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Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Co-Editor Bill Morphy and contributions Jordan Moss and Bill Myles. It’s a mad scramble in the NHL this weekend as the Kraken get crackin’. The week ahead should be just as wacky. We have all the news and views plus a dual Canadian threat at the Open. 

The Roster Freeze – NHL rosters were frozen on Saturday afternoon in advance of the expansion draft. The protection lists will be unveiled on Sunday. The Seattle Kraken will then have a few days to go over their options before revealing their roster on Wednesday afternoon. Judging by all the activity around the NHL on Saturday, it appears as though teams were more intent on dealing amongst themselves rather than throwing Seattle any bones. A big departure from what we saw when Vegas entered the league. 

Think about this for a moment. When the Kraken complete their expansion draft, they will instantly have a deeper roster than a majority of NHL teams including the Canucks. They could make as many as 30 selections and players 20-30 will certainly be better than most organizations. There is no chance that players 20 through 30 on the Canucks depth chart will be anywhere near as good. Right from the get-go, the Kraken should have a deeper roster. Their goaltending depth will certainly be better and they should have an incredibly deep pool of defencemen. The forward group may lack punch but the team is sure to be competitive right out of the gate with a treasure chest of tradeable assets.

Searching for Answers – If you are a Canucks fan and anything like me, you are probably still incredulous that Jim Benning remains at the controls. Now, heading into his eighth year as Canucks GM, Benning is staring at a lengthy to-do list. He’s feeling the heat to make the playoffs next season and you cringe at what might come next. Would he be foolish enough to deal the ninth pick in the upcoming entry draft? When people said they should take away his cellphone on July 1, it was because no one overspent in free agency more than Jim Bob. With few protection concerns, the Seattle expansion draft offered the Canucks a monumental opportunity to grab some talent. On Saturday afternoon, just before the roster freeze, the Canucks acquired forward Jason Dickinson from Dallas in exchange for a third-round pick in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. Benning believes Dickinson can fit in on the third line either on left wing or at centre. He’s 26 years old and has the kind of defensive awareness the Canucks sorely need. Dickinson also comes in a large package at 6-2, 200 pounds, something the Canucks need a lot more of. Give that move a B+.

What’s the Latest? – There’s been plenty of speculation out there the past few days. Here’s what we know right now.

  • The agent for Alex Edler says the veteran defenceman will hit the open market and test free agency. If Edler is now willing to leave Vancouver, why wouldn’t he have agreed to waive his no-movement clause when the team was in a full-blown rebuild so they could recoup an asset? I guess loyalty is just a one-way street. The Canucks paid him handsomely for years but yet he now wants to grab the best deal out there. Maybe he can go join his buddies in Calgary and miss the playoffs there. Whether its contract posturing or not, losing Edler would be one more body blow in the ever-expanding list of poor management decisions. In the span of two summers, they would have lost their top three defensive assets in Markstrom, Tanev and Edler with absolutely nothing to show in return. How can you build a Cup contender when you continually fail to maximize your assets at the trade deadline? Edler has represented a tradeable asset for several years now, yet nothing ever got done.
  • Travis Hamonic is likely headed to free agency as well. The Canucks have not been able to get anything done with the veteran defenceman. If Hamonic departs, the Canucks defence corps will be in complete shambles. It might be time to start think about moving Brock Boeser for a solid, young defenceman. At some point, the Canucks are going to have to address what has to be considered one of the worst bluelines in the league.
  • The Canucks had no issues with their protection list so they were working the phones feverishly ahead of Saturday’s roster freeze. They were said to be in on several other deals that were completed including the trade that sent defenceman Ryan Graves to New Jersey. Avs GM Joe Sakic probably preferred to send him east.
  • Goaltender Braden Holtby will be exposed in the expansion draft and don’t be surprised if the Kraken decide to select him even if the Canucks refuse to offer a sweetener. A couple of teams have expressed interest in Holtby despite carrying a $4.3 million dollar cap hit. He’s also owed $5.7 in actual salary this season.
  • The Canucks checked in on Leafs UFA Zach Hyman after Toronto gave him permission to explore the market. The Canucks have genuine interest but should they be looking at a 29-year-old forward who’s seeking a long-term deal? Don’t see how he fits into their competitive window.
  • The Canucks are desperately fishing around for answers in their bottom six forward group. It looks like they will bring back Jay Beagle to fill the fourth-line role.
  • There’s no rush to exercise a buy-out on Jake Virtanen. The Canucks have until July 27 and they will probably wait until the last minute before they make a decision.

