Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Co-Editor Bill Morphy. This week, we take a trip around the North Division as the the NHL trade deadline approaches. We check out the progress of some of the Canucks top prospects. Plus, the Seahawks and Raptors get busy with some roster shuffling.
Canucks This Week – The Canucks are in the midst of a six-day layoff. They don’t play again until meeting the Flames on Wednesday night. Following that game, the Canucks head out on a seven-game in 12-night road swing. After getting pasted in back-to-back games against the Jets this week, is there really any question about the Canucks playoff status? The Canucks chances of making the playoffs are extraordinarily slim.
Their run of success in March has been manufactured almost exclusively on the goaltending of Thatcher Demko. Last Saturday night on “HNIC,” Elliotte Friedman reported that the Canucks have taken a step back as a trade deadline seller as a result of their recent run of positive results. That is astonishing. Who’s kidding who? It’s not a time to take a wait-and-see approach. At the risk of repeating ourselves, the Canucks have to start looking to the future and determine how they are going to build the roster out. The bottom half of their lineup is just not good enough to compete with the top teams in the league. Gathering a few extra mid-round draft choices is more valuable than ever due to the uncertainty around this year’s draft. With limited viewing of prospects, every draft selection will be dicey. The more picks the better, plain and simple.
With Elias Pettersson out of the Canucks lineup until at least early April, J.T. Miller has been getting full-time duty at centre and the results have been very positive, perhaps to the point where the Canucks might keep Miller there. Depth down the middle is a huge weakness. The Canucks should seriously consider keeping Miller at centre. It would be easy to get him enough playing time because he sees duty on both special teams. It might be the best way for the Canucks to build three solid lines next season.
With the federal government approving a reduction of the NHL quarantine period to seven days, the break in the Canucks schedule is a perfect time for Jim Benning to survey the market. When you look closely at the Canucks, you can’t help but think it’s time to weed out all the dead wood and give the team a fresh look next season. It’s not change for change sake or a rebuild. There’s just too many unproductive contracts. The list of players who need to be eradicated from the roster is long. Their contracts have dragged the team down long enough. The Canucks will be improved next season just by removing Edler, Benn, Sutter, Roussel, Beagle, Eriksson, McEwen and Virtanen from the mix. Inserting replacement-level NHL players would be an improvement and that’s the biggest indictment of all.
The Athletic’s Top 10 Canucks Prospects – Since you may not subscribe to The Athletic, we thought we would provide you with their latest prospect rankings. We start with the honourable mentions and then count down from 10 to 6. We will have the top 5 next week.
Jonah Gadjovich, LW, Utica Comets
55th overall, 2017
6-foot-2, 209 pounds
Gadjovich is off to a sensational start in the AHL this season, with eight goals in nine games. Gadjovich’s skating remains a concern — a concern that was apparent at Canucks training camp, which is why we omitted him from the top 10 — but he’s absolutely dominating defenders inside in Utica. His play has caught the attention of scouts around the industry, with one contact offering up Gadjovich as a player who has shown particularly well among all AHL players in the early going. If his feet can catch up to his motor, hands and physical dimensions, he could yet be an intriguing option for the Canucks.
Carson Focht, C, Utica Comets
133rd overall, 2019
6-foot-1, 181 pounds
Though the meaningful stats aren’t there through nine games, Focht is off to a solid start to his professional career with the Comets. The detailed checking centre signed an entry-level contract with Vancouver this winter, and while he wasn’t invited to training camp, he has the type of game that endears him to coaches, including a level of defensive awareness that scouts believe projects as NHL-level if he can round out the rest of his game and improve his first step.
