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Toronto Maple Leafs sign winger Ilya Mikheyev to two-year deal

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TORONTO — The Maple Leafs have avoided an arbitration hearing on Wednesday with restricted free agent winger Ilya Mikheyev, settling instead on a two-year, $3.29 million contract extension Tuesday night.

Mikheyev had exercised his right for an arbitration hearing earlier this month after the Leafs extended a qualifying offer to the pending RFA but then failed to find common ground with his camp on a new extension. The 26-year-old had been looking for a one-year, $2.7 million deal from Toronto, while the Leafs initially countered with a two-year contract, averaging $1 million per season.

According to CapFriendly, the Leafs are now exceeding the NHL’s flat salary cap of $81.5 million, with RFA Travis Dermott still left to be signed. General manager Kyle Dubas said in a conference call on Sunday he was waiting for Mikheyev’s deal to be done before turning the team’s attention to Dermott. Toronto can be 10 per cent over the cap until the 2020-21 regular season begins, at a date still to be determined.

Mikheyev’s case was an especially interesting one to consider from both sides, given how the forward’s promising rookie season was cut short by a gruesome injury.

Never originally drafted by an NHL club, Mikheyev’s stock built slowly over four seasons in his native Russia with the KHL’s Omsk Avangard. By the end of his career-best 45-point campaign in 2018-19, several NHL clubs were making offers, but it was the Leafs who landed Mikheyev in May 2019 on a one-year, entry-level contract.

Starting out in a third-line role for the 2019-20 season, Mikheyev scored in his NHL debut, and put up seven points in his first 10 games. He continued to show versatility from there, able to play on either wing and hold his own in the top-six when necessary.

Mikheyev had amassed eight goals and 23 points in his first 39 games when his freshman year took a brutal turn. Facing the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 27, he suffered ligament damage when Jesper Bratt’s skate blade accidentally cut into his right wrist. The injury required surgery to repair and Mikheyev was not able to return before the NHL hit pause in March amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

He was back to full health for Toronto’s qualifying-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets in early August, but Mikheyev was ineffective and failed to register a single point through those five games, as the Leafs fell three games to two.

Despite that poor showing, Mikheyev’s speed, hockey sense and hard shot make him a valuable addition to the Leafs’ offence going forward and he projects to play in the top-six again next season.

Source:- TSN

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Alejandro Pozuelo reveals injury as Toronto FC focus on contending again in 2021 – MLSsoccer.com

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Even in a condensed season, with rotation aplenty as travel and fixture congestion forced MLS clubs to rely on the depth of their squads, Toronto FC talisman Alejandro Pozuelo started all 25 of his club’s matches in 2020. 

Pozuelo started the year on fire but didn’t quite live up to his lofty standards at the end of the season and failed to make an impact as Toronto lost to Nashville SC in Round One of the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. 

The finalist and favorite for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award revealed he was carrying an injury towards the end of the season. 

“Physically, I feel good but in the last games I had some problem in my leg,” Pozuelo told media on a virtual press conference. “The last two or three weeks I played through an injury but nobody knew because we tried to force through the last month. This is not an excuse. I play a lot of games because I want to play, I felt good enough to play. When I don’t feel good, I say no. But I felt good (enough to play).”

Pozuelo had just one goal and no assists in his final six games, including the playoff loss, after eight goals and 10 assists in the first 19 games of the season.

“The MVP (award) is not important for me,” Pozuelo said. “We lost in the first round, we don’t feel good. We know we could have done more, we have more expectations in this team. The MVP is not important, I feel no good when we lose in the first round.”

Toronto persevered a difficult season, most spent away from home. With difficulties between the United States-Canada border with quarantine guidelines brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto spent the second half of their season playing “at home” in Connecticut. A number of players noted how difficult it was to be away from families but didn’t want to blame that on their disappointment in the playoffs. 

“This season was tough for everybody, but we tried to do our job,” defender Chris Mavinga said. “It wasn’t easy but I think we did well. We didn’t do it in the playoffs, but we have to be proud what we did in the regular season, then learn from it so we can do better next season.”

Toronto are now focused on the offseason and returning strong in 2021. 

“I want to play on a good team, I want us to have as many good players as possible,” midfielder Michael Bradley said. “As many competitors as possible, a team that steps on the field and goes for it every single weekend. That’s all I want. When you look at the club’s track record in the types of players and personalities they’ve brought in, by and large, it’s been quite good.”



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Ravens-Steelers game moved again from Sunday to Tuesday – Sportsnet.ca

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NEW YORK — The Baltimore Ravens’ bout with a COVID-19 outbreak has forced the NFL to postpone the team’s trip to Pittsburgh for a second time.

