “I need help everywhere” and sounded a lot like a man who had been burning up the phone lines in recent days.

So here we are at hockey’s version of an industry-wide conference, with team executives, scouts, coaches, agents and reporters all descending on the same place. The official order of business is the draft itself – a life-changing day for many young men – but the focus could change quickly if the GMs have their way.

You get the sense that a lot of groundwork has already been laid on potential deals. Perhaps, when commissioner Gary Bettman steps behind the microphone on Friday night, he’ll have a few opportunities to utter his patented draft-night phrase.

“We have a trade to announce…”
'Everyone knows my admiration for Guardiola' - Dani Alves drops huge Man City hint

'Everyone knows my admiration for Guardiola' - Dani Alves drops huge Man City hint

23/06/2017, Canada, Soccer, Canada, Article # 22931901

The Brazilian spoke of his strong relationship with the Citizens boss as he edges closer to completing a switch to the Etihad Stadium
Ronaldo and Messi - Changing the face of football

Ronaldo and Messi - Changing the face of football

23/06/2017, Canada, Soccer, Canada, Article # 22930891

The Real Madrid and Barcelona superstars have truly rewrote the rulebook on the beautiful game
Ronaldo yet to discuss Real Madrid future as focus remains on Confederations Cup glory

Ronaldo yet to discuss Real Madrid future as focus remains on Confederations Cup glory

23/06/2017, Canada, Soccer, Canada, Article # 22929360

The Portugal star is putting off-the-field stories to one side as he attempts to guide his country to more success on the international stage
Olivier Giroud transfer shows West Ham in desperate and dangerous transfer territory

Olivier Giroud transfer shows West Ham in desperate and dangerous transfer territory

23/06/2017, Canada, Soccer, Canada, Article # 22929150

The Hammers are keen to sign the Arsenal striker but he should avoid a club who are completely inept when it comes to their transfer dealings
Barcelona star Neymar splits with girlfriend Bruna Marquezine

Barcelona star Neymar splits with girlfriend Bruna Marquezine

23/06/2017, Canada, Soccer, Canada, Article # 22928687
Brazil star Neymar

The couple rekindled their relationship last year, and the Brazil international insists he remains friends with his former flame
Barca consider Cuadrado as Bellerin move stalls

Barca consider Cuadrado as Bellerin move stalls

23/06/2017, Canada, Soccer, Canada, Article # 22927646

The Arsenal right-back is the Catalans' top target for that position, but a transfer looks increasingly difficult as the Gunners do not want to sell


23/06/2017, Canada, Baseball, CanAm League, Article # 22925781
Center fielder Jared McDonald (pictured) was the hero for Rockland tonight as he launched a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Boulders a 5-4 walk-off win over Ottawa. The Champions carried a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth only to see Rockland score three times in the frame to tie it and then win it in the ninth on the McDonald home run. McDonald finished the night going 2-for-5 with two runs scored and a RBI.

Elsewhere, Trois-Rivieres defeated Sussex County, 7-3, Quebec edged the Dominican Republic, 4-3 and New Jersey beat the Cuban National Team, 4-3.
Valanciunas’ future with Raptors appeared to be in question at draft

Valanciunas’ future with Raptors appeared to be in question at draft

23/06/2017, Canada, Multi Sports, SportsNet Publication, Article # 22925624

TORONTO – Stop if you’ve read this before: The Toronto Raptors have drafted a high-character kid who works hard, wants to defend and has plenty of upside, athletically.

Several projections had six-foot-eight OG Anunoby having the potential to be a lottery pick before his sophomore season was derailed by a knee injury, limiting him to 16 games at Indiana.

He can run, jump, slide laterally with guards and play bigger than his height with his seven-foot-two wingspan, all must-haves in a league that is playing smaller and faster, and creating a need for wing players versatile enough to switch on to guards on the perimeter and sprint back to the rim to challenge drives from the weak side.

