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Stu Cowan: Kraken face bigger risk than Canadiens with Carey Price – Montreal Gazette

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Goalie’s health and inconsistent play over last couple of seasons must be a bigger concern to Seattle expansion team than his contract.

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There are some who will say Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin is taking a big risk by not protecting Carey Price for Wednesday’s NHL expansion draft (8 p.m., SN1, TVA Sports 2) for the Seattle Kraken.

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But the bigger risk is on the Kraken if the team decides to take the 33-year-old goalie who has five more seasons remaining on his eight-year, US$84-million contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $10.5 million.

It’s the contract Bergevin isn’t protecting more than the goalie after Price agreed to waive his no-movement clause for the expansion draft. It’s similar to the situation the Nashville Predators were in when they traded Shea Weber to the Canadiens five years ago in exchange for P.K. Subban. Predators GM David Poile was trading the last 10 years of Weber’s contract — a 14-year, US$114-million deal with an annual salary-cap hit of $7.857 million — more than he was trading his captain.

Poile was forced to match the ridiculous offer sheet the Philadelphia Flyers gave Weber in summer 2012 in order to keep him in Nashville. But the day the Predators GM matched the offer was also probably the day he realized he would eventually have to trade Weber’s contract.

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The Canadiens have Price’s and Weber’s contracts for the next five seasons eating up $18.375 million of a flat NHL salary cap of $81.5 million. That works out to 23 per cent of the team’s payroll.

But that could change before next season with the possibility of the Kraken taking Price and his contract, and reports Weber could miss next season — and possibly longer — because of wrist, foot, ankle and knee injuries. It also looks like the Canadiens will lose Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar to free agency and it’s hard to imagine Jonathan Drouin playing in Montreal again.

Bergevin could have a ton of cash to go free-agent shopping when the market opens next Wednesday and the Canadiens could be a much different team next season.

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Nobody forced Bergevin to sign Price to his $84-million deal, but it’s a contract he probably wouldn’t mind getting rid of and the expansion draft is probably his last chance. It’s hard to imagine Price waiving his no-movement clause if his next possible destination wasn’t Seattle, which is closer to his off-season home in Kelowna, B.C., and the home of his wife’s family in Kennewick, Wash.

  1. Canadiens' Yannick Weber in 2012.

    Former Canadien Yannick Weber retiring from NHL after 13 seasons

  2. Canadiens goalie Carey Price's off-season home is in Kelowna, B.C., and his wife, Angela, is from Kennewick, Wash., which is only 300 kilometres southeast of Seattle. It was in Kennewick that Price met Angela while playing junior for the Tri-City Americans.

    Cowan: Carey Price’s future is the big question in Montreal and Seattle

  3. “In general it’s a laid-back atmosphere out here,” says Seattle Times writer Geoff Baker, shown here on the balcony of his home.

    Seattle looks like a nice place to live for players selected by Kraken

  4. Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin watches during NHL playoff action against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Montreal on Monday, May 24, 2021.

    Todd: No respite for Montreal Canadiens as frenzied offseason begins

  5. None

    Tight-knit Canadiens take huge step in right direction | HI/O Show

The Kraken are starting from scratch and as a result are probably the only team that can afford a salary-cap hit of $10.5 million for a goalie for the next five seasons because they don’t have any other big contracts they’re stuck with and can build their team around Price. At this point, Price’s health and inconsistent play during the last couple of seasons must be a bigger concern to the Kraken than his contract. There have been reports Price has a knee problem that might require surgery and that he also has a hip issue. After being fired as Canadiens goalie coach this season, Stéphane Waite spoke about Price having a history of knee, hip and back issues that he has had to learn to play through.

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If the Canadiens lose Price to Seattle, Bergevin would have to find another experienced goalie to share the duties with Jake Allen because it appears Cayden Primeau needs at least one more full season with the AHL’s Laval Rocket.

One of the goalies who could be available on the free-agent market is Jonathan Bernier, who had a 9-11-1 record with a 2.99 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage on a bad Detroit Red Wings team this season. The 32-year-old, who had a $3-million salary-cap hit in Detroit, had made at least 30 starts in each of his previous seven full NHL seasons. If the Canadiens lose Danault and Drouin, you have to think Bergevin will be under pressure to have at least one francophone on the team next season and Bernier would help fill that void. Other goalies who could be available as free agents include Frederik Andersen and Jaroslav Halak (remember him?).

