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The dog days of NHL hockey

By Lori Bennett National Sports Columnist

NHL Noise

The Alex DeBrincat drama in Ottawa finally came to an end on Sunday, July 9. After weeks of speculation, DeBrincat was traded to the Detroit Red Wings for forward Dominik Kubalik, prospect defenceman Donovan Sebrango, a conditional 2024 first-round draft pick and Detroit’s 2024 fourth-round selection. DeBrincat was acquired by the Ottawa Senators last summer at the NHL Entry Draft when GM Pierre Dorion took advantage of the Chicago Blackhawks fire sale and traded the seventh overall pick, along with second and third round picks, to land him. At the time, the obvious intention was to sign the goal-scorer to a long-term extension, and DeBrincat would become a part of the developing core in Ottawa. This plan did not materialize. When it became clear to Dorion that he could not extend DeBrincat, he turned his attention to finding a trade partner to recover the assets he gave up getting him. The challenge for Dorion was that DeBrincat had a preferred destination – Detroit – and this limited Ottawa’s leverage in a deal. This considered, the return was reasonable. Kubalik will replace some of DeBrincat’s scoring and they will hope their drafting and development staff can make the most of the picks and prospects that went their way. For Sens fans, it’s fair to ask why Dorion would give up a valuable asset like the seventh overall pick, an asset with more value than anything Dorion received last week, without some level of certainty that he could extend DeBrincat. Shortly after the trade to Detroit, the Red Wings announced they had signed DeBrincat to a four-year extension with an average annual value of $7,875,000. The impression left was that the financial ask was not the obstacle. It appears that DeBrincat just preferred to move on from Ottawa. This seems to be a growing theme for Canadian hockey fans. DeBrincat’s departure isn’t the only change for the Senators. Dorion confirmed they were one of the parties interested in UFA Vladimir Tarasenko, who may be looking for a richer contract than any team is willing to cough up in a cap-strapped market. Dorion also said that further trades to improve the team were still possible. This week the Sens also parted ways with Assistant General Manager Trent Mann, who had been in the role for just a year, and has been with the organization since 2010 working his way up from his beginnings as a part-time amateur scout. This follows the departure of the president of business operations, Anthony LeBlanc, who had been with the organization for three years. Is this a bit of a house cleaning before the new owners are on board? Last Tuesday, the Montreal Canadiens took care of an important bit of business when they announced a contract extension with Newfoundlander Alex Newhook. Newhook, a restricted free agent, was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche for two draft picks in the days leading up to the entry draft in Nashville. The Habs signed the restricted free agent to a four-year contract worth $11.6 million. He will still be an RFA at the end of this contract, and that translates into a good deal for both parties. Newhook gets a nice raise, along with four years to prove himself and earn a big payday. The Canadiens take a small gamble with the term of the contract, but with a motivated player who might make it a steal of a deal before it ends. In the meanwhile, Habs fans in Newfoundland have a local boy to cheer for again. Newhook will be the first Islander to suit up for Montreal since Michael Ryder did in the 2012-13 season. The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to consider what their roster should look like moving forward, after releasing GM Kyle Dubas earlier this summer. New GM Brad Treliving might have preferred to walk it back with the core four, while complementing them with his own brand of players, but he also feels the pressure to manage the salary cap and has learned lessons about letting players he can’t re-sign walk to free agency. Auston Matthews and William Nylander are both on contracts with one year remaining. Of the two, it sounds like management is committed to retaining Matthews and he is interested in extending his time in Toronto. No doubt they would also like to keep Nylander, but reports have surfaced that his contract demands may be too rich for the Leafs. Treliving will be reticent to get burnt like he did with Johnny Gaudreau in Calgary. If he feels he cannot extend Nylander, he will likely trade him rather than lose such a valuable asset for nothing. With this backdrop, trade rumours are swirling around the Leafs. Will Treliving take this opportunity to move a proven goal scorer to help fill holes in other areas on the team? We’ve moved into the dog days of summer in the NHL, but we can still expect some deals to trickle in during the weeks ahead.

Blue Jays Babble

Last weekend the Toronto Blue Jays were in Detroit to face the Tigers for a final three-game series before they paused for the All Star Break. It was a more important series than any series against the Tigers in July should be, but that’s where we’re at. One factor that marked its significance was that Alek Manoah returned from Florida to get the start on Friday night to open the series. That strong breeze you felt around 10 o’clock Newfoundland time was a sigh of relief coming all the way from Detroit. Manoah looked more like himself than he has any time this season, pitching for six innings and striking out eight batters while allowing just one run on five hits. The bullpen held and the bats got hot in a 12-2 win. The Friday night high was not sustained, and on Saturday the hitters could not going in a 2-0 loss. But on Sunday the weekend was salvaged in a 4-3 rubber match win for the Jays. The Blue Birds went into the break holding a wild card spot for the playoffs, but barely ahead of the Yankees and Red Sox. They will need to go on a bit of a run after the break if they hope to convince management to buy any significant pieces in advance of the August 1st trade deadline. Their chances of that are improved if Manoah can continue in the progress he demonstrated on Friday, and they may get a boost from Hyun Jin Ryu if he is able to return from Tommy John surgery after the break. After winning the Home Run Derby at the All Star festivities, the Jays were hoping Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would bring that winning swing back home. The Jays were due to welcome the Arizona Diamondbacks for a three-game weekend series.

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