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NHL week’s trades and tragedy

By Lori Bennett National Sports Columnist

NHL Noise

The Montreal Canadiens continued to do good business last week. On Tuesday, Aug. 15, they traded veteran defenseman Jeff Petry to the Detroit Red Wings for young defender Gustav Lindstrom and a fourth-round pick. Petry was obtained by the Habs last week in the three-way deal that saw Mike Hoffman and Rem Pitlick leave Montreal, and elite offensive defenseman Erik Karlsson land in Pittsburgh. GM Kent Hughes told reporters this week that immediately following the trade he committed to Petry that he would try to flip him quickly to an American team so his wife and four young sons can be near family support. Hughes came through for Petry, sending him home to Detroit where he will wear the number 46, the same number his father Dan Petry wore when he played for the Detroit Tigers from 1979 to 1997. This is a pretty cool outcome for the veteran late in his career. This deal by the Red Wings does raise some questions about their blue line management through the rebuild. They had already signed Ben Chiarot as a free agent last summer, and signed free agent defenders Shayne Gostisbehere, Olli Maata and Justin Holl this summer. Now they have traded for another veteran. Have they lost patience with the rebuild, and will these additions truly help for the long haul? In the meantime, the Habs landed a young defenseman they believe still has room to grow and who is in the same age bracket as their young core, as well as a draft pick. Not exactly a blockbuster, but the deal made sense for all involved. The Habs got the same value back for Petry that they paid the Edmonton Oilers to acquire him back in 2015, and in the intervening years enjoyed more than seven years of solid play from Petry and dealt him previously for Mike Matheson. That’s incredible value on one asset. In the virtual press conference that followed the trade, Hughes intimated that there may be more deals coming as they try to get under the cap ceiling before the season begins. The Habs net was already a little crowded before they landed Casey DeSmith in the same trade that brought Petry in. It seems obvious that one of the netminders will be dealt and it’s just a question of when. Hughes dropped another detail in his presser. He confirmed that Paul Byron, who finished his contract with the Canadiens on long term injured reserve, would be retiring from professional hockey. This comes as no surprise, but Hughes also revealed he would be meeting with Byron in September about his future, which would suggest he will be offered an off-ice role in Montreal. I wonder if some future unrestricted free agents will be enticed by this approach to supporting the best interests of players. In other news, long-time Boston Bruins centreman David Krejci announced his retirement from the NHL this week. The announcement came as no surprise and is perhaps a sub-plot to Patrice Bergeron’s retirement a few weeks ago. But the dual impact is significant. Two centremen who played in the top nine for last season’s Bruins’ powerhouse team have hung up their skates, and to date they have not been replaced despite their addition of Harvard centre John Farinacci to an entry-level contract. Is it possible that a couple of Canadian teams would make the best shopping market for the Bees? Mark Scheifele has one year left on his deal with the Winnipeg Jets and, at some point, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff may have to make a call to retool as players express their plans to leave. The Calgary Flames have two centres – Mikael Backlund and Elias Lindholm – entering their contract years as well. Would the Vancouver Canucks entertain trading J.T. Miller, and would the Bruins be interested? Speaking of the Canucks, they signed free agent centreman Pius Suter to a two-year contract. The pivot is known for his defensive prowess and will likely take on the third line centre role. But the Canucks are still in cap trouble and will likely need to make another deal. The NHL also experienced a tragedy this past week. Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Rodion Amirov passed away following a brain tumour diagnosis. The 21-year-old was drafted by the Leafs with the 15th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and signed his entry level contract in April 2021. Amirov was diagnosed last year and missed the hockey season while receiving treatment. Last week he lost his battle, and our thoughts are with his family and the Maple Leafs organization at this difficult time.

Blue Jays Babble

The Chicago Cubs were in Toronto over the weekend of Aug. 12 for a three-game series. Before the series got underway, the Jays sent pitcher Alek Manoah back to Triple-A Buffalo, which came as a bit of a surprise to fans. Manoah had not returned to the form fans were accustomed to last season, but he was looking better than he had earlier in the season. The Jays were running a six-man rotation during a tough schedule, but with two days off coming up they were ready to return to the typical five-man rotation and Manoah was the odd man out. After losing games on Friday and Saturday, the Jays’ fortunes turned on Sunday to avoid the sweep. It was Daulton Varsho who had a career-high five runs batted in to lead the Jays to the 11-4 win, while Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched five innings for the first time since returning from surgery. The Boys in Blue lost the series, but the win was a nice way to finish their 17 games in 17 days, where they went 9-8. That’s not a record to boast about, but it’s a little more favourable when you consider they played the stretch without their shortstop and best hitter this season, Bo Bichette, as well as closing pitcher Jordan Romano. The Jays left the series with a record of 66 wins and 54 losses, good enough for third place in their division, and still holding the third wild card position in the American League. The Jays had Monday off before welcoming the Philadelphia Phillies for two games. On Tuesday night, Cavan Biggio was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and the winning run walked home in a 2-1 win. Yusei Kikuchi continues to impress in the second half of the season, in this one allowing just one run over six innings. On Wednesday night Kevin Gausman took the mound, and it wasn’t his best outing, allowing seven runs on seven hits in five and a third innings. The final score was 9-4. The Blue Jays were headed to Cincinnati for a three-game weekend series against the Reds. With the Jays returning to health, we may be in for an interesting finish to the 2023 season.

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