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Under Further Review – This week, we chronicle the Canucks unpredictable spending habits, look back at NHL free agency, the state of the Raptors following Kawhi’s departure and a glimpse at the Blue Jays bright future. Please note, we will return on July 27 following a brief summer vacation. 

Drunken Sailors – The Canucks spending habits remind me of the person who can’t drive by a shopping mall without stopping and pulling out the credit card. Tap out one card, just get another one. Don’t worry about tomorrow if you can satisfy your urges today!

The Canucks can’t seem to get by July 1 without draining Francesco’s bank account. This is how people end up bankrupt. Six years for Eriksson – no problem! Five years for Myers – not to worry! Four years for Beagle and Roussel and Ferland. Throw it all on the credit card and worry about the salary cap ramifications later.

There is real debate over the value of Ferland because there is a question over whether he is a legit top-six forward.  We already know the Canucks have a glut of overpaid bottom-six forwards.  What are they getting in Ferland? Is he a perennial 20-goal scorer or the guy who had only four goals over his last 34 games with the Hurricanes? Will his production slip as he advances through his new four-year deal? You can question the term of the contract if not the dollars which, at $3.5 per season, seems fair on the surface. Most importantly, at 6’1” and 216 pounds, Ferland brings an element the Canucks have in short supply and that’s ‘bite’. He’s the hammer in the toolbox who can dominate below the hashmarks and along the boards.

Free Agency Fall-out – Did you notice the change in NHL free agency this year? There were far less long-term contracts handed out during a frenzied July 1. Many veterans signed short-term deals not wanting to get left out in the cold. Wayne Simmonds was probably expecting a big payday but ended up signing a one-year, $5 million dollar deal with New Jersey. It may be because so many teams are cash-strapped but it may have more to do with the lessons learned from past free agency.

Case in point, the summer of 2016! That was the summer when money flew around carelessly and the fall-out is still being felt. Milan Lucic and Kyle Okposo both signed seven-year deals for $42 million. Andrew Ladd signed with the Islanders for six years and $38.5 million. Canucks fans are familiar with the Louis Eriksson deal, six years and $36 million. David Backes signed with Boston for five years and $30 million. All have become millstones for the teams that signed them. If ever there was a lesson to be learned, it was then. Giving term to veteran players is a very dangerous game and it appears as though NHL teams have taken note.

A Nation Mourns – In the aftermath of Kawhi Leonard’s exodus from Toronto, Raptors fans were left to mourn. But upon further reflection, we kind of knew what we had signed up for last summer – that it could be a short stay in Toronto for the enigmatic one. When Masai Ujiri traded for Kawhi, we all knew it was a huge gamble.

No one can erase the fact Kawhi’s Raptors tenure, however brief, ended with Canada’s first NBA championship. Yes, it hurts that he won’t be staying in Toronto but we all knew his heart was in LA where he grew up and where he still calls home. It’s not like the Raptors didn’t do everything in their power to convince Kawhi to stay. They absolutely catered to the guy throughout the year. Should we be concerned that every star who has worn a Raptors uniform has ultimately wanted out?  Yes, absolutely. Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh all made hasty exits when the first opportunity arose. But there is no use crying over it. If players can’t embrace playing in Canada, then they are pretty small-minded to begin with.

I would prefer to take the view that Masai and the Raptors organization are actually now highly respected around the league. Ujiri and the Raptors showed extraordinary class throughout the process and if players around the NBA didn’t take notice, then they are not paying attention. I can’t imagine there’s a player in the league who doesn’t think the Raptors are a first class organization run by people of the highest quality.

In the bigger picture, the NBA should be ashamed at how the league conducts its business. The Clippers made no secret of their interest in Leonard throughout the year, sending representatives to Raptors games as a demonstration of their interest. Raptors officials complained to the league about what was obvious overt tampering yet nothing was done. And don’t forget, Clippers coach Doc Rivers was fined $50,000 for comments on television comparing Leonard to Michael Jordan.

In the end, Kawhi just felt more comfortable returning to LA. Had he stayed, he could have been $50 million richer, could have defended a world title and could have cemented a love affair with an entire nation but hey – it was always an LA story. When the dust settled, if it meant surrendering a bounty of players and draft picks to complete a trade for Paul George in a last-ditch effort to keep Kawhi, then Ujiri made the right call. To surrender Pascal Siakam, Fred Van Vleet and four first round picks to acquire George would have been lunacy. The Clippers ultimately traded Canadian Shae Gilgeous-Alexander and forward Danilo Gallinari along with five first round picks, four of them unprotected, to acquire Paul George, a deal that you would imagine they will one day regret.

The good news for Raptor fans is that Masai Ujiri has constructed the roster for a quick pivot.  Only two players on the roster are signed for 2020-2021, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell.  The Raptors have all their first round picks and are not saddled with any bad, long-term contracts so Ujiri has a clean slate to rebuild the team. One thing I would like to see happen is for the Raptors to start targeting Canadian-born NBA players and start to bring them back home to Toronto where they will no doubt embrace playing in Canada.

The big target in two years is Milwaukee star and NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. He has a deep connection to Ujiri who was largely responsible for getting Giannis and his family out of Nigeria and into Greece.  He wouldn’t be the ‘Greek Freak’ without Masai. Antetokounmpo signed a four-year, $100 million dollar deal with the Bucks at just 22. There are no big names on the free agent market next summer so he will be the big fish in 2021 and don’t think Masai isn’t thinking about it. The Raptors will definitely have the resources and the cap space to lure him to Toronto. Dare to dream?

Blue Jays Rising – The Blue Jays are on their way to one of their worst seasons in franchise history.  They’re on pace for 100 losses for the first time since ‘79 but as the kids arrive, their season is still worth watching because there are lots of good storylines developing.

Bob Bichette is the next building block set to arrive in Toronto and become part of the Jays exciting young core. Since returning from a broken hand, Bichette has hit .361 with four home runs at Triple-A Buffalo. We could see a glimpse of the future soon with Vlad Guerrero Jr. at third, Bichette at short and Cavan Biggio at second although I still think Bichette will ultimately settle in at second.

Vladdy Jr. hit a total of 91 home runs at the MLB All-Star Game home-run hitting contest, missing winning the title by one home run. He’s hit eight home runs in 61 games so far which is below projections but you can’t underscore the need for adjustment at the major league level.

The Blue Jays have used 26 pitchers so far this season.  More are likely headed out the door at the trade deadline depending on the market for Ken Giles, Daniel Hudson, David Phelps and others. Marcus Stroman is the Jays big trade chip.  I wonder if there’s not a potential landing spot in Atlanta.  Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos is now running the show there and he drafted Stroman in the first round back in 2012.

Class It Up – I don’t know about you but I’ve seen enough of Megan Rapinoe.  Can she just go away? The US Women’s World Cup soccer team is a polarizing crew at the best of times but Rapinoe, the team captain, has had more than her 15 minutes of fame. She’s even been sparing with Donald Trump on Twitter. Can you just not win with class?

Congratulations Jordan & Ellie – Under Further Review was late arriving this week because of work commitments and more importantly, the wedding of my nephew on Saturday. My nephew Jordan Moss was married on Saturday to his lovely new bride Ellie Dean.  Congratulations to Jordan and Ellie on their wedding day!  They are going to make a lovely couple and I wish them nothing but good health, happiness and fulfillment in their life together. Jordie and I have always had a special relationship and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

Jeff and Joss – We leave you this week with an absolutely killer video.  It’s Jeff Beck with Joss Stone and an amazing rendition of the classic “People Get Ready.”