Joni Jurmo, D, Kiekko-Espoo (Mestis)
82nd overall, 2020
6-foot-4, 198 pounds
Jurmo’s season has been complicated by repeated COVID-19 outbreaks in Liiga during the fall, which made it difficult for his Finnish team to send him as freely between their U20 squad and their main squad. He’s been loaned out to a second division team, and by all accounts has fared much better while playing a prominent role at that level. Jurmo continues to be overlooked by the Finnish national team at his age group and it’s something of a concern that he wasn’t invited to Finland’s U20 training camp ahead of the world juniors. Jurmo’s physical tools and high-end skating ability give him a ton of upside if he can figure out a few things, but there’s significant skepticism in the industry about his overall hockey IQ and his feel for the finer points of the game on both sides of the puck.
Dmitri Zlodeyev, C, Dynamo Krasnogorsk (VHL)
175th overall, 2020
5-foot-11, 183 pounds
Zlodeyev is a bit undersized for a defensive centre, but he’s got the work rate, defensive awareness, puck skills and faceoff abilities that may give him a shot as dark-horse player in the Canucks system. Zlodeyev has split time between the junior level and the VHL (second tier) this season and has performed solidly in both. He likely would’ve made his KHL debut this season as well, if not for a series of unfortunately timed injuries in November and February. Zlodeyev’s progress will be worth watching in the 2021-22 campaign, since he could get a long look at the KHL level as a 19-year-old and contend for a spot on Russia’s U20 team at the World Junior Championship.
10. Viktor Persson, D, Brynäs IF J20
191st overall, 2020
6-foot-2, 192 pounds
Persson was the Canucks’ final pick at the 2020 draft but offers many intriguing qualities as a right-shot defenceman that help him eclipse the value of his draft slot. The Swede skates well and presents a well-rounded set of tools with the puck. Persson isn’t going to wow you with dynamic, standout traits but he’s an intelligent player with good offensive instincts, particularly when it comes to making the quick read to recognize opportune times to jump up in the rush. With possession, he always has his head up, scanning for options, and is consistently able to make subtle plays to find his teammates in space. Persson doesn’t make the first play that opens up; he’s patient to ensure he makes the correct one. That skill set makes him an underrated playmaker despite owning point totals that don’t jump off the page.
The concern that industry observers share is with his defensive play. Persson gets caught out of position from time to time with how often he activates on the rush or pinches in the offensive zone, which can lead to the occasional defensive breakdown. That said, because of his 6-2 frame (which he isn’t afraid to use to dish out open-ice hits with) and overall intelligence, you can see a case in which he learns to pick his spots better and develops into a competent defender.
There’s a lot that we like about Persson but it has been a tough year developmentally, with circumstances completely out of his control. The 19-year-old initially was supposed to come to BC to play for the Kamloops Blazers but the WHL had significant delays to the start of its season. In the meantime, Persson stayed in Sweden, where he was off to an encouraging start to his season. He was finding his groove with Brynäs’s junior team, playing well enough to get invited to Sweden’s World Junior Championship camp. Persson ended up being a late cut, however, and because of COVID-19 complications, the J20 league was shut down midseason. Overall, Persson offers a fascinating combination of size, mobility and intelligence in an offensively calibrated package. A normal season with a more appropriate league will reveal a lot about how those tools can translate in the higher ranks.
9. Arturs Silovs, G, Manitoba Moose (AHL)
156th overall, 2019
6-foot-4, 203 pounds
Assessing goaltenders at the NHL level is immensely difficult. Evaluating teenage netminders at the draft and trying to project their NHL odds half a decade out? Very close to being a crapshoot. The Canucks have an ace up their sleeve with Ian Clark, who played a crucial hand in drafting Columbus’ rich goaltending pipeline, and they leaned on his and Dan Cloutier’s insight in 2019 as part of the process behind selecting Silovs, after he initially caught the team’s eye with an outstanding performance at the U18 World Championships.
Silovs has the large frame that clubs look for in the modern NHL and he couples it with explosive athletic ability. Physically, you couldn’t ask for better qualities. Goalies drafted this late often only have one of those elements. Where he falls short and needs to improve is with a foundational technique that’s very erratic. The best goalies in the league typically employ quiet, crisp and calm movements on the back of a strong technical game that relies on quick reads, so they rarely force themselves to make difficult saves (think of Thatcher Demko’s recent games as an example). Silovs, on the other hand, can be erratic in the crease and has been widely criticized for making himself look small in net with a wide stance.
