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Maple Leafs’ UFA splash addresses two biggest needs

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“It’s not like I’m coming here to fight the whole world, but at the same time I’m not afraid to fight the whole world.” —Wayne Simmonds

TORONTO – Way back during the Montreal-Boston 2016 Winter Classic, a wonderful little mid-game exchange was captured by two then-Habs as they sat on the bench waiting for their next shift and sizing up Boston’s Matt Beleskey.

Max Pacioretty: “Is he tough?”

P.K. Subban: “Yeah, he’s tough. He’s not, like, Wayne Simmonds tough, but he’s tough.”

Pacioretty: “Oh, so I could get him on my card?”

Subban: “No. You cannot fight Wayne Simmonds.”

Ask one of the 61 combatants that have dropped the gloves and flinched at his knuckles during his 909 games.

Ask one of the doctors or physiotherapists or trainers that has been helping to patch Scarborough’s Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Ask one of his former Philadelphia Flyers teammates who watched Simmonds play through all but seven games of 2017-18 with a torn pelvis that led to a pulled groin; a fractured ankle; a torn thumb ligament; a busted jaw; and a chip on his shoulder.

There is ordinary hockey tough. And then there is Wayne Simmonds tough.

“It’s not like I’m coming here to fight the whole world, but at the same time I’m not afraid to fight the whole world,” Simmonds said on the day he signed with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs.

At a hard 32 years of age — three teams removed from his last playoff point and four seasons removed from his last 30-goal campaign — Simmonds understands why he’s here.

Back where he started and on top of the world, Simmonds is taking a one-year, $1.5-million contract (or a $3.5-million paycut) to fill a role in the bottom six in the Six.

Rumour has it, Simmonds will wear No. 42 because 4 + 2 = 6. (Also, his usual No. 17 is retired because some sandpapery winger named Wendel Clark wore it so well.)

Simmonds coined a term for his approach to the game — “functional toughness” — which falls in line with one of the Leafs’ greatest needs.

“I can play the game, but at the same time I can punch your head off if need be,” Simmonds said.

“I start with protecting my teammates, first and foremost. If I don’t like what I see, I’m going to intervene.”

The Maple Leafs have been easy to play against.

Simmonds? One of just three active NHLers with 250-plus goals and 1,000-plus penalty minutes? Not so much.

The versatile winger accepts he’ll start in the bottom six, yet he’s confident in his renewed health and established abilities that he can play up the lineup or add a fresh wrinkle to the power play when needed.

Simmonds’ signing happened early in the day because Buffalo permitted the player to speak to suitors in advance of free agency’s opening.

Since he put pen to paper on a contract that made all his friends and family ecstatic, Simmonds’ phone hasn’t stopped buzzing. Thirteen or 14 of those pings were from his new teammates, eager to be dragged into the fight.

Names like Mitch Marner, Zach Hyman, Frederik Andersen, Jason Spezza, and William Nylander illuminated on his screen.

“It’s been literally nonstop since 12 p.m. I’ve been running out of battery here,” Simmonds cracked. “That just shows me the excitement they have that I’m coming to the organization — and that’s mutual. I feel all the love right now. It’s awesome.”

Simmonds revealed that he and wife Crystal agreed that if he ever got an opportunity to don the blue and white, he would pounce.

“It presented itself this year, and we jumped all over it,” said Simmonds, who turned down a heftier offer from the rival Montreal Canadiens in the process.

“They did offer me more money. But sometimes it’s not always about money. It’s about fit. It’s about your family.”

It’s also about timing.

Chatham, Ont., native T.J. Brodie nearly became a Maple Leaf during the 2019 off-season, when Dubas and Flames GM Brad Treliving took a stab at a Nazem Kadri trade, ultimately nixed by Kadri.

Yet a seed was planted, and, hey, it’s always nice to go where you’re wanted.

So, with Dubas chuckling that his Alex Pietrangelo bid was “not very close” and that his main focus in solving his right-side defensive hole was always Brodie, it came as relief — if not surprise — that Toronto inked the responsible 30-year-old defenceman to a four-year pact worth $20 million.

Same cap hit as projected partner Morgan Rielly ($5 million). Same term and limited trade protection as Jake Muzzin.

Brodie — a left shot comfortable playing his off-side since junior — brings fine underlying numbers and is content to play the safe foil to Rielly, if that how coach Sheldon Keefe deploys him.

“He’s a great player. He’s similar to [Mark Giordano]. He’s one of those guys who’s good at everything. He’s physical, he’s good defensively, offensively, and I just hope if I play with him that I make him better,” Brodie said.

Dubas has overseen the Maple Leafs free agency opening for three years now, and in each one he’s made noise. John Tavares. Tyson Barrie. Now Simmonds and Brodie.

You can accuse the GM of missing the mark with some of his decisions, but you can’t accuse him of sitting idle and not trying to address the Leafs’ weaknesses.

And even though these additions — plus the impending signings of RFAs Ilya Mikheyev and Travis Dermott — will elevate the Maple Leafs right to the cap ceiling, Dubas assured Friday night they have the ability to “dance” around it.

That not only can club cap guru Brandon Pridham make it all work, but Toronto may have one more bargain signing in the tank.

“If we could add somebody that maybe possesses a little bit more power and presence on the back end here in the coming days, we’d still like to do that,” Dubas said.

A long day, and a successful one.

The Maple Leafs addressed two glaring needs: the right side of the blue line and some Wayne Simmonds toughness in a town that was screaming for it.

“I’m from Toronto. There’s nothing that’s ever going to surprise me about this city. I know it inside and out,” said Simmonds, sounding inspired and at home.

“I’d say there’s going to be a few more scrums.”

