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Eric Staal sees 'great opportunity' with Canadiens after trade by Sabres – NHL.com

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Eric Staal said it feels surreal to be a member of the Montreal Canadiens, given that he’s been a thorn in the side of his new team throughout his NHL career. 

But the forward, who was traded to the Canadiens by the Buffalo Sabres on Friday for a third-round and a fifth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, is thrilled with his new opportunity.

“This is the best atmosphere in the League by far and now to be joining the group and joining the whole city, being a Montreal Canadien, is pretty phenomenal. I’m excited,” Staal said Sunday.

Staal has scored 45 points (22 goals, 23 assists) in 50 regular-season games against the Canadiens. In 2006, he scored an overtime goal for the Carolina Hurricanes against the Canadiens in Game 3 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Carolina won the next three games, eliminating Montreal on the way to winning the Stanley Cup. Staal scored eight points (two goals, six assists) in the series.

Now the 36-year-old has been brought in to try and help the Canadiens reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. 

Montreal (14-8-9) is fourth in the Scotia North Division, two points ahead of the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. The top four teams make the playoffs.

“There’s a great opportunity here and I’m going to try to take advantage of it,” Staal said.

“I feel like I’ve got some game left in me, that I can be a contributor. Wherever they have me start, I will work as hard as I can to make sure that I’m out there more than not.”

Video: Eric Staal gets traded to the Montreal Canadiens

Staal arrived in Montreal by car from Buffalo on Saturday and began serving the necessary seven-day quarantine before he can join the Canadiens.

He waived a modified no-trade clause in his contract to facilitate the trade from the Sabres, who have not won in 17 games (0-15-2) and are last in the NHL (6-23-4). 

Staal said an important factor was Canada’s decision, reported by the Canadian Press on Friday, to reduce the quarantine for traded NHL players from 14 to seven days.

“I just felt like 14 days of waiting is a long time, especially if you’re going to get traded in the middle of the season,” Staal said. “To sit there and wait 14 days and then come back out and try to get in the lineup and be a factor… to me, to be honest, that’s too long. A week is doable. At the age I am, it’s a chance to recover the body and use this as an advantage.”

Staal is in the final season of a two-year, $6.5 million contract ($3.25 million average annual value) he signed with the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 25, 2019 and can become an unrestricted free agent after the season. He was traded to the Sabres by the Wild on Sept. 16.

“I’m going day by day,” he said. “I’ve got a week on my own here and then I’ll get with the group, but my focus is getting started with this group and integrating in and we’ll kind of see where it goes. 

“This is a phenomenal place to play hockey and one of the best experiences as an NHL player, so I’m excited for the chance. It’s an unbelievable market. Hopefully, I can play well and do well and our team accumulates a lot of wins. That’s what it’s all about and I’m just looking forward to the chance.”

Video: BUF@WSH: Staal slings pass by Vanecek on power play

Selected No. 2 in the 2003 NHL Draft by the Hurricanes, Staal has scored 1,031 points (439 goals, 532 assists) in 1,272 regular season games for the Sabres, Wild, New York Rangers and Hurricanes, and 51 points (21 goals, 30 assists) in 62 playoff games. 

He scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 32 games for the Sabres this season.

Staal said he’s spoken with Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin and coach Dominique Ducharme.

“I’ve told them both I just want to win,” Staal said. “I want to be out there and win and be competitive and try to help our group win games, wherever that is in the lineup. I will do what I can.”

Staal’s role might be limited with the Canadiens, who also have Phillip Danault, Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi at center. 

“I’m always striving to have my name called as much as I can because I’m competitive, I want to play, I want to do what I can to help…,” Staal said. “but I also understand, ‘Hey, this night or this moment might not be mine, it might be someone else’s.’ You need to be supportive and be a good teammate and that’s what I’ll do and what I have done over my career.” 

Staal said he’s excited by the pace and transition game of the Canadiens and impressed with their defensemen anchored by Shea Weber and Jeff Petry, and goalie Carey Price.

“There’s a balance up front that can come at you in waves,” he said. “With the amount of games we have, the type of season it is, you’re going to need everybody in your lineup. … I just think there’s a lot of mix of some guys that have been around a while and understand the game.”