One NHL scout who oversees the OHL noted that Silovs was just OK in viewings last year — he wasn’t able to steal games for the Barrie Colts. That shows up in the numbers as well, as Silovs managed a .891 save percentage in 36 games for Barrie. This year, Silovs has struggled to get into games. He played half a dozen games in Latvia and just one game while on loan with the Manitoba Moose, where he stopped 23 of 25 shots in a loss. Like many prospects, not only with the Canucks but in hockey as a whole, finding consistent game time to develop is a challenge amidst the circumstances surrounding the pandemic.
Still, the Latvian goaltender remains an interesting prospect because of his raw talent. Picking Silovs was the club essentially betting on the ability of its development system to create the technical framework in his game to leverage his size and athleticism into a complete package.
8. William Lockwood, RW, Utica Comets
64th overall, 2016
5-foot-11, 172 pounds
William Lockwood checks in at No. 8, largely on the strength of an incredible showing at Canucks training camp and on glowing reports from industry sources and those within the organization regarding how he’s performed with the Comets in his first professional season. At his first training camp this past January, Lockwood was among the standout performers, not just among young players or prospects but among all players. On the ice with NHL-level players, Lockwood’s speed stood out, as did a skill level that looked higher than advertised, even if that hasn’t translated just yet into points in the American League. Lockwood turned heads to the point that there was chatter around the organization about how, in a normal training camp environment, he would’ve been among the final cuts and in serious consideration for an early call-up.
With the Comets, Lockwood has been a fixture on the penalty kill and has played up and down the lineup, including getting a look with the Comets’ first line with Gadjovich and Kole Lind. Lockwood’s speed, physicality and all-around assertiveness have been evident at the AHL level. Most importantly for Lockwood is that he’s stayed healthy. The 2016 third-round pick has battled chronic left shoulder injuries for several years, which is problematic considering the physical nature of his game and how he needs to play to be effective.
There remains significant concern around the industry about whether or not Lockwood’s body will hold up to the grind of professional hockey. There’s also a fair bit of appreciation for Lockwood’s character, with close observers noting that he’s the type of player who will empty the tank in doing everything he can to maximize his potential.
7. Arvid Costmar, C, Linköping HC (SHL)
215th overall, 2019
5-foot-11, 179 pounds
Costmar’s stock has risen considerably since he was drafted in the seventh round just two years ago. In his draft-plus-one season, he shredded the Swedish junior league with 26 goals and 50 points in just 29 games. He was one of the top producers in his age category, clearly too good for Sweden’s junior ranks. He’s stalled in the SHL this season with just a single goal in 22 games, but the fact that he’s already playing games there as one of the youngest members of the 2019 draft class — he doesn’t turn 20 until July — is a promising sign considering how late he was picked. Then, in January, he opened the eyes of a lot of Canucks fans with a decent showing for Sweden as a middle-six pivot at the World Junior Championship.
Stylistically, Costmar is a scrappy, skilled centreman with good offensive instincts that power his playmaking. With the puck, he’s not afraid to stop up and go against the grain to find his teammates. He’s adept at slipping into the soft spots in the inner slot and generating chances from in tight, where he scores most of his goals. And while he’s undersized, he’s competitive in high-traffic areas, always engaged physically and has a pest side to his game. He’s not just talented with the puck; he has redeemable qualities without it.
To break out in the SHL, Costmar needs to improve the separation gear in his first two strides. Right now, he isn’t involved enough in transition play and struggles with the pace of the game. If he can add that to his toolkit as he continues developing leg strength, it’d bolster the odds for a player who is already skilled and competitive.
