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What Canadiens signing Corey Perry says about team’s depth in 2021 –



MONTREAL — You have to think Corey Perry could’ve taken a smidgen more than the league minimum to play just about anywhere. Coming off a run to the Stanley Cup Final with the Dallas Stars, over which he scored five goals and nine points in 27 games and fully lived up to his reputation of being about as fun to face as a mallet with blades, few teams would blink at bringing in a six-foot-three Cup winner with over 1000 games of experience as a depth option.

That Perry chose to sign a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Montreal Canadiens on Monday certainly says something about the stagnation of the salary cap butchering the market possibilities for lower-priority free agents, but it says much more about how far the team has come since the 2019-20 season was paused back in March.

Perry’s older at 35 — a battle-hardened, bruised-but-not-broken type who can only be interested in one thing at this stage of his career. And after earning over $85 million since he was drafted 28th overall by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks — as they were known — in 2003, it ain’t the money.

This is about the Cup, which Perry must believe he can win with the Canadiens.

And maybe that’s to do with what they showed in the Toronto bubble in August — beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games of the play-in round before giving the Philadelphia Flyers a legitimate scare in a six-game loss in the first round of the playoffs.

Or maybe it’s about everything that’s happened since.

The Canadiens have become bigger, meaner and far more seasoned. They’ve added scoring, grit and size with Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson, defensive depth, grit and size with Joel Edmundson and Alexander Romanov, and a 30-year-old backup goaltender coming off the best season of his career in Jake Allen.

Michael Frolik, a cagey vet of 850 games, signed on last week.

That’s four Stanley Cup winners (Toffoli, Edmundson, Allen and Frolik) coming to a team that previously had none.

And now it’s five with Perry.

“At 750K? I like it,” said a Western Conference executive we touched base with just minutes after the news dropped on Monday. “I really like it.”

For the Canadiens, it’s a no-brainer.

They wanted Wayne Simmonds, a 32-year-old with a near identical playing profile to Perry; a player who’s dropped off considerably from the one who consistently topped 25 goals but one who still brings size, edge, character and depth scoring. Bergevin even confirmed they offered Simmonds more money than the $1.5 million he took to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 9.

You have to think the Montreal GM is thrilled to land Perry, a one-time 50 goal scorer and Hart Trophy winner, for less than half the price.

The Western Conference executive we spoke with said he should be.

“I would take Corey Perry before I’d take Wayne Simmonds,” he started. “He’s obviously not the player he used to be — neither of them are — but he’s good on the walls and getting pucks out, and with the way Montreal plays, he’s going to be a good fit.

“He was outstanding in the playoffs. He’s not a guy that’s going to carry from one end to the other, but once he’s in the zone, he’s a useful guy. He’s a good defensive player, too, so you’re not worried that you’re going to get scored on. He’s also coming from Dallas’s system, so he’ll be polished that way.”

Will Perry be an everyday player for the Canadiens? Maybe not.

Perhaps the more pertinent question is: Does he even need to be one?

Last year’s Canadiens would’ve needed to use the Peterborough, Ont., native in their top-nine. This edition can afford to rest him on the second night of back-to-backs knowing that the fresher they keep him, the better he’ll be when it matters most.

Bergevin has secured the type of depth the Canadiens need in order to believe they’ll be playing when it matters most. It’s the type of depth you need in any season, but especially in one where his team is in a 56-game sprint to the playoffs and playing exclusively against six other teams in an uber-competitive division.

You’re going to need quality players rotating in and out at the bottom end of your lineup; quality players who can step up in case of injuries or a COVID-19 rash; quality players who can handle the playoff-style games this season is going to feature. The Canadiens suddenly have two more of them than they did at this time last week.

Prior to Perry and Frolik signing, you could’ve penciled two potential 20 goals scorers in Paul Byron and Joel Armia onto their fourth line. They’re players who could move up the lineup when injuries hit but players that could also rotate out for Perry or Frolik on any given night if the team is fully healthy.

“Perry’s a gamer,” said the executive. “He’ll want to play every night.”

The Canadiens wouldn’t have looked his way if that wasn’t the case. It’s that competitiveness they’re buying.

And Perry wouldn’t have signed with the Canadiens if they were still a team that could guarantee him a spot his play no longer merits.

The expectations are aligned, and they’re much higher than they have been in the make-the-playoffs-and-see-what-happens era of the Canadiens.

They’ve gone from habitually not spending anywhere close to the cap over the last three years to surpassing it by over a million dollars coming into this one — a problem that doesn’t really require a corresponding move to solve, at least not beyond placing Jordan Weal, Xavier Ouellet and any other combination of players on their four-to-six-man taxi squad.

“We have a team that should make the playoffs, I can tell you that,” said Canadiens owner Geoff Molson in an interview with Sportsnet towards the end of October. “And I think the team and the organization and the fans would be extremely disappointed if we didn’t. I think we’ve gotten to the point where we can. So, with that in mind, it would be disappointing if we didn’t.”

When Molson made those comments, the Canadiens looked like a team that could do some damage if/when they get there. They are even more so now with Perry in the fold.

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Sinclair to lead Canadian women’s team in her fourth Olympics



Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder, was named to her fourth Olympic squad on Wednesday and will headline a Canadian roster at the Tokyo Games that features a mix of veterans and youth.

Led by Sinclair, whose 186 goals for her country are the most by a female or male soccer player worldwide, Canada won medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to make the podium in both competitions.

“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help take this team back to the podium and make history again,” said Canadian captain Sinclair. “Our team is in a good spot, we are excited, we are hungry and we are ready to go.”

The 18-player roster features 12 members of the squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games while a quintet including Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, Adriana Leon, and Evelyne Viens will be making their Olympic debuts.

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan travelled to Rio in 2016 as an alternate.

Canada will kick off their Tokyo 2020 journey when they face Japan on July 21 and continue Group E play against Chile on July 24 and Britain on July 27.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?



It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.

Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.

Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?

Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.

Jevon Holland

The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.

A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.

He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.

The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.

Benjamin St-Juste

When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.

Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.

The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.

Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.

Chuba Hubbard

The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.

It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.

With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s



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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