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Sabres select Owen Power with No. 1 pick in 2021 NHL Draft – Sportsnet.ca

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The NHL draft turned Michigan maize and blue Friday night. And there’s a Hughes sibling reunion set to happen in New Jersey.

The Buffalo Sabres opened the draft by selecting Wolverines defenceman Owen Power with the top pick, and were immediately followed by the expansion Seattle Kraken choosing Michigan centre Matthew Beniers at No. 2. It marked the first time since 1969 that teammates went with the first two selections.

Three picks later, the Wolverines became college hockey’s first program to have three teammates go in the first round after the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Michigan winger Kent Johnson fifth.

“Extremely excited for Owen, Matty and their families. Its’ already a great night for Michigan Hockey. Go Blue,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson texted to The Associated Press after the Kraken made their selection.

That’s not all, however. Luke Hughes, who is committed to playing at Michigan, was chosen fourth overall by the the Devils, where the defenceman is united with brother Jack, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft.

Hughes watched the draft on his family’s living room couch with both of his NHL-playing brothers, rounded out by Quinn, who was selected seventh overall by Vancouver in 2018. Jack Hughes immediately jumped up and began hugging Luke upon hearing Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald announce the pick.

Ontario junior centre Mason McTavish was the only player without Michigan ties to round out the top five, after he was selected third overall by Anahiem.

The draft was held remotely for a second consecutive year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with commissioner Gary Bettman hosting the draft in New Jersey, where he introduced teams to make their selections from their home arenas.

On a day the Sabres traded Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers, general manager Kevyn Adams continued his offseason bid to overhaul a struggling franchise by choosing the stalwart defenceman’s heir apparent. Power is listed at six-foot-six and 213 pounds and was the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau’s top-ranked North American prospect. After scoring three goals and adding 13 assists in 26 games during his freshman season at Michigan, the 18-year-old Power cemented his draft stock by helping Canada win the world hockey championships.

From Mississauga, Ontario, Power is leaning toward returning to school for his sophomore season, something Adams has said would not play a factor into his selection.

“Not thinking about it too much right now, trying to enjoy the night. That’s something I’ll worry about later,” Power said of his future, while surrounded by his family and friends in his backyard.

As for a message to Sabres fans, he said: “I’m super excited to be part of the franchise and ready to get going.”

Power was the third player drafted first directly out of college, joining Michigan State forward Joe Murphy in 1986 and Boston University goalie Rick DiPietro in 2000. And he became the 16th defenceman to go No. 1 since 1970, and first since the Sabres chose Rasmus Dahlin at No. 1 in 2018.

Power and Dahlin have similar two-way, play-making skills, and will have the opportunity to form the backbone of a retooled defensive unit for years to come.

Beniers was ranked sixth overall among North American prospects. He had 14 goals and 24 points in 24 games for the Wolverines.

In 1969, Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif were Montreal Junior Canadiens teammates, who were selected with the first two picks by Montreal. In 1963, Garry Monahan and St. Michael’s Juveniles teammate Peter Mahovlich were selected first and second.

The Sabres made a splash earlier by adding a second first-round pick, 14th overall, and defenceman Robert Hagg in dealing Ristolainen to Philadelphia.

The trade is part of Adams’ bid to rebuild through youth after Buffalo finished last in the overall standings for a fourth time in eight seasons and extended its playoff drought to an NHL record-matching 10th year.

The acquired pick from Philadelphia is actually 13th in the draft order after the NHL stripped the Arizona Coyotes of their first-round pick, 11th overall, for testing players in violation of league’s combine policy.

The Coyotes, however, moved back into the first round by acquiring the Canucks’ pick, ninth overall, in a five-player trade that sent Arizona captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson to Vancouver earlier in the day.

The first European players selected were from Sweden in back to back selections. Defenceman Simon Edvinsson went sixth to the Detroit Red Wings, followed by under-sized forward William Eklund, who was chosen seventh by the San Jose Sharks.

