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Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:
NHL free agency is mostly over. The NBA’s doesn’t even have a start date.
One of the many ways in which the pandemic has turned 2020 on its head is that the start of free agency in both the NHL and the NBA got bumped from early July to the fall.
The NHL’s signing period opened on Friday and — from a casual-fan-interest standpoint anyway — effectively ended Monday when former St. Louis Blues defenceman Alex Pietrangelo inked a seven-year, $61.6-million US contract with the Vegas Golden Knights. This came a day after ex-Arizona forward Taylor Hall opted for a surprising one-year, $8M deal with the lowly Buffalo Sabres.
Pietrangelo and Hall were the two biggest catches on the market. The other big storyline heading into free agency was the lucrative game of musical chairs taking place with so many name-brand goalies hitting the market. That was mostly resolved Friday, with Calgary’s signing of Jacob Markstrom (formerly of Vancouver) to a six-year, $36M deal headlining a frenzy of netminder moves. Those included Braden Holtby going from Washington to Vancouver, Henrik Lundqvist from the New York Rangers to Washington and Cam Talbot from Calgary to Minnesota. Playoff hero Anton Khudobin, true to his “different guy” reputation, stayed with the Dallas Stars.
Other big-money moves over the long weekend included Torey Krug hopping from Boston to St. Louis (7 years, $45.5M), T.J. Brodie from Calgary to Toronto (4 years, $20M), Chris Tanev from Vancouver to Calgary (4 years, $18M) and Tyler Toffoli from Vancouver to Montreal (4 years, $17M).
Plenty of players are still looking for contracts — Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov and Mikael Granlund are probably the most intriguing forwards; Travis Hamonic the most recognizable defenceman — but the market has been picked over and the biggest names are gone.
This is normally the point where we turn our attention to NBA free agency. The Lakers won the title on Sunday (and LeBron James grabbed his fourth Finals MVP award), so basketball fans should be buzzing about the star players their challengers are looking to land.
But no one can even say right now when NBA free agency will start. That’s because, unlike with the NHL, the league and its players’ union didn’t hammer out next season’s salary-cap number before returning from hiatus over the summer.
That could be a tricky negotiation. The cap is tied to league-wide revenue, which has cratered since the shutdown in March with no definitive end in sight. Everyone is hoping to start the next season in January with teams playing out of their home arenas and fans in the stands. But at this point that’s still wishful thinking.
As the Washington Post’s Ben Golliver notes, an estimated 40 per cent of the NBA’s $8 billion in annual revenue comes from attendance-related stuff like tickets, concessions, parking and merch. So team owners may try to insure themselves against more potential losses by asking players to give back some of their (supposedly guaranteed) future earnings if the shortfall continues. You can guess how that might go over. And it’s not as simple as just lowering the salary cap for next year because that would force some teams to shed players, which no one wants. The NHL’s solution was to keep the cap, which usually goes up every year, the same for next season.
There’s still enough runway for the NBA and its players to work out the cap and luxury-tax thresholds in time to have something resembling a normal (if time-warped) off-season. The draft, which usually takes place shortly after the Finals, isn’t until Nov. 18. If all goes well, the league could announce the start date for the season around that time. And then free agency should open within a couple of weeks of the draft. But there’s a lot of work to do to make all that happen
In case you missed it…
A few other important things from the long weekend:
Canadian Chase Claypool had one of the best days ever by an NFL rookie. The talented receiver from Abbottsford, B.C., scored four touchdowns — including one with three minutes left to ice the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 38-29 win over Philadelphia. Claypool made seven catches for 110 yards and three TDs and also ran in a two-yard score. The last Canadian-born NFL player with three receiving TDs in a game was Joe Rooney in 1927.
Joe Morgan died. Older baseball fans (or any with a sense of history) will remember Morgan as one of the greatest second basemen to ever play the game. Best known for his time with Cincinnati’s famed Big Red Machine, he won back-to-back NL MVP awards in 1975 and ’76. Despite standing only 5-foot-7, Morgan hit at least 22 homers four times. He also averaged 54 steals from 1969-77 (while not getting caught much) and drew a ton of walks way before that was in vogue. Modern sabermetricians would have loved him. Which is why it’s so ironic that many younger fans consider Morgan a dinosaur. As a broadcaster, he was among the loudest (and wrongest) critics of the Moneyball Oakland A’s and the new ways of looking at the game they ushered in. There was even a popular blog (back when those were big) called Fire Joe Morgan that used him as a jumping-off point for its hilarious takedowns of like-minded baseball analysts (the site was run, anonymously, by Michael Schur, who went on to make hit TV comedies The Office, Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine). But none of that can diminish what Morgan did on the diamond. He died Sunday at 77. Read more about his life and career here.