6. Jett Woo, D, Utica Comets
37th overall, 2018
6-feet, 205 pounds
There was a funny, touching moment at Canucks training camp this January. Jett Woo had been thrust into a scrimmage at his first camp and he’d played well, holding his own in an environment that can be absolutely cruel to young, inexperienced players. Veteran NHL players are exceptional players, and at training camp scrimmages, as they look to just feel the puck and get their legs under them, they tend to test young talent. And yes, pick on them a bit, to see if they can hack it. On this night, Woo was hacking it. He was separating NHL-level players from pucks, moving well, never really under duress. And then he drew a penalty. During camp scrimmages, all penalties are served as penalty shots, which must be taken by the player who drew the penalty, and with a chase pack of other players permitted to skate after the shot-taker from the blue line.
So, Woo picked up the puck at centre ice, presumably as nervous as he’d been on an ice sheet since he turned 12, and immediately stumbled. He didn’t lose his footing entirely, but it was enough to compromise his chance with five skaters in pursuit. He had to turn the burners on just to get off a shot attempt, which was easily turned away. Back on the bench, several Canucks players gave him a pat on the back. It wasn’t how he’d drawn it up, perhaps, but it didn’t in any way alter the fact that Woo made a genuinely positive impression on Canucks coaches and management at his second training camp.
Down in Utica, Woo has had an opportunity to play in every situation. He’s been a regular on the penalty kill and he’s even seen some time on the second power-play unit of late. Since Canucks top defensive prospect Jack Rathbone left the taxi squad and joined the Comets a couple of weeks ago, Woo has played on Rathbone’s right side, spending a ton of time playing behind Utica’s top forwards. The production clearly hasn’t been there for Woo, but those who have paid close attention to the Comets suggest that he’s played a steady two-way game despite the lack of production while bringing a consistent physical game on the back end.
Woo lost some of his top-prospect sheen over the course of a 2019-20 campaign in which he fell out of consideration for Team Canada’s U20 team and saw his counting stats fall a bit from what he accomplished in 2018-19. Those concerns may well be overblown, since Woo has never profiled like an offensive defender at the NHL level, and he would hardly be the first defender overlooked by Hockey Canada to go on to have a lengthy career.
In polling a couple of talent evaluators around the industry, there was a consensus belief that Woo is a relatively safe bet to make it to the NHL as a depth player at the very least, a reflection of his skating ability, average skill level and physical prowess. And the 20-year-old defender, who has played only nine professional games, still has the potential to exceed those expectations.
Deadline Dancing – The NHL trade deadline is just a few weeks away so it’s time to take a tour around the North Division and have a quick peak at each of the Canadian teams.
Projected Deadline Cap Space: Zero
Notable UFAs: Brandon Sutter, Tanner Pearson, Alex Edler, Jordie Benn, Travis Hamonic, Jimmy Vesey
Notable RFAs: Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Thatcher Demko, Olli Juolevi
Sell for God’s sake! The Canucks need to look in the mirror and take whatever they can get at the deadline. Clearing out contracts should be an absolute priority. Any additional cap space will be much-needed in the summer. Tanner Pearson’s injury status will be a big factor in determining his value. Dealing him to another Canadian team might be the best option. Travis Hamonic and Alex Edler both have no-movement clauses so they are likely staying put. Making a money-out, money-in deal for Brandon Sutter may be difficult. The Canucks would be smart to try and fetch a mid-round pick for Jamie Benn.
Projected Deadline Cap Space: $1.87 million
Notable UFAs: David Rittich, Derek Ryan, Josh Leivo, Brett Ritchie, Joakim Nordstrom, Zac Rinaldo, Michael Stone, Nikita Nesterov
Notable RFAs: Sam Bennett, Dillon Dube, Oliver Kylington, Dominik Simon, Juuso Valimaki
The Flames would like to be active at the deadline but Brad Treliving may find the terrain difficult. Scoring of any kind would be welcome in Calgary. The Flames are very thin on the right side up front. Anthony Mantha of the Red Wings is a possibility but he won’t come cheap. Sam Bennett is the bait but his value is not exactly high. Chances are the Flames settle for a low-cost, short-term option.