Forward Thinking – The Canucks have holes all over their lineup. It’s not as though their issues are a quick fix. Ideally, they could use three or four cost-efficient forwards. Hopefully, with some size and grit. Here’s a look at some middle and bottom-six forwards who would be worth targeting depending on how effective the Canucks are in opening additional cap space.

  • UFA forwards Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman fit the mold of what the Canucks should be targeting. Goodrow’s negotiating rights were sent from Tampa to the Rangers so he’s probably not going to be available. Coleman is not as big but he’s a very effective grinder.
  • The Canucks should be looking around for a tough guy. Something they haven’t had in their lineup in years. There have been too many instances where teams have taken liberties. San Jose’s Kurtis Gabriel is a UFA. At 6-4, 200 pounds, he’s no shrinking violet. He played for the league minimum last season and should come reasonable cheap.
  • Casey Cizikas of the Islanders is an outstanding checking centre. He’s now 30 and coming off the final year of a deal that paid him $3.35 million. Cizikas is a big part of the Islanders success and in all likelihood will resign there.
  • Nazem Kadri is also 30 and has one more year left at $4.5 million before hitting free agency. Colorado is facing mounting cap issues and there’s a chance they might move Kadri to free up space. Kadri would be a massive catch despite all the suspensions.
  • There are two forwards with Carolina who should be of interest. Jordan Martinook is a 28-year-old UFA who spent two years with the Vancouver Giants in the WHL. He’s one of the Hurricanes alternate captains. Martinook doesn’t score a lot but he bangs and would strengthen the bottom six.
  • Warren Foegele is only 25 and a pending RFA. He’s got good size at 6-2, 198 pounds. Foegele had 10 goals in 53 games last season. He made $2.15 million and will be seeking a lot more in arbitration.
  • The Canadiens Joel Armia is a UFA coming off a deal that paid him $2.6 million. Armia was very effective for Montreal in the playoffs and should garner plenty of interest around the league. He’s 6-4, 215 pounds and the Canucks could use his ability to crash the net.
  • Now that the Canucks have acquired Jason Dickinson, they are probably satisfied with their centre ice group. If Beagle’s medical status remains in question, they could look at veteran centres Riley Nash, Sean Kuraly and Tyler Bozek who are all unrestricted free agents.

NHL Notebook – Several veterans agreed to waive their NMC (No-Movement Clauses) in advance of the roster freeze.  Late Saturday, the Canadiens announced that Carey Price has waived his NMC in order for the Habs to protect goalie Jake Allen. The Canadiens are banking that the price is (not) right. He has five years to go at over $10 million per. Erik Johnson did Colorado a big solid when he agreed to waive his NMC. Ben Bishop waived his no-movement clause in Dallas. Tampa reportedly did not ask Steven Stamkos to waive. He’s signed through 2023-2024 at $8.5 million per season. The Winnipeg Jets could have avoided losing a valuable body in the expansion draft had they approached Captain Blake Wheeler. He’s got three more years on a deal that pays $8.25 million a year. What’s reported and what happens behind closed doors are two different things entirely but I’m surprised Stamkos and Wheeler were not approached.  

Shea Weber’s future with the Montreal Canadiens is very much in doubt. He may be forced to retire following reports that foot and ankle problems are threatening his career. Weber had surgery to repair tendons in the ankle in March, 2018 and the problems have persisted. He played this year’s playoff with a badly injured thumb. Weber has five seasons remaining with an AAV of $7,857,143 on a contract signed when he played in Nashville. The deal was heavily front-loaded. If Weber is forced to retire, the Predators would have a “cap recapture” penalty of slightly more than $4.9M per season through 2025-26. Ouch!