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In Seattle, Price would immediately become the face of the franchise, like goalie Marc-André Fleury was for the Vegas Golden Knights after they selected him from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the last expansion draft in 2017. Of course, Fleury is a lot better dealing with the media than Price — a man of very few words at the best of times — and did an impressive job selling the Golden Knights on and off the ice after arriving in Las Vegas.

As for the Canadiens, leaving Price unprotected is sort of a win-win situation for Bergevin. If Seattle doesn’t take him, Price and Allen will be back together next season and Bergevin will hope Price can maintain the form he showed in the playoffs and stay somewhat healthy for the next five years. If Seattle takes Price, Bergevin gets rid of a massive contract and can spend money to fill holes at other positions while changing the look of his team.

One thing that must be in the back of Bergevin’s mind, however, is something an NHL scout once told me.

“You don’t really appreciate elite goaltending until it’s gone.”

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

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Blue Jays pay huge price to acquire Jose Berrios from Minnesota Twins – Jays Journal

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The Toronto Blue Jays made major headlines earlier today, acquiring starting pitcher Jose Berrios in exchange for top prospects SS/OF Austin Martin and RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson.

Berrios has been on the Blue Jays radar for quite some time, with the organization linked to the Twins starting pitcher for most of the season. This season, the Puerto Rico product has amassed a 3.48 ERA through 20 starts while striking out 126 batters to 32 walks. He also boasts a 1.04 WHIP on the season and is under team control until the end of next year.

He is a legit top-of-rotation arm who will slide in nicely beside current ace Hyun Jin Ryu, standout left-hander Robbie Ray, and rookie Alek Manoah as the Blue Jays attempt to make up ground in the AL East and shoot for a spot in the postseason.

The Toronto Blue Jays have traded two top prospects in Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson in exchange for starting pitcher Jose Berrios from the Minnesota Twins, a high price to pay for a top of the rotation arm.

As per MLB Pipeline, Martin was ranked #2 and SWR was ranked at #4 within the Blue Jays organization, with both players also ranking within the top 100 prospects in baseball at #16 and #68 respectively.

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Martin was the Blue Jays top pick in last year’s COVID shortened draft and has been cruising in AA this year after a rocky start. He currently owns a .281/.424/.383 through 196 at-bats with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats while also contributing two home runs and 16 RBI through the same time span. He was the team’s lone representative at the Future’s Game earlier this month and did miss some time on the injured list earlier this season.

Woods-Richardson was the Blue Jays’ second top-ranked prospect behind Nate Pearson and was also in AA with the Fisher Cats. After a strong start to the campaign, the right-hander has fallen on hard times and now sports a 5.76 ERA through 45.1 innings and 11 starts with 67 strikeouts and 26 walks. He is currently with the United States national team as they compete at the Tokyo Olympics.

I have been pretty open about how I think the Blue Jays should acquire Jose Berrios to bolster this club’s starting rotation but can honestly say I am shocked that the organization was willing to give up two top prospects like Martin and SWR to get the deal done.

Looking at other deadline deals over the past few days, it does appear at first glance that the Blue Jays may have overpaid for Berrios and quite a few people will agree/disagree with the trade when the dust finally settles later this afternoon. Berrios does have the pedigree to be a top arm in the rotation and is under contract for another season, which is why the Blue Jays had to sacrifice a few top prospects to get the deal done.

For those of you who follow prospects and the Jays farm system, this deal hurts in that Martin and SWR could potentially be key contributors at the major league level in the near distant future. With this trade, it appears that the front office appears confident in Pearson and fellow infield prospect Jordan Groshans has the potential to be major league starters, making both Martin and SWR expendable for trades.

Does this seem like an overpay? Sure it does, as both players heading to the Twins are most likely going to be major league contributors within the next few years but for veteran arms who can impact the rotation, it makes sense why the club was forced to send Martin and SWR.

What this trade does is solidifies the notion that the Blue Jays are ready to compete over the next two seasons with the current core to try and run for a World Series Championship. Berrios helps with that goal in the now and the Jays still do have some top prospects coming up through the pipeline like Gabriel Moreno and Orelvis Martinez, both of whom could easily be major league contributors in their own right within the next few years alongside Pearson and Groshans.

Some will agree, some will disagree but this trade does help the current roster and does give the Blue Jays a better shot at securing a spot in the postseason, whether you believe it is an overpay or not.

What are your thoughts Blue Jays fans?

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Tokyo’s daily COVID cases hit record high during Olympics – Al Jazeera English

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New infections in Tokyo surged to a record high of 4,058, a day after Japan decided to extend states of emergency.

