Here’s what you need to know this week, March 29, 2021, about the sports you love!
With the April 12th NHL trade deadline just two weeks away, trade chatter is picking up. Just when you think all eyes would be on Mattias Ekholm, described by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman as “the belle of the trading ball”, Tim Peel inserted himself. Peel, the veteran referee known for inserting himself at all the wrong times, had his future freed up on Wednesday.
Peel was reportedly due to retire after this season and was scheduled to call his last game on April 24th. But after being caught on a hot microphone admitting to his intention to call a penalty early against the Nashville Predators, the NHL announced that Peel “no longer will be working NHL games now or in the future.” An early retirement without a cake is something, but I wouldn’t hold my breath that the zebras are suddenly entering a new era of accountability.
The Predators were expected to be major trade deadline players, but their playoff picture has become murky. Pending unrestricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula are expected to be on the move, but the guy at the eye of the hurricane is Mattias Ekholm. A solid all-around defenceman is on the wish list for a gaggle of teams including the Montreal Canadiens, the Winnipeg Jets and the Boston Bruins.
Another team to watch is the Anaheim Ducks. Like the Preds, they have kids who are emerging, and veterans will be moved to build for a new window. Ryan Getzlaf is the UFA to watch and GM Bob Murray has acknowledged to Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun that he has to take an open mind into trade discussions. The Toronto Maple Leafs have been connected to Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell.
The Habs were expected to start the dominoes this week. A week of cancellations due to two players being added to the COVID list seemed like an ideal time to focus on a trade, but it takes two to tango. As of press deadline, it was quieter than a graveyard.
Canada is trying to help things along with an announcement on Thursday that they were about to approve a 7-day quarantine with additional testing for NHL players being traded to Canada.
The Toronto Raptors woke up on March 25th, the NBA trade deadline day, with a record of 18-26 and in 11th place in the Eastern conference. That made them sellers, and the focus shifted to whether Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell would still be Raptors at 3 p.m.
These questions were answered in the early afternoon when Powell was dealt to the Portland Trail Blazers for Gary Trent and Rodney Hood. Trent is a 22-year-old shooting guard/small forward who was a second-round pick in the 2018 draft. Hood is a 28-year-old shooting guard/small forward who was a first-round pick in the 2014 draft and joins the Raptors in his eighth year in the league. A good young player and a solid defender is not a bad return for a player on an expiring contract.
Shortly after the Raptors traded three-point specialist Matt Thomas to the Utah Jazz for a second-round pick and right before the deadline, Terrence Davis was sent to the Sacramento Kings for another second rounder. Both deals were believed to open roster spots for additional players in a potential Lowry trade.
Then the deadline came and went and Kyle Lowry remained a Raptor. Ultimately, they loved Lowry more than they loved the offers they were getting for him. Happy birthday Kyle.
Blue Jays Babble
On Thursday afternoon you can watch the Toronto Blue Jays open their season against the New York Yankees. Let’s make a stab at what the Jays batting order might look like.
Your leadoff guy should have a high on-base percentage and be worthy of the most at bats for the team. Newly acquired George Springer is expected to be the regular to bat leadoff for the Jays, but a recent injury may throw a wrench into that plan for opening day.
The second hitter should also be reliable hitter, and in this spot it’s also good to have a guy who can run and steal you a base. Bo Bichette looks like the favourite for this spot.
Three other positions look fairly secure. The catcher of the day, whether Danny Jansen or Alejandro Kirk, will likely bat ninth in the order. The other positions are clean up man and fifth batter. Both guys need to be able to hit for power and bring runners home. For me, these positions will fall to Teoscar Hernandez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and it’s a toss-up who lands where.
That leaves a collection of decent hitters to bat third, sixth, seventh and eighth, and they will be determined each game based on who is pitching, who needs a rest and how they play the field that day. Rowdy Tellez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Marcus Semien, Cavan Biggio and Randal Grichuk will fill in the gaps in the batting order.
If the Jays struggle, it won’t be because of a weak batting order. Batter up!
Lori Bennett is a social worker, policy professional, recreation softball player and coach, and new ukulele-ist. A Newfoundlander living in Toronto, Lori loves a good hockey chat or even a debate, just as long as it remains respectful. She posts her gametime thoughts on twitter, particularly about hockey and the Montreal Canadiens, as @lori10habs.