How can you not admire how Lou Lamoriello operates? Knowing he would lose Nick Leddy in the expansion draft, Lamoriello cuts a deal with Detroit and sheds Leddy’s cap hit. He then deals several picks to Arizona to rid the Islanders of the final two years of Andrew Ladd’s contract.  Bingo, almost $10 million in cap space. That’s what a decisive GM does! Watch Lou go after Ryan Suter to replace Leddy.  He may even make it an exactor and grab Zach Parise at the same time. Parise captained the Devils when they reached the Cup final under Lamoriello in 2012.

Oilers GM Ken Holland has been under heavy fire after consummating a deal with Chicago for veteran defenceman Duncan Keith. The Oilers acquired Keith and forward prospect Tim Soderlund for defenceman Caleb Jones and a conditional 2022 third-round pick. The Oilers agreed to take on all the remaining money on Keith’s 13-year contract $5,538,462 against the salary cap for two more years.

What fans and media are fail to realize is the impact Keith will have on the Oilers culture, or lack thereof. Keith will make it very uncomfortable for any Oiler teammate who is not putting out a consistent effort. He may be 38 but Keith still has game. He’s never averaged fewer than 23 minutes per game in his 16-year NHL career. Keith is in incredible shape and should still provide the Oilers with quality minutes. The Hawks get out from under Keith’s deal and add an extra third-rounder. That’s some nice work. Plus, if they want to trade for Seth Jones, they now have his kid brother in tow.

How can you not be slightly miffed at the success Tampa Bay has enjoyed over the past year? The Lightning have won two Stanley Cups. The Buccaneers captured the Super Bowl behind the ever-annoying Tom Brady. The Rays made a trip to the World Series. The Toronto Raptors even played their entire just-completed NBA season in Tampa.  Please tell me, what has that city done to deserve the success? They barely support the baseball team in the worst stadium in the league. And one final thing. Show some respect in handling the Stanley Cup. Damaging the Cup during celebrations was classless.

Wild Decisions – Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leopold made the mess. He may as well clean it up. Nine years ago, it was Leopold who wanted to make the big splash when the Wild signed Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to identical 13-year contracts worth $98 million dollars each. Suter and Parise were a “Born-in-Minnesota” package deal on the way in and they are a package deal on the way out. The Wild announced this week the team will buy-out the final four years of their contracts. It will save the Wild over $10 million against the cap next season but the dead money will linger for years to come. Here’s how the dead salary cap hit looks:  $4.7 million in 2021-22, $12.7 million in 2022-23, $14.7 million in both 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 and then $1.6 million in 2025-2026 and 2026-2027. The three seasons when the cap hit is the highest is going to make life difficult for GM Bill Guerin. But give him credit for convincing ownership to rip off the bandage all at once. Reports have already surfaced that the Wild may be ready to jump into the Jack Eichel sweepstakes. Don’t bet against it. Guerin has turned the organization upside down since taking over, and in a good way.   

The 149th Open Championship – It is never easy to win a major championship. No one knows that better than South African Louis Oosthuizen. He has nine runner-up finishes in majors including second place finishes at this year’s PGA Championship and U.S. Open. Oosthuizen once again finds himself sitting on the lead heading into the final round of the British Open at Royal St. George’s in Kent, England. Oosthuizen posted a 69 on Saturday and holds a slim one-shot lead over Collin Morikawa. Oosthuizen set a 36-hole Open scoring record with rounds of 64 and 65. He’s looking to break an 11-year drought since winning his first major.

Two Canadians are in the top ten. Corey Conners is in contention for the third time in the last four majors. He’s quickly become one of the best iron players on tour, missing only one fairway and two greens on Saturday. His sparkling 4-under 66 moved him into a tie for fourth place at 8-under. Conners will play in the second to last group on Sunday with Jordan Spieth. Meanwhile, Mackenzie Hughes is T-6 at 7-under after a third round 68 that featured birdies on 14, 16 and 18. The two Canadians are scheduled to represent Canada at the Toyko Olympics in two weeks.