Projected Deadline Cap Space: Zero
Notable UFAs: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson, Tyson Barrie, Mike Smith, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Ennis, Slater Koekkoek, Gaetan Haas
Notable RFAs: Jujhar Khaira, Dominik Kahun, Kailer Yamamoto, Devin Shore
Ken Holland was burnt big-time at last year’s deadline. He wasted a pair of second-round picks so expect the Oilers to be more careful this time around. The Oilers could really use a centre to anchor their third line. The best option may be Luke Glendening of the Red Wings. The cost may not be too prohibitive but he’s certainly better than what they currently have. A winger like Pearson might be a nice addition as well.
Projected Deadline Cap Space: Zero
Notable UFAs: Paul Statsny, Mathieu Perreault, Adam Lowry, Nate Thompson, Tucker Poolman, Trevor Lewis, Derek Forbort, Laurent Brossoit
Notable RFAs: Neal Pionk, Andrew Copp, Logan Stanley
Many hockey watchers believe the Jets are one solid defenseman away from being a major force come playoff time. The question is – are the Jets willing to go big-game hunting. Preds veteran Mattias Ekholm would be the big prize as would Ryan Ellis. David Savard of Columbus would be another significant addition. Ekholm is signed through next season at under $4 million. The acquisition cost for Ekholm is probably a first-round pick plus a top young prospect. Savard is a pending UFA and strictly a rental. He would make a great partner for Josh Morrissey.
Projected Deadline Cap Space: $130,527
Notable UFAs: Frederik Andersen, Wayne Simmonds, Zach Hyman, Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton, Zach Bogosian, Alexander Barabanov
Notable RFAs: Travis Dermott, Nic Petan
So much has been written about the Leafs looking to acquire additional help up front but they should be looking to bolster their blueline. If the Leafs do make the playoffs, they will be very vulnerable to injuries on defense. Sorry, Rasmus Sandin doesn’t cut it. Without any top-end prospects, the Leafs may have to surrender their 2021 first-round pick in order to acquire an impact player. Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell would be a nice addition but costly. Troy Terry of the Ducks is a fall-back option. Canuck left-winger Tanner Pearson would fit well with John Tavares and William Nylander. A centre to anchor the third line may be even more valuable. Personally, I would stay clear of Mikeal Granlund. The Preds forward has two goals in his last 21 playoff games.
Projected Deadline Cap Space: $35.3 million
Notable UFAs: Artem Anisimov, Erik Gudbranson, Ryan Dzingel, Mike Reilly, Derek Stepan
Notable RFAs: Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, Artyom Zub, Christian Wolanin, Marcus Hogberg
The Senators are flush with draft picks and young prospects but will still be looking to work around the fringes come deadline day. They have several pending UFA’s including Erik Gudbranson, Mike Reilly, Braydon Coburn and Ryan Dzingel. Dzingel probably has the most value but don’t expect a bounty for the much-travelled winger.
Marc Bergevin kept insisting the Canadiens were likely to stand pat at the deadline but he jumped in this weekend and grabbed veteran centre Eric Staal from the Sabres. Staal should replace Jake Evans on the fourth line. With so much change in the off-season, the pressure on Bergevin has to be high. Defenseman Ben Chiarot is gone for the remainder of the season after hand surgery so acquiring a veteran like Marc Staal from the Red Wings might make sense for the short-term. Mattias Ekholm would be the home run call. College prospect Cole Caufield, the 2019 first-rounder, may be the bait for a larger deal. Scoring remains a Canadiens headache.
NHL Notebook – Stand back and get out of the way, here come the Colorado Avalanche. They are starting to live up to the lofty pre-season expectations. They reeled off seven wins in a row in a recent stretch and have one regulation loss since March 3. The Avs are completely dominating all the advanced metrics. They’ve given up 30+ shots in a game just once since January 31. In a recent three-game stretch — two against the Coyotes and one against the Kings, the Avs surrendered a total of only 46 shots. Not only do they have the best Corsi-percentage and expected-goal-percentage, but they also average the most shot attempts per game while allowing the fewest. For good measure, they have the second-best penalty kill in the league. To top it off, the six best individual possession statistics all belong to Avalanche players. The only warning light is goaltending. Philip Grubauer has been solid but the Avalanche have basically gone the whole season without a back-up goalie. Pavel Fantouz is on LTIR. The Avs were using a sieve named Hunter Miska before acquiring Jonas Johansson from Buffalo who’s not a whole lot better.
