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The NHL off-season is off and running


This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

The NHL off-season is underway

The first round of the (virtual) draft last night turned out to be light on surprises but still delivered some interesting moments. As expected, Quebec junior star Alexis Lafrenière was picked first overall by the Rangers. Also as expected, OHL forward Quinton Byfield went second to Los Angeles, making him the highest-drafted Black player in NHL history. Here are the other greatest hits from opening night of the draft:

Coolest moment: University of Ottawa graduate Alex Trebek announced the Senators’ top selection Jeopardy!-style. The clue: With the third pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the Ottawa Senators choose this player. The correct response: Who is Tim Stuetzle? Watch Trebek’s cameo here.

Cutest moment: The San Jose Sharks announced the final pick of the first round in sign language. It was a tribute to draftee Ozzy Wiesblatt’s mom, who is deaf and a single mother to five children. How do you sign “I’m not crying, you’re crying?”

Best wishful thinking: Commissioner Gary Bettman revealed that the NHL and the players’ union have agreed to target New Year’s Day for the start of next season. The old tentative start date was Dec. 1. Bettman said the league and the players haven’t figured out how it’ll work but they hope to have a “full regular season, and to have fans in the building.”

Most interesting trade: None of the stars rumoured to maybe be available (Patrik Laine, Johnny Gaudreau, etc.) got dealt. But the Montreal Canadiens made a semi-big move by sending centre Max Domi to Columbus for winger Josh Anderson. Domi is a restricted free agent. He had a dynamite first year with Montreal in 2018-19, finishing with 28 goals/72 points in 82 games. But his production dipped to 17/44 in 71 games this year. Anderson had only four points in 26 games this season, but he scored 27 goals the year before and has the kind of size (6-foot-3, 222 pounds) that NHL GMs always fall in love with. Read more about the most interesting stuff from the first round of the draft here.

Rounds 2-7 are taking place today, and that means more wheeling and dealing. Two notable trades had been made as of our publish time:

Ottawa acquired two-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie Matt Murray. He was an important part of Pittsburgh’s back-to-back Cup teams in 2016 and ’17. But he’s a restricted free agent and the Penguins signalled they were moving on when they re-signed Tristan Jarry to a three-year deal a few days ago. The Senators gave up forward prospect Jonathan Gruden and the 52nd pick in the draft for Murray. 

Nashville sent centre Nick Bonino to Minnesota. He was also a key member of those Pittsburgh back-to-back Cup teams. The Predators packaged two draft choices with Bonino and received forward Luke Kunin and a lower pick in return. Read more about today’s trades here.

Free agency opens Friday at noon ET. We’ll have more on the top players available in tomorrow’s newsletter. In the meantime, watch Rob Pizzo’s video breaking down the bumper crop of goalies on the market here:

There are plenty of big names available this year when free agency officially opens, but Rob Pizzo says plenty of teams may have new goalies when next season starts.  3:56

The NFL might be in trouble again

Just when it looked like the series of infections that rocked the league last week may have blown over, a bunch more positive tests popped up today. Here’s where things stand:

Another New England Patriots star tested positive. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore joins quarterback Cam Newton, whose positive result last Saturday knocked him out of New England’s game vs. Kansas City and caused it to be pushed back to Monday. Gilmore played every defensive snap in that game. He said in a social-media post today that he’s “currently asymptomatic.” The Patriots’ cancelled their practice today. They’re scheduled to play at home vs. Denver on Sunday.

Two more Titans players reportedly tested positive and the team is under investigation for possibly breaking the rules. After two days of negative tests, it looked like Tennessee’s outbreak was contained and the team would be allowed to hold practice today for the first time in more than a week. Instead, nine players and a total of 20 team members have now tested positive since Sept. 29. Last week’s game vs. Pittsburgh was postponed until later this month, and now Sunday’s matchup of unbeatens vs. Buffalo is in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the NFL is investigating a report that some Titans gathered for a workout last week when everyone was supposed to be home isolating.

A Raiders player reportedly tested positive. Defensive lineman Maurice Hurst was not one of the Las Vegas players fined for attending a teammate’s recent indoor charity event without a mask. The Raiders reportedly still planned to be in their facility today. They lost to Buffalo on Sunday and face Kansas City this week. Read more about the NFL’s ongoing coronavirus crisis here.

Quickly…

The Lakers are one win away from the NBA title. Banged-up Miami got star Bam Adebayo back from injury and put up a good fight, but L.A. is now up 3-1 in the Finals after last night’s 102-96 win. LeBron James finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists for the Lakers. Anthony Davis had 22, 9 and 4 and nailed a three-pointer with about 40 seconds left to seal the victory. Game 5 is Friday night. Read more about L.A.’s Game 4 win here.

The Seattle Storm cruised to the WNBA title. A third-straight blowout win last night gave the Storm a sweep of Las Vegas and their second championship in three years. Storm stars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, who both missed last season with injuries, once again powered Seattle’s title run. Stewart averaged 28.3 points in this series to win Finals MVP for the second time. The 40-year-old Bird led the league with 9.2 assists per game in the playoffs. Read more about Seattle’s latest championship here.

18 members of a Quebec junior hockey team tested positive for COVID-19. The players and staff from the QMJHL’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada have been placed in isolation for 14 days and the team’s activities are suspended indefinitely. The season started on Friday and the Armada played two games against the Sherbrooke Phoenix. They’ve halted their activities as well. The QMJHL is the only one of Canada’s three major-junior hockey leagues to attempt to get its season going. The OHL and WHL are waiting until December at the earliest. Another obstacle facing the QMJHL is that the Quebec government on Monday banned team sports in the province’s “red zones,” which include greater Montreal and Quebec City. The Armada are based in the former and the Quebec Remparts in the latter. Read more about the Armada outbreak and its effects here.

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