Bryson DeChambeau is turning into a novelty act. He hit four fairways in the opening round, then blamed his club manufacturer, Cobra, for his wonky driver. DeChambeau announced for everyone to hear “My driver SUCKS!” He’s burning bridges with his peers and now his club manufacturer. DeChambeau may want to take ownership of his game which has him in a tie for 64th spot heading into Sunday. The act is wearing thin.

Blue Jays This Week – Many of the current Blue Jays have never played a game in Rogers Centre. It’s been 22 months since the team last played in Toronto. So far in his young career, Vladdy Guerrero Jr. has played only 62 of 270 games at Rogers Centre. All the hurdles have been jumped and the Jays will return July 30 for the start of a 10-game home stand, just as the trade deadline passes. Playing in Dunedin and Buffalo has taken its toll. The move home should provide a huge emotional lift, even though, for the time being, only 15 thousand fans will be in attendance.

If the Blue Jays want to be part of the playoff race in the second half of the MLB season, they are going to have to start changing the narrative when it comes to one-run games. Bullpen woes have prevented the Jays from staying in close games and protecting leads in the late innings. The Jays have played the fewest games decided by one run in the American League and have the fewest save opportunities in the majors. They are 6-10 in one-run games which is a pretty clear indictment of their bullpen performance.

The Jays need to come out of the all-star break and get it rolling. Following the three-game set against the Texas Rangers this weekend, the Jays will play three against Boston, three against the New York Mets, and then another crucial four-game series against the first-place Red Sox. We should know a lot more about where the Jays are headed after this stretch. It will also likely dictate their intentions at the trade deadline.

It was great to see Vladdy Guerrero Jr. win the MVP award at this year’s MLB All-Star Game in Denver. Vladdy was the leading vote-getter in balloting for the game, becoming the youngest player to receive that honour. His 468 foot bomb was the highlight of the game. At just 22, Vladdy is also the youngest player since ’72 to lead the majors in batting average (.332) at the All-Star break.

The Blue Jays selected Ole Miss right-hander Gunnar Hoglund with their top selection in the MLB Draft, 19th overall. The Jays are banking on Hoglund making a full recovery from Tommy John surgery performed in May. Otherwise, he would likely have been selected among the top ten. The Jays went pitching-heavy in the draft, taking pitchers with seven of their first eight picks.

The top Canadian selection in this year’s MLB draft was second baseman Tyler Black who was chosen by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 33rd overall pick. Black played college baseball at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He’s the son of Canadian sports broadcaster Rod Black. Tyler is 6-2 with a strong hit package. He batted .383 with 13 homers and 59 RBI’s in 48 games this year. All told, 17 Canadians were selected 2021 MLB First-Year Draft. 10 of the players taken were from Ontario. The Jays took two Canadians in the draft, both from B.C. Damiano Palmegiani, a power-hitting infielder from College of Southern Nevada, was taken in the 25th round. Two rounds later, Toronto selected high school pitcher Micah Bucknam from Abbotsford. Bucknam was the second-ranked pitcher in B.C. He touched 96 with his fastball as a senior.

MLB Notebook – Thursday night’s game between the Yankees and the Red Sox had to be postponed following confirmation of six positive COVID-19 tests within the Yankees. One of them was said to be outfielder Aaron “Lurch” Judge who attended the MLB All-Star game in Denver this week.  According to Yankees GM Brian Cashman, three of the confirmed positives were among players who were fully vaccinated.  This is the second outbreak on the Yankees this year. The team did exceed the 85% vaccination threshold that allows teams to enjoy relaxed protocols.

Saturday night’s game in Washington between the Nationals and the Padres had to be suspended in the sixth inning because of a shooting outside the stadium.  Only in America!

