By Lori Bennett
The Boston Bruins were busy this week getting the old band back together. On Monday, they announced a new contract for Patrice Bergeron. At the end of the season the veteran centre was reportedly considering retirement but has committed to a one-year deal. Shortly after announcing Bergeron’s return, the Bruins followed with an announcement that David Krejci would be returning on a one-year deal.
Krejci and Bergeron were top-six centres on the Bruins team that won the Stanley Cup, but last summer Krejci left the NHL to continue his career in the Czech Republic. There was much speculation that he would eventually return to Boston, and a year later he is indeed under contract. If you consider these deals in isolation, it might feel like the Bruins need to move on, but they’re more than a blast from the past.
After signing both Bergeron and Krejci, they announced they had come to terms on a one-year deal with Pavel Zacha. Zacha had been acquired by trade from the New Jersey Devils earlier this off-season and has been re-signed to a one-year deal. Zacha is a centre who split his time at wing with Jersey, but he will now get the chance to be mentored by his fellow countryman Krejci.
Several teams still have significant restricted free agents they need to lock into contracts before training camp. The Toronto Maple Leafs are yet to come to terms with defenceman Rasmus Sandin. The Montreal Canadiens still need to sign netminder Cayden Primeau, as well as Kirby Dach, the young centre they acquired by trade from the Chicago Blackhawks at the draft. The Edmonton Oilers, after handing out contracts to forwards Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto, are still working in a deal for centre Ryan McLeod.
For all three teams, cap space is the issue. With training camps opening in just over a month, teams are still waiting for opportunities to move contracts and open cap space to sign young players.
The Ottawa Senators do not have a cap issue, but after having a fantastic off-season they still have important RFAs to sign in Alex Formenton and Erik Brannstrom. There are still many announcements to be made before the summer is done.
Speaking of announcements, hockey insiders have reported their expectation that the New York Islanders have several deals completed but not yet announced. This bizarre secrecy is not typical of course, unless your name is Lou Lamoriello. Is Nazem Kadri one of those deals?
Blue Jays Babble
The Toronto Blue Jays, after some edge-tweaking moves to their roster at the trade deadline, split their weekend series against the Minnesota Twins. They might have preferred to win the series, but their biggest concern at the end of the series was the loss of two important players.
After battling through injury for several weeks, centre fielder George Springer was finally placed on the 10-day injured list. Certainly, the addition of Whit Merrifield at the deadline allowed management to make the decision to sit Springer and allow him some rest and recovery time in advance of the post-season.
A more concerning loss may be that of Tim Mayza, who left the game last Saturday after dislocating his shoulder. Mayza is a left-handed relief pitcher, something the Jays are not exactly flush with, so his absence will surely be felt. Fortunately, the injury was not to his throwing arm, and it is hoped he can return this season.
From Minnesota the Blue Jays headed to Baltimore for a series against the Orioles. The Jays did not exactly shine in this one. The opening game was a 7-4 loss as Yusei Kikuchi allowed five runs in five innings. At some point they will need to consider whether Kikuchi can continue in the rotation with the way he has struggled this season. Tuesday’s game was another loss, this one interrupted by a rain delay that disrupted the Jays relief pitching plan and ended with a score of 6-5. Wednesday’s game was postponed due to rain and will be made up as part of a doubleheader on September 5th.
The Jays were headed home for a weekend series against the Cleveland Guardians, with hopes of getting back on track in the wild card race.
Calling It Quits
Last week Serena Williams played her final match in Canada. On Tuesday she announced her plan to retire from professional tennis at the end of this season.
Williams, who is due to turn 41 in September, turned pro in 1995 and has become one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Williams has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, as well as 14 major women’s doubles titles, all with her sister, Venus, who is a tennis powerhouse in her own right. Serena has four Olympic gold medals, one in singles tennis and three shared with Venus.
Williams rose to prominence on the world tennis scene, along Venus, having been coached by their parents Oracene Price and Richard Williams. The family story is documented in the Oscar-nominated film King Richard. Both Serena and Venus were executive producers of the film.
Williams’ career is a story of overcoming racial inequities and her retirement leaves a hole in a tennis landscape that has had her face at the centre for nearly three decades. She has well earned the right to call it a career, but her famous grunts following tough shots will be missed for some time on the Grand Slam scene.