Rafael Nadal tied Roger Federer’s record for men’s Grand Slam titles. By beating top-ranked Novak Djokovic to win the French Open for an incredible 13th time, Nadal matched Federer with 20 singles Slam titles. Federer might never get the record to himself again. At 34, Nadal is five years younger than him and still going strong. The Spaniard has won three Slams in the last two seasons and reached the final of another. Federer’s last Slam title came in January 2018 and he’s currently sidelined until the new year after knee surgery. Don’t count out Djokovic either. He owns 17 Slam titles, is a year younger than Nadal and also won three Slams in the last two years.
Iga Swiatek won her first Slam title — perhaps of many. At No. 54, the Polish teenager was the lowest-ranked player ever to reach the French Open women’s final. But it was her opponent who looked like she didn’t belong. Swiatek demolished fourth-seeded Sofia Kenin 6-4, 6-1 to cap a stunning tournament in which she didn’t lose a single set. That hadn’t been done at the French since 2007, and Swiatek is the first teen to win the women’s event in Paris since 1997. Some top players skipped the French this year, including defending champ and world No. 1 Ash Barty and third-ranked Naomi Osaka. But Swiatek seems like the real deal. Read more about her breakthrough win here.
The founder of the National Women’s Hockey League is stepping aside. Dani Rylan Kearney is giving up her role as commissioner as part of a restructuring of the league. Previously, the NWHL was owned by a group of investors that also controlled four of its six teams (the Boston Pride and the expansion Toronto Six, who have yet to play a game, were independently owned). Going forward, decisions will be made by a six-member board of governors (one for each team) and the league is looking to find independent ownership for the four franchises that don’t currently have it. Rylan Kearney will stay on to oversee that effort, while former Toronto Six chairman Tyler Tumminia serves as interim commissioner. Read more about the NWHL’s restructuring here.
One of Canada’s most decorated skiers retired. Manny Osborne-Paradis hasn’t raced since a horrific crash at Lake Louise nearly two years ago almost cost him a leg. He tried to make it back to the World Cup circuit before deciding over the summer that he couldn’t be a ski racer anymore. Osborne-Paradis, who officially retired today at the age of 36, reached 11 World Cup podiums and won three events — a pair of downhills in Europe and a super-G at Lake Louise, all in 2009. He won bronze in the super-G at the 2017 world championships and competed in four Olympics, though he never finished higher than 13th. Read more about Osborne-Paradis’ career here and join a virtual retirement party in his honour Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on the CBC Olympics Instagram channel.
The Ottawa Senators caught a (literal) tough break. Top prospect Tim Stuetzle, who the Sens just took third overall in the NHL draft, needs surgery to fix a broken arm suffered Monday while training with his German club. The good news is that he’s expected to recover in six to eight weeks and the next NHL season won’t start until Jan. 1 at the earliest. So he could be ready in time for training camp. Read more about Stuetzle’s injury here.
Cristiano Ronaldo has the coronavirus. The 35-year-old soccer star tested positive but is “well, has no symptoms and is in isolation,” according to Portugal’s soccer federation. Ronaldo is out for Wednesday’s UEFA Nations League match against Sweden and could also miss some upcoming dates for his club team, the Italian powerhouse Juventus. They have a Serie A match Saturday and their Champions League group-stage opener vs. Dynamo Kiev next Tuesday.
Dustin Johnson has the coronavirus too. The 36-year-old golf star (and partner of Wayne Gretzky’s daughter, Paulina) experienced symptoms before testing positive, the PGA Tour announced. He withdrew from this week’s event and hasn’t competed since the U.S. Open a few weeks ago.
Please enjoy the following gif of Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Manuel Margot making the catch of the post-season yesterday. Margot also homered to lift the Rays to a 4-2 win that gave them a 2-0 lead over Houston in the American League Championship series.
Absurd catch by Manuel Margot to end the inning! <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ALCS?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ALCS</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rays?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Rays</a> <a href=”https://t.co/8h1KSXJVtX”>pic.twitter.com/8h1KSXJVtX</a>
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