“He can switch one-through-five easily,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, who called him a P.J. Tucker clone for his defensive acumen, high praise indeed.

What the Raptors didn’t do – at least for the moment – was trade the No. 23 pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft or move their incumbent big man, Jonas Valanciunas, along with it.

What they did get was at least some short-term comfort that none of their rivals at the top of the Eastern Conference significantly improved.

As the draft got underway multiple NBA teams told me that the Raptors were trying to drum up interest in Valanciunas and were willing to include their first-round pick as part of the package to grease the wheels of a trade.

It’s not so much a comment on the big Lithuanian who has been a steady producer through five seasons but reflects their plan to re-sign free-agent big Serge Ibaka to play centre, their belief Jakob Poeltl will be ready for a bigger role in his second season, but perhaps more than anything to need to find a way to avoid getting punished overly harshly by the league’s increasingly restrictive luxury taxes.

Toronto has four free agents and likely needs to bring back three of them if they intend to compete for the No. 1 seed in the East – Kyle Lowry and Ibaka are must haves while the Raptors will need to retain one of either Tucker or Patrick Patterson.

In that scenario there is the potential for a payroll in the range of $140 million for next season. If it gets that high – and keeping Lowry and Ibaka could conceivably run $50 million, combined – it could trigger a luxury tax payment that would approach $50 million on top of their payroll commitments.

Even if Raptors ownership is open to being a tax team for the first time, their motivation to keep those tax payments within reason is understandable.

The Raptors are likely stuck with the last two years and $32 million on DeMarre Carroll’s contract given his inability to stay healthy, which makes the three years and $50 million owed to the 25-year-old Valanciunas the deal Raptors president Masai Ujiri could conceivably move with more success.

Depending on exactly how much Ujiri spends in free agency, trimming Valanciunas’ deal could save the Raptors up to $35 million in tax payments next season alone.

But as the evening progressed it was apparent there were no takers, at least for the moment as the markets for traditional, back-to-the-basket centres seems to be cratering by the week.

The draft itself unfolded without any particular surprise.

There wasn’t any question of who was going first overall when the Philadelphia 76ers traded for the No. 1 pick with Boston Celtics earlier this week to get first crack at University of Washington point guard Markelle Fultz. LaVar Ball had predicted his son Lonzo would be taken by the Los Angeles Lakers out of UCLA and he was proven right when the Lakers took the hometown boy at No. 2.

After that it was a question of whether Jayson Tatum (Duke) or Josh Jackson (Kansas) would go No. 3. It turned out that the Celtics took Tatum with the third pick, electing not trade it (yet) in pursuit of either Kristaps Porzingis, Paul George or Jimmy Butler in an effort to speed their ascent in the East. Jackson went fourth to Phoenix and the rest of the first round unfolded in a manner that didn’t seem to shock the draft experts.

What may have been surprising was that for the moment the elite of the Eastern Conference remained within touch for the Raptors. After a week when it appeared that the Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers were trying to make major upgrades with the Bulls‘ Butler, the Pacers’ George and the Knicks’ Porzingis all apparently available, the Raptors saw the teams ahead of them in East remain static.

The biggest news was the Bulls trading Butler, a three-time all-star, to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a package that included Zack LaVine, Kris Dunn and the No. 7 pick which ended up being sharpshooting Finnish big man Lauri Markkanen as Chicago decided to get a head-start on rebuilding rather than scrape along the bottom of the playoff picture.

The only bigger news was what didn’t happen, so far anyway: The Celtics, sitting on a treasure trove of draft assets, chose to stand pat rather than use some of them on a potential one-year rental for George, who has advertised that he wants to end up with the Lakers in 2018, if not sooner.

With the Cavaliers in some form of chaos after the unceremonious, last-minute departure of well-regarded general manager David Griffin and Butler headed west, the Raptors can breathe a small sigh of relief that knowing that – for the moment at least – the Eastern Conference hasn’t gotten away from them.