Source:sportsnet.ca

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Daniel Jones Tackles Himself on 80-Yard Run – Sports Illustrated

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By the time Daniel Jones had reached the 50-yard line, Fox play-by-play man Joe Buck had seen enough.

“He is gone!” Buck shouted, and every piece of evidence supported this claim. Jones, who has good speed, was four yards ahead of the closest defender, and there were some Eagles pursuers who were already starting to ease up and let the inevitable happen.

And then, Jones’s worst nightmares came to life.

There’s been more than enough negativity to go around for the Giants this season, and this won’t be the space to add on to the pile. The play represented the longest rushing play by a quarterback since Marcus Mariota’s 87-yard touchdown scamper in Week 13 of 2015. It’s the fourth-longest run by a quarterback in league history, and it’s one yard longer than Saquon Barkley’s career high.

All’s well that ends well, and I’m pleased to report that the Giants scored a touchdown four plays later. Jones’s teammates didn’t wait that long to appreciate the humor of the moment, not even attempting to hide their laughter after Jones got too far ahead of his skis.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, whose career-long rush is a mere 28 yards, sympathized with Jones’ plight on Twitter:

Jones was already the team leader in rushing yards coming into Thursday’s game, and he’s widened the gap with his most recent graceful display. Eli Manning’s career long was just 18 yards, so Jones is well on his way to winning over the hearts of Giants fans for years to come.

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NHL postpones Winter Classic, All-Star Weekend for upcoming season – Sportsnet.ca

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The NHL has postponed the 2021 NHL Winter Classic and the 2021 NHL All-Star Weekend.

The Winter Classic was set to feature the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues at Minnesota’s Target Field on Jan. 1, 2021, while the Florida Panthers were set to host the 2021 All-Star Weekend at BB&T Center.

The postponements come “due to the ongoing uncertainty resulting from the coronavirus,” the league said via a statement, adding that it intends to return to Minnesota and Florida for these events in the future.

“Fan participation, both in arenas and stadiums as well as in the ancillary venues and events that we stage around the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, is integral to the success of our signature events,” NHL senior executive vice president and chief content officer Steve Mayer said via a release.

“Because of the uncertainty as to when we will be able to welcome our fans back to our games, we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022 when our fans should be able to enjoy and celebrate these tentpole events in-person, as they were always intended.

“We are also considering several new and creative events that will allow our fans to engage with our games and teams during this upcoming season.”

The league’s release added that the postponement announcement does not affect the NHL and NHLPA’s previously stated goal of starting the next NHL season on or around Jan. 1, 2021.

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Vikings trade Yannick Ngakoue to Ravens for multiple picks

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings traded defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens for draft picks on Thursday, less than two months after acquiring the fifth-year pass rusher in a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Ngakoue is tied for fourth in the NFL with five sacks in six games, including two forced fumbles, but the Vikings entered their bye week with a 1-5 record and thus more incentive to focus on the future than stay competitive in 2020.

“This was an opportunity that I felt would accomplish both the short and long term as we move forward, but these decisions aren’t easy to make,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said.

With Everson Griffen gone via free agency and Danielle Hunter injured since the beginning of training camp with a potentially season-ending neck injury, the Vikings on Aug. 31 sent a second-round draft pick in 2021 and a conditional fifth-round selection in 2022 for Ngakoue. He wanted to leave the Jaguars after accumulating 37 1/2 sacks in four years and called his arrival in Minnesota “a breath of fresh air.”

The Vikings have Ifeadi Odenigbo in place at defensive end, and fourth-round draft pick D.J. Wonnum will now be in line to start at the other spot.

“What you envision sometimes unfortunately doesn’t always come true,” Spielman said.

Minutes after Spielman’s previously scheduled video news conference with reporters, NFL Network reported Hunter has decided to have surgery. The Vikings were initially hoping he’d be able to return with rest and rehabilitation, and Spielman said acquiring Ngakoue was not related to Hunter’s injury. Since then, outside linebacker Anthony Barr was also lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle suffered on Sept. 20.

“You try to readjust with some of the top playmakers you don’t have, especially on the defensive side. That’s what the coaches are doing right now,” Spielman said.

With the trade deadline approaching on Nov. 3, the Vikings could try to trade some other high-priced veterans, with perhaps safety Anthony Harris, left tackle Riley Reiff or tight end Kyle Rudolph enticing another team to part with a draft pick or two. Spielman steadfastly refused to commit to a full-on rebuild.

“Our goal every week is to go out there and win football games. You have to balance out both. I still think we have a very talented team,” Spielman said.

The Vikings didn’t disclose specifics of the acquired draft selections. ESPN reported the Ravens will send a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick.

Both teams are on their bye week.

The Ravens (5-1) could use Ngakoue to enhance a pass rush that has been productive of late but could use the help. Despite getting seven sacks against Cincinnati two weeks ago, five of those came from defensive backs. Defensive end Calais Campbell was acquired via trade, also from Jacksonville, during the last off-season. He had three of Baltimore’s six sacks last week in a 30-28 win at Philadelphia, but Ngakoue ought to minimize the need to send extra rushers and allow the Ravens to generate more pressure from their front four, just as the Vikings were intending.

“A quarterback can’t throw the ball if he’s on his back. So, if you can’t get there with four, you send five. If you can’t get there with five, send six. That’s the way it goes,” pass defenceco-ordinator Chris Hewitt said.

The Ravens are fourth in the league in sacks per pass attempt.

“We are excited to add Yannick Ngakoue to our football team,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said. “Yannick is someone who we are very familiar with going back to the draft process years ago. He is an exciting player and a dangerous pass rusher who makes us better. Yannick grew up here. He’s the type of person we welcome in our building. Finally, we are not finished building this team, as we continue to chase our ultimate goals.”

Source: – Sportsnet.ca

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