Every year there’s a different scapegoat in Toronto. Freddie Andersen is the latest target. He’s being blamed for all that’s wrong with the Maple Leafs. The beleaguered Andersen is now officially “under the bus.” The Leafs have hitched their wagon and their hopes to Jack “Cream of Mushroom” Campbell. Wonder how long that will last. Nazem Kadri wore the goat horns. Last year, Tyson Barrie was the problem and the Leafs couldn’t run him out of town quick enough. Barrie landed in Edmonton and he’s doing just fine in his new surroundings, thank you very much. The much-maligned Barrie is second among NHL defensemen in scoring with 32 points and has been a huge addition on the Oilers deadly power-play.
How good can the Leafs be when no less than nine players who have appeared on their roster this season have been on NHL waivers over the past year? The list includes Jason Spezza, Jimmy Vesey, Travis Boyd, Nic Petan, Pierre Engvall, Alex Galchenyuk, Zach Bogosian, Kenny Agostino and Michael Hutchinson. Still think this is a Cup contender?
Everybody’s favourite gasbag, Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, has reminded Leaf Nation that the $77 million dollar John Tavares investment is not aging well. In his first season in Toronto, Tavares scored 47 goals and led the NHL in even-strength goals. This season, he’s 181st in goals scored at even strength. Simmons argued the Leafs would have been better off to sign a $6 million dollar defenseman and a $5 million dollar centre. Jeez. Are they just figuring that out now? We made that point in this column over a year ago. I don’t blame Tavares for taking the money, I blame the stooge who offered it to him. I would also like to know who else was bidding on Tavares. The Leafs were likely out-bidding themselves. Meantime, Lou Lamoriello’s Islanders are 22-8-and-4 and tied for second overall in the NHL.
There are 144 million people living in Russia. That’s over four times the population of Canada. Sure, the number of kids playing organized hockey may be less per capita but it’s a mystery why NHL teams don’t place more importance on scouting in Russia. Maybe it’s the Don Cherry effect. We keep seeing more and more late bloomers from Russia coming to the NHL and making an impact. That tells me they were overlooked in the first place.
It’s that time of the year when NHL teams are looking to sign U.S. college free agents. One of the top graduating players available is defenseman Matt Kierstad who’s part of a stacked University of North Dakota team. Kierstad is listed at 6’, 175 pounds. He’s a left-shot defenseman from Elk River, Minnesota. Kierstad is part of a UND defence corps that includes three Ottawa Senator draft picks, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Tyler Kleven and Jake Sanderson.
As a Shaw cable subscriber, I am dishing out big money every month in order to receive all the TSN channels from 211 to 215. Yet when the Jets and the Canadiens game was aired on TSN 212 recently, it was blacked out. Sportsnet has the national rights and their agreement limits TSN to regional coverage only. So let’s get this straight. In that 3-hour window, TSN is providing me with ZERO programming on that channel. I call bullshit! In reality, Shaw should be cutting my monthly cable fee for lack of service. Why should I be paying for something I am not receiving? We have the highest cell phone costs in the world here in Canada and cable fees are exorbitantly out of whack as well.
The more I see of Thomas Chabot and Darnell Nurse, the more I question whether either player would be among my selections for Team Canada 2022. They are both big kids with plenty of talent but their puck management scares me. Too many giveaways for my liking.
The list of coaches being paid not to coach keeps growing. Ralph Krueger was fired in Buffalo with one more year to run on his contract at $3.75 million. He joins Mike Babcock, Claude Julien, Geoff Ward and Gerard Gallant on the fully-paid unemployment line. Babcock is laughing all the way to the bank. He will be paid $6.25 million through the 2022-2023 season.