NBA Finals – The Milwaukee Bucks are on the verge of their first NBA title since 1971. The Bucks took a 3-2 series lead on Saturday night with a 123-119 win over the Suns in Phoenix. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been the difference-maker. His block that sealed game four will be replayed for decades. His alley-oop dunk put the stamp on game five. This is what the best player in the NBA is supposed to do.  Good on Giannis. There’s a great redemption story playing out during the NBA Finals. Vin Baker is a member of the Milwaukee Bucks coaching staff. He’s come full circle after years of alcohol addiction that saw him blow more than $100 million dollars in career earnings and endorsements.

Leftovers – Very sad to learn of the death of long-time Province sportswriter Kent “Cookie” Gilchrist who passed away this week at the age of 71. Kent covered sports for The Province for 37 years. Cookie had suffered a heart attack last month and had been dealing with respiratory illness following a collapsed lung and throat cancer in recent years.

Kent was one of those genuine characters everyone gravitated toward. He was funny, irreverent and larger-than-life. Greg Douglas, former Vancouver Sun weekly sports columnist and B.C. Sports Hall of Fame inductee, remembered his friend fondly. “What a guy. I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody in the media as popular as he was. It didn’t matter whether it was football, horse racing, golf, curling, whatever, everybody was just attracted to Cookie because he was Cookie, you know.”

CFL training camps are underway. Much has changed for the B.C. Lions since last we saw them. You may remember, or you might rather forget, the 2019 season when the Lions started 1-11 before finishing 5-13. They were a perfect 0-10 against western teams. Gone is coach DeVone Claybrooks. He was replaced by Rick Campbell. General Manager Ed Hervey abruptly departed over the winter under mysterious circumstances. Campbell and Director of Football Operations Neil McEvoy are now sharing GM duties. Who knows what’s up at the ownership level following the death of long-time owner David Braley? There are some interested parties according to reports. One thing is for sure – whoever it is, they had better be prepared to lose some serious money.

Paul Orndorff has died at the age of 71. If the name isn’t familiar that’s because he was better known in the wrestling world as Mr. Wonderful. Orndorff was discovered by ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper in the 1980’s and given his performance name. He made his World Wrestling Federation debut at Madison Square Garden and famously fought Hulk Hogan for the title. Orndorff and Piper often faced Jimmy Snuka and The Tonga Kid in tag-team events. Before his wrestling career took off, Orndorff was a star running back at the University of Tampa. He was picked by the New Orleans Saints in the 1973 NFL Draft, but failed to pass a physical. Orndorff played a season for the Jacksonville Sharks in the World Football League in 1975.

Tokyo recorded 1,410 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the highest number in six months. Two athletes living in the Olympic Village have tested positive. Since July 1, 55 people linked to the Olympics have had positive tests. When will they call off this nonsense? Send everyone home for God’s sakes!

As a dog owner, I have to send out kudos to a Toronto-based dog rescue group who saved 11 puppies from a dog meat festival in China. A Better Spot Foundation saved the pups from being eaten at the annual Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival run by dog meat traders in China. Many of the dogs are stolen and then slaughtered by electrocution, hanging and beatings. An estimated 5,000 dogs were slaughtered and eaten during this year’s event. More than 30 million dogs are killed and eaten each year and by brutal means. The dog meat trade is most prevalent in Asian countries including China, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and northern India, according to Humane Society International Canada. The not-for-profit foundation is only able to save a handful as costs to bring a single puppy to Toronto costs about $5,000.

YouTube Feature Artist – In light of what’s been going on in Haiti in recent weeks, it’s probably a good time to showcase some great music featuring Jackson Browne and an amazing group of international artists. Nearly two years ago, Browne travelled to Haiti and collaborated on a truly brilliant project. The end result was Let The Rhythm Lead, a benefit album in support of Artists for Peace and Justice, which sponsors educational and creative programs in Haiti. Here’s the back story behind the Haiti Song Summit.

Here’s Jackson Browne performing the Official Music Video from the project “Love is Love.”

And finally, enjoy “I Found Out” featuring Jonathan Russell, Jackson Browne and the Artists for Peace and Justice.

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