Newly reported COVID-19 cases in Olympic host city Tokyo surged to a record high of 4,058 on Saturday, exceeding the 4,000-mark for the first time and overshadowing the Summer Games.

Nationwide cases totalled 12,341 as of 6:30pm (09:30 GMT), public broadcaster NHK said, the highest for Japan and up 15 percent on the day, underscoring a rapid rise in infections across the country.

The new records come a day after Japan decided to extend states of emergency to three prefectures near Olympic host Tokyo and the western prefecture of Osaka to the end of August in light of the recent spike in infections.

Emergency measures will remain until after the Olympics and well into the Paralympic Games which start on August 24.

Amid intensifying concerns, Tokyo Olympics organisers said on Saturday they had revoked the accreditation of games-related people for leaving the athletes’ village for sightseeing, a violation of measures imposed to hold the Olympics safely amid the pandemic.

The organisers did not disclose how many people had their accreditation revoked, whether they were athletes, or when the violation took place.

This is the first time accreditation has been revoked since the start of the Tokyo Olympics on July 23. Without it, a person cannot enter any Olympic facilities.

Residents of the athletes’ village are not allowed to go out for purposes not related to games, such as sightseeing.

Meanwhile, officials have warned Tokyo’s daily infections may hit 4,500 within two weeks.

The government’s top coronavirus adviser has also warned against overburdening the health system in light of the rapid increase in the number of infections and the spread of the Delta variant.

The Japanese government is relying on the cooperation of the population. Hard curfews have never been imposed in Japan since the beginning of the pandemic.

The government has repeatedly urged citizens to stay at home and watch the Olympic Games on TV. In addition, an appeal has been made to younger people to get vaccinated against the virus, as most Japanese aged above 65 have already been inoculated.

The country has kept its cases and deaths lower than many other countries, but its seven-day rolling average is growing and now stands at 28 per 100,000 people nationwide and 88 per 100,000 in Tokyo, according to the health ministry.

This compares with 18.5 in the United States, 48 in Britain and 2.8 in India, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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Maple Leafs sign Nick Ritchie to toughen roster – Toronto Sun

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The Maple Leafs continue another attempt to toughen up for the playoffs by adding some muscle to their Core Four.

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Latest to come aboard Saturday morning was UFA left winger Nick Ritchie, whose return to his GTA birthplace has long been rumoured. The former Boston Bruin signed for two years with an AAV of $2.5 million US and could possibly fill the Zach Hyman vacancy on the first line.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Ritchie had 26 points in 56 regular season games with Boston, for which he played 19 post-season games in two years. That alone would give him seniority on a Toronto team that has stalled in the first round five straight springs.

Ritchie also did well with his draft team, the Anaheim Ducks, taken 10th overall in the 2014, two spots behind William Nylander, one of the Leafs’ centrepieces whose large salaries have prevented more well-known UFAs from fitting under Toronto’s cap.

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Speaking of that, the Ritchie signing and that of forward Ondrej Kase late Friday night puts the club over $81.5 million, but that’s allowable in the off-season. Ritchie joins Michael Bunting and Kurtis Gabriel among a number of budget signings of players who general manager Kyle Dubas hopes will show a passion through 82 regular games and into playoffs.

The additions of Wayne Simmonds and Joe Thornton last season clearly were not enough. Ritchie has a high penalty minutes total and a couple of league suspensions, but rarely crosses the line. Primarily groomed with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL, he spent a final junior year with Dubas’s beloved Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, showing the Soo Flu permeating the Leafs’ roster and hockey office shows no signs of abating.

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In six NHL seasons between the Bruins and Ducks, Orangeville native Ritchie has 137 points in 350 regular season games and appeared in 38 playoff contests. He was also on Canada’s 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship squad. Older brother Brett is with the Calgary Flames.

In a Zoom call with the media, Ritchie said once he wasn’t qualified by Boston and unexpectedly found himself on the market, a Leafs deal came together quickly.

“I got to talk to some teams, but definitely the lure of Toronto, how good of a team they have and being from here was part of the decision. It’s a dream to play for a hometown team.

“Knowing (Dubas and Soo coach Sheldon Keefe) made things more comfortable. Lots of teams were interested, but I chose what I thought was the best team and best fit at this stage of my career. You want to play with good players and there’s lots on the Leafs. I’ll have a good summer (training) and see where the chips fall (with a regular line).

“This has been a great team for a few years, I know they have not got the reward of winning a close series. Sometimes in hockey, that’s the way it goes. You have to lose a few times before you get over that hump and it’s at that point now that the team is ready to take that next step. Hopefully I can help.”

lhornby@postmedia.com

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