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Canadiens Notebook: Marc Bergevin says Eric Staal trade happened fast – Montreal Gazette

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“I don’t think it’s the best interest of the Montreal Canadiens to sit in front of the camera and lay out everything I’m trying to do.”

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When Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin spoke with the media on a video conference Thursday he talked about how he was up tight against the NHL salary cap and didn’t expect to make any moves before the April 12 trade deadline.

The next day, Bergevin acquired veteran centre Eric Staal from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick at this year’s NHL Draft.

“When I talked to you guys on Thursday I was being up-front and honest,” Bergevin said during another video conference Saturday. “But, again, I don’t think it’s the best interest of the Montreal Canadiens to sit in front of the camera and lay out everything I’m trying to do. I think it would be putting our team to a disadvantage because I know for a fact there was two other teams after Eric Staal.

“So when I talk to you guys there’s other people around the league that are listening, so I have to be very careful,” the GM added. “I’m trying to be as transparent a I can, but there’s times where I cannot be and that was the case. But, also, I didn’t have anything in the mix when I talked to you. It happened, honestly, very fast. I did have conversations with Buffalo a while back and I know the 14 days (quarantine) became an issue. But then when that was lifted it made it a lot easier to make the trade.”

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Bergevin confirmed Saturday that the federal government has reduced its mandatory 14-day quarantine period for players acquired by Canadian NHL teams from U.S. clubs to seven days.

“Some trades take a long time, some are quicker,” Bergevin said. “That one came really fast. What I said (Thursday) was true at the time. Not I wasn’t looking, but I didn’t think it was going to happen. The main reason was I needed cap space.”

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The Sabres helped Bergevin’s cap situation when they agreed to retain $1.625 million of Staal’s US$3.25-million salary. According to CapFriendly.com, the Canadiens had $1.421 million of current cap space on Saturday.

You have to think the Canadiens’ plan is to have Staal replace Jake Evans as the fourth-line centre with the possibility of having the veteran move up the lineup as needed. Bergevin said he had spoken briefly with head coach Dominique Ducharme about how Staal will be used after he completes his seven-day quarantine.

“(Ducharme) will hopefully talk to you guys on Monday and I will leave that to him to tell you how he sees his lineup,” Bergevin said. “But, again, Eric will not be available right away. You don’t make decisions on lineup until you have to. In the meantime, you could have injuries next week where the decision becomes a lot easier where he fits in and how Dom wants to use him. So until then I think we’re only going to speculate where he’s going to fit and where he’s going to play. But, again, players with their performance they’ll tell you where they should be playing and how much ice time they should get.”

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Staal is expected to do a video conference with the media on Sunday.

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New number for Staal

Staal has worn No. 12 throughout his NHL career, but can’t wear that number with the Canadiens.

No. 12 was retired by the Canadiens in honour of Hall of Famers Yvan Cournoyer and Dickie Moore.

Instead, Staal will become the 37th player in Canadiens history to wear No. 21 and the first since Nick Cousins last season.

Staal is a member of the Triple Gold Club, having won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, an IIHF world championship with Team Canada in 2007 and an Olympic gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

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What about Cole?

Cole Caufield, the Canadiens’ first-round pick (15th overall) at the 2019 NHL Draft, is expected to turn pro after his University of Wisconsin Badgers were eliminated Friday following a 6-3 loss to the Bemidji State Beavers in the first round of the Bridgeport Regional, which is part of the NCAA Tournament.

When asked Saturday whether it would be best for Caufield to now play for the AHL’s Laval Rocket or the Canadiens, Bergevin smiled and said: “Let me think and I’ll get back to you in a couple of days.”

Bergevin still needs to sign Caufield to an NHL entry-level contract and has to do that with the salary cap in mind. Bergevin admitted it “will be tight”, especially if bonuses are included in Caufield’s contract.

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The 20-year-old Caufield finished this season with 30-22-52 totals in 31 games to lead the NCAA in goals and points and he is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in U.S. college hockey. Bergevin noted that Caufield is an exceptional talent, especially when it comes to shooting the puck, but added it’s still a big jump from the NCAA to the NHL.

At 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, the biggest challenge for Caufield in the NHL will be the physical play.