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More people watched Seattle NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 than Cubs-Cards on ESPN – Awful Announcing

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In the grand scheme of things, 637,000 viewers nationally is not a huge number for a cable channel with any level of significant distribution. Most things on broadcast TV not only beat that, but beat it by quite a bit, and that kind of number isn’t usually even amongst the top cable broadcasts. However, the news that ESPN2 pulled that number in for its (NHL-produced, but featuring ESPN figures) coverage of the NHL expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken Wednesday night was certainly interesting, especially as so much of the actual news around that draft was reported in advance, and also given that their main-network coverage of the MLB game between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals drew fewer viewers. Here’s a comparison of Wednesday night sporting events from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal:

On the negative side, that draft didn’t even draw the numbers of studio show Pardon The Interruption (however, that airs on ESPN rather than ESPN2; they’re similar in distribution, but many people turn on main ESPN first). It also didn’t draw the numbers of early Olympic programming from NBCSN. On the positive side, it outdrew a national MLB game. And it drew more than the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft five years ago (595,000 on NBCSN for a combined broadcast of that draft and the NHL Awards). And it’s a good sign for ESPN, as this is their first big NHL event they aired under their new deal.

And yes, as Ourand noted in a follow-up tweet, that Cubs-Cards game didn’t have regional sports network blackouts, so Cubs and Cardinals fans could still watch it on their local RSNs. And most probably did, so it likely primarily pulled the national audience that didn’t have those RSNs. But it’s still interesting to see an ESPN2 event outdraw an ESPN event, especially when the ESPN event is a live game and the ESPN2 event is a one-team expansion draft (and one where most of the information was previously available to the public).

If ESPN versus ESPN2 programming decisions were made strictly from a standpoint of what they thought would draw more viewers, this result would go against that. That’s not entirely the case here, as the MLB on ESPN package comes with some restrictions on where games can air. But it’s still interesting to see the NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 outdraw a live MLB game between two prominent teams.

That is also perhaps further evidence that draft “spoilers” don’t always damage the ratings that much. That’s long been a debate, from the NFL’s heavy pushes against pick-tipping to the NBA’s more moderate approach (which sees pick-tipping still happen with some different language, and which hasn’t really led to obvious ratings losses).

In the case of this draft, figures who don’t work for expansion draft rightsholders Sportsnet (Canada) and ESPN (U.S.) reported many of the picks early, with Frank Seravalli (formerly of TSN, now of Daily Faceoff) and Pierre LeBrun (TSN/The Athletic) getting many of those, other national figures getting some more, and local reporters getting some others. So a mostly-full picture was available before the broadcast for those who wanted to find it. But that didn’t stop a significant amount of people from watching this, and that maybe shows that the league pushes against pick-tipping aren’t always that impactful.

[John Ourand on Twitter]

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Cleveland changes MLB team nickname to Guardians after months of discussion – CBC.ca

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Known as the Indians since 1915, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will be called Guardians.

The ball club announced the name change Friday with a video on Twitter narrated by actor Tom Hanks, ending months of internal discussions triggered by a national reckoning by institutions and teams to permanently drop logos and names that are considered racist.

The choice of Guardians will undoubtedly be criticized by many of the club’s die-hard fans.

The organization spent most of the past year whittling down a list of potential names that was at nearly 1,200 just over a month ago. But the process quickly accelerated and the club landed on Guardians.

Social unrest spurred name change

Team owner Paul Dolan said last summer’s social unrest, touched off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, spurred his intention to change the name.

Dolan is expected to provide more details on the choice and background on the change at a news conference at Progressive Field before Cleveland hosts the Tampa Bay Rays.

Dolan said the new name mirrors the city and its people.

“Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity,” he said in a statement. “Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders. ‘Guardians’ reflects those attributes that define us.”

In 2018, the team stopped wearing the contentious Chief Wahoo logo on their jerseys and caps. However, the team continues to sell merchandise bearing the smiling, red-faced caricature that was protested for decades by Native American groups.

The name change has sparked lively debate among the city’s passionate sports fans. Other names, including the Spiders, which is what the team was once called, were pushed by supporters on social media platforms.

But Guardians does seem to fit the team’s objective to find a name that embodies Cleveland’s ethos while preserving the team’s history and uniting the community.

Not far from the downtown ballpark, there are two large landmark stone edifices — referred to as guardians — on the Hope Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River.

The team’s colours will remain the same, and the new Guardians’ new logos will incorporate some of the architectural features of the bridge.

The change comes as the Washington Football Team continues to work toward a similar makeover. The franchise dropped its name before the 2020 season and said it will reveal a new name and logo in 2022.

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