The Chicago Black Hawks were the surprise team of the NHL until hitting the skids over the past two weeks. The Hawks have gone 4-and-8 since March 4 and have a precarious hold on the final playoff spot in the Central Division. That’s how quickly things can change with this year’s condensed schedule.
What’s happened to Carter Hart? Last year, the Flyers goalie was being lauded as one of the top young netminders in hockey and a likely Team Canada selection. Now, he’s fallen off a cliff. His numbers are terrible. Hart’s goals against average is 4.03 and his save percentage has dropped to .869. When you lose your job to Brian Elliott, something is seriously wrong.
That is some kind of stench in Buffalo. How bad are the Sabres? They’ve lost 17 in a row and haven’t had a regulation win in the month of March since March 31, 2018. This season, the Sabres have been shut out more times (7) than they have won (6).
Seahawks To-Do List – So we’ve passed through the first wave of NFL free agency. The stupid money has been dished out. The reprisals come later. The Seahawks have done some nice work so far and have shored up several key areas. They made a couple of moves to stabilize the offensive line and hopefully keep Russell Wilson intact. Gabe Jackson was acquired from the Raiders for a fifth-round pick to replace left guard Mike Iupati. Ethan Pocic was re-signed and returns at center. He will need to show improvement in his second year as a starter. The Seahawks missed out on veteran center Alex Mack who signed with the 49’ers.
The Seahawks biggest off-season priority was to re-establish the power run game so the signing of running back Chris Carson was critical. He runs angry. Carson signed a three-year extension but the third year is avoidable so it’s essentially a two-year deal that could be worth up to $14.6 million. The Seahawks want to return to being a run-first team next season and it will be a lot easier with Carson as the bell-cow. Now all he has to do is stay healthy.
Tight end Gerald Everett was the other big signing on offense. He comes to Seattle from the division rival L.A. Rams and will reunite with Shane Waldron who was hired away from the Rams to become the Seahawks new offensive coordinator. Everett caught 41 balls last season and seems to be improving every season.
Linebacker K.J. Wright is probably next in line at the negotiating table. At 31, it’s hard to predict if there is a strong market for K.J. 2020 first-round pick Jordyn Brooks is waiting in the wings but Wright’s leadership can’t be underscored. The Seahawks addressed the pass rush by re-signing Carlos Dunlap, Benson Mayowa and inking the 49’ers Kerry Hyder to a three-year deal. Hyder had 8 sacks last season and he will be a nice fit on the other side with Dunlap. The signings came at the expense of Jarran Reed who was given his release. With only three picks in this year’s draft, the Seahawks tried and failed to move Reed and recoup another draft choice. Two teams, the Jets and the Jaguars, each have three picks in the top 34. The Seahawks don’t select until pick 56 in the second round.
After losing Shaquille Griffin to the Jaguars, the Seahawks addressed the void at cornerback by signing Ahkello Witherspoon from the 49’ers. He’s 6’3” so he has the length that Pete Carroll covets but Witherspoon has been very inconsistent in his three years in San Francisco. More reinforcements may be needed at cornerback.
The Seahawks lost a couple of receivers in free agency. David Moore left for Carolina and Phillip Dorsett signed with Jacksonville. Seattle must find another receiver on draft day, during the second wave of free agency or via trade. The lack of a sure-handed inside receiver is a major weakness that must be addressed. The Seahawks need a Julian Edelman-type player who can get open quick and move the sticks. Last year, Wilson had to get rid of the ball within 2.4 seconds on 41 percent of the Seahawks snaps. The need couldn’t be more obvious.