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Salary-cap issues

Bergevin said he doesn’t expect to make any more moves before the NHL trade deadline, noting again that he’s up tight against the cap.

You can take that with a grain — or a full shaker — of salt.

When asked if he was working to free up some cap space, Bergevin said: “No.”

But the GM did say there were other NHL teams willing to take on unwanted salaries in trades.

“I know there’s teams who do have cap space that are willing to take on cap space,” Bergevin said. “So if you want to buy cap space that’s available, but there’s a price to pay for that. And depending on the amount you’re trying to buy then the price becomes steeper. So, like in a way a three-way deal where a team takes on the player and then retains money and then ship him to the other place. So that’s all there, but I’m not going to go into detail what are the teams that are doing that or trying to do that. But that’s also a possibility.”

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When Bergevin was asked Thursday about being up tight against the cap, he said: “You’re not against the cap and you get criticized for not being against the cap. And then you go against the cap and then you get criticized because you can’t do anything. So you do, you don’t. One of the last (offseason) moves we made was Tyler Toffoli and we knew by making that move we were really against the cap and I think we did the right thing by getting Ty.

“Honestly, I’m not worried about it,” Bergevin added about his cap situation. “I like our team.”

He likes it more now with the addition of Staal.

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Schedule up in the air

The Canadiens are expected to play their next game Tuesday night after having four games postponed when Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia were both placed on the NHL’s COVID Protocol Related Absences list last Monday. One of the two players, who Bergevin wouldn’t name, tested positive for a variant of the coronavirus, while the second had close contact.

The Canadiens were originally scheduled to play the Senators Tuesday night in Ottawa, but Bergevin noted the schedule might change as the NHL reworks the schedule in the all-Canadian North Division to fit in the four postponed games. There’s a possibility the Canadiens could instead play the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.

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The players and staff continue to be tested daily for COVID-19 and Kotkaniemi and Armia remained the only two Canadiens on the NHL’s updated COVID-related absences list on Saturday.

“There’s always a chance that something could come up today or tomorrow,” Bergevin said about the testing. “But every day that goes by I feel more confident that we’re going to start early next week.”

The Canadiens are hoping to practise Monday at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard.

Bergevin said it’s unlikely Toffoli will play in the Canadiens’ first game back after being sidelined with a lower-body injury, adding one practice might not be enough for the winger to be ready to go. Bergevin added that he expects Ben Chiarot to return to the lineup “a bit quicker than we thought” after the defenceman had surgery on his fractured right hand on March 15. Chiarot was originally expected to be sidelined for 6-8 weeks.

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When asked if this week off could help the Canadiens, Bergevin said: “To a degree yes. I you look at getting the players rested, the few players we have who had minor injuries, yes. But then having to start right away with very little practise and then having more games in less time … so it’s like this, one way good and one way bad. You pick which one.”

  1. Eric Staal is a member of the Triple Gold Club, having won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, a gold medal at the IIHF World Hockey Championship in 2007 with Team Canada and a gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

    Stu Cowan: Adding Eric Staal will make the Canadiens a better team

  2. Emergency-room doctor Drew Reid, who used to play hockey at McGill University, in Montreal on Thursday, March 25, 2021.

    Stu Cowan: Emergency-room doctor sheds light on Habs’ COVID situation

Still in fourth place

Heading into Saturday’s games, the Canadiens were still sitting in fourth place in the North Division with a 14-8-9 record, two points ahead of the fifth-place Vancouver Canucks and four points ahead of the sixth-place Calgary Flames. The Canadiens held six games in hand on Vancouver and four games in hand on Calgary.

“Games in hand are only good if you win them,” Bergevin said. “It’s nice to have them, but we have to win those games. Our schedule will be a little tougher now because of the week off. We have to control our destiny and we have to win our games and not going in back door. So I expect our team to be ready to play when we start again.”

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

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Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills

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North Division

It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.

The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.

Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.

Passers

Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.

Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.

Shooting

A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.

Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.

Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.

Stick Handling

Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.

If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.

Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.

When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.

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Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards

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Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.

Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.

Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.

“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.

“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”

After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.

Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.

Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.

“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.

“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.

“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”

Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.

“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.

“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”

For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.

“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.

“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”

 

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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