For the first time in his career, Alexander Ovechkin will be a free agent in the 2020-21 offseason. The question is will he leave Washington or stay put with the team that drafted him?
The 34-year-old Russian phenom will be entering the final season of his 13-year, 124 million dollar contract next season.
The deal seemed rather a largesse at the time as it came close to the maximum 20% of the cap which is as high as a deal can go. However, with the Upper Limit of the cap increasing substantially since then (from $56.7MM in 2008 when the pact was signed to $81.5MM this season), the contract has even looked like a bargain at times.
There’s no denying that Ovi is an elite goal scorer and when all is said and done, the future first-ballot Hall of Famer might hold the NHL record. He sits eighth all-time with 706 tallies and while he’s still 190 shies of Wayne Gretzky’s record, he still has several years left in him. It’s not entirely crazy to think that the length of his next contract will ultimately determine whether or not he gets that top spot.
Ovechkin has led the league in goals for three straight seasons, scoring at least 48 in each season as well as winning a Stanley Cup with the capitals in 2018. While it’s understandable to say that he will slow down eventually, it is inevitable that he only has a few years left as a top scorer in the game. Undeniably, there will be plenty of interest in him if he was to make it to the open market in 2021. It also does not help that he has aid he is not willing to talk contract extensions until the new season starts when it starts.
With him probably being the main focus of the team going into the 2020-21 season with a new coach and a very similar supporting cast that he had in 2018. The pieces are there for him to say and try to win in DC again. But in a world where we have seen a lot of players such as John Tavares and Artemi Panarin who have gotten massive contracts in bigger markets. Would it make sense for Ovi to