NFL News & Notes – The Seahawks rivals in the NFC West cannot be accused of being shy. The San Francisco 49’ers bold move to acquire a young quarterback is the latest example. The 49’ers agreed to send the No. 12 overall pick this year, 2022 first and third-round choices and a 2023 first-round selection to the Miami Dolphins for the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Clearly, the 49’ers have plans to draft a quarterback with that pick. Fans will look at the move and say the 49’ers gave up too much but you have to remember, having a starting QB on an affordable first contract is incredibly valuable. You are essentially saving $30 million dollars against the salary cap when you consider what you would be paying a front-line starter. If it works out for the 49’ers, they will not regret surrendering the draft capital.
The New England Patriots spent a total of $24.4 million (only $7.8 million guaranteed) on 15 free-agent signings in 2020. In 2021, the Patriots have spent over $250 million on the exact same number of players. All told, the Patriots have spent over $300 million when you include seven in-house free agents who were either re-signed or tendered. The spending spree was very un-Patriot-like.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft defended the signings by saying “We’re not in the business to be in business. We’re in the business to win.” That sounds fine but what impact will all the new players have when you don’t have a quarterback? A few of the deals were very questionable. The Pats gave Titans tight end Jonnu Smith a four-year deal worth $50 million. The contracts handed to receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholar were also far too generous.
Raptors Notebook – The Raptors did some nice work at the NBA trade deadline without involving Kyle Lowry. The Raps sent veteran wing Norman Powell to the Portland Trailblazers for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood. Trent will basically take Powell’s spot in the rotation and comes at a much lower cost. Powell is probably going to earn upwards of $20 million when he hits free agency after the season and the Raptors will now have more flexibility this summer. The Raptors also landed a pair of second-round picks by moving out Terrence Davis and Matt Thomas.
Raptor fans should be very antsy when it comes to the future of team president Masai Ujiri. If you look at the Toronto sports landscape, all the major executives have signed extensions. Mark Shapiro agreed to a five-year extension as Blue Jays president. Jays manager Charlie Montoyo was signed through 2022. The Jays are actively trying to extend GM Ross Atkins. Brendan Shanahan got a new deal as Leafs president. Bill Manning signed an extension as president of the Argos and Toronto FC. Ujiri gave Bobby Webster an extension as Raptors GM. Ujiri is in the final year of his deal. The longer this drags on, the more likely it is he will be leaving Toronto.
Can you blame Raptors coach Nick Nurse for erupting following a recent game against Utah? Nurse was fined $50,000 after throwing his facemask behind the scorer’s table and for directing profanity toward game officials before leaving the floor at the end of the game. Do you think maybe it had something to do with the fact the Jazz enjoyed a 41-14 free throw advantage? Following the game, Nurse said it “just didn’t seem like they were going to let us win tonight.” That’s an understatement! The 27-shot difference in free throw attempts was the second largest in the NBA this season. Entering the game, the Raptors were shooting 4.5 free throws per game fewer than opponents this season, the second-largest disparity in the league. It may turn out to be the best 50 grand Nurse could spend.
Leftovers – Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes was knocked out in the round of 16 at the Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas. Hughes lost 2-and-1 to Ryder Cup veteran and match play ace Sergio Garcia. Hughes had advanced to the knockout round by winning Group 9 with a record of 2-0-1. The only other Canadian in the tournament was Corey Conners who lost all three of his matches.
It seems like a foregone conclusion that the Lakers and Nets will meet in this year’s NBA Final. This practice of players choosing where they want to play is killing the league. Veteran players can be bought out at the trade deadline and can then sign a one-year veteran’s minimum deal with any team they want. Seven-time all-star LaMarcus Aldridge was released by the San Antonio Spurs and immediately joined the Brooklyn Nets. The Lakers, meantime, are front-runners to sign veteran center Andre Drummond who was let go by the Pistons.
Spotify Songs of the Week – Here’s a few recommendations for you. Have a listen to “Only a Song” off of Van Morrison’s new album “Latest Record Project.” John Hiatt has a new release with the Jerry Douglas Band called “Leftover Feelings.” Check a song called “Mississippi Phone Booth.” And finally, a Covid-inspired tune from Keb’ Mo’ and the Old Crow Medicine Show called “The Medicine Man.” It’s outstanding.
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