The league announced Friday the Ravens (6-4) against the unbeaten Steelers (10-0) will now take place on Tuesday night. The game was originally scheduled for Thanksgiving, then moved to Sunday afternoon after an initial wave of players on the Ravens tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Additional positive tests, a group that reportedly includes Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson, have forced the Ravens (6-4) to prepare virtually all week.

The postponement forced the NFL to move Dallas’ visit to Baltimore next week from Thursday to Monday, Dec. 7. The unbeaten Steelers (10-0) will now have a short week to prepare for a visit from the Washington Football Team (4-7) on Dec. 6.

The game — if it happens — will be the second Tuesday game played in the NFL this season. Tennessee played at Buffalo on Tuesday, Oct. 13 following the Titans’ bout with COVID-19 in early October forced a reshuffling of the schedule that included moving Pittsburgh’s visit to Tennessee from Oct. 4 to Oct. 25.

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Washington Football Team deletes tweet mocking President Donald Trump – Yahoo Canada Sports

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The Canadian Press

Toronto FC ready to refocus on future as long, hard season comes to an end

One of Toronto FC’s biggest stars isn’t thinking about whether or not he’ll be named the league’s most valuable player this season. After all, while some other nominees are still fighting for Major League Soccer’s top prize, Alejandro Pozuelo and his teammates are already back home. “For me, the MVP, it’s not important,” the 29-year-old Spaniard said on a video call Friday. “I feel no good when we lose in the first round (of the playoffs).”Toronto appeared poised for a long playoff run after finishing the regular-season campaign with a 13-5-5 record, second best in the league. But the club’s year came to an abrupt end Tuesday when it lost 1-0 in overtime to expansion side Nashville SC in East Hartford, Conn.Three days later, the result is still “bitter,” and the players feel some guilt because they know they could have gone further, said goalkeeper Quentin Westberg. “It stays and it sticks and it’s going to be hard to wash off,” he said.The disappointing finish punctuated a long, hard season that saw Toronto’s players and staff face unprecedented challenges, from injuries and a condensed schedule to months spent on the road and games in empty stadiums. The uncertainty of 2020 has been difficult for everyone, said midfielder Jonathan Osorio, including professional athletes who saw seasons come to a screeching halt in March as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in North America. “You’re dealing with a lot of things that happen so quickly but so slowly at the same time,” he said. “It was tough.”TFC played just one game in front of fans at BMO Field before the hiatus. When play resumed, it was in a bubble near Orlando, Fla., with the MLS is Back tournament, followed by an all-Canadian nine-game series in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Then, in mid-September, border restrictions forced all three Canadian clubs to move south. TFC set up a temporary home in East Hartford.“You had to have a lot of patience this year, I think. It was tough,” Osorio said. “It was tough to get your body ready for games and then stop for long periods of times and then start again so quickly. An overall tough year for everybody.” A wave of injuries also impacted Toronto. Star striker Jozy Altidore and veteran defender Justin Morrow both missed time, and captain Michael Bradley was twice sidelined, first by an ankle injury and then by a knee sprain. Going through surgery, rehab and training was difficult, Bradley said.“It’s a frustrating year from a personal standpoint,” said the 33-year-old midfielder. “It was a crazy year. That’s not meant in any way to be an excuse. It’s just reality.”Pozuelo revealed Friday that he, too, had dealt with a leg injury through the final two or three weeks of the season. He did not detail the nature of the injury but said he and the club kept it quiet because he wanted to continue playing. “This is no excuse,” he said. “I play a lot of games because I want to play. And I feel good (to) play.”Pozuelo saw action in all 23 of Toronto’s regular-season games, and was on the field for the full 120 minutes of Tuesday’s playoff loss.He led TFC in scoring with nine goals and 10 assists, and was tied with two other players for most assists in MLS through the regular season. The MLS pandemic-condensed schedule, which saw most teams play two games a week, was hard on the athletes’ bodies, Pozuelo said.“In football, I learned that we cannot play every three or four days because we kill the players,” he said. “It’s difficult. It’s difficult to play every two, three, four days.”Now that the season has ended, Bradley is looking forward to training consistently and pushing himself physically. He said the off-season will be the first time all year that he’s been able to work out for more than four or five weeks in a row. “I feel good. I feel strong,” he said. The prospect of an indefinite off-season kept TFC centre back Omar Gonzalez up Thursday night. It’s hard to know how to prepare when you don’t know when you’ll play your next game, he explained. “We have to be ready to fight for another trophy at the beginning of the year, whenever it comes,” he said. “So we have to be ready. I want to be ready for my teammates, for my team.” After everything the club went through in 2020, being ousted from the playoffs in the first round hurts, Gonzalez said, particularly because TFC is a club that sets its standards high. But he hopes the season of adversity will hold some lessons moving forward. “It’s definitely a year that we’ll look back on and take a lot from,” Gonzalez said. “Because I think we have a lot of strong people on this team. And I think there’ll be a lot of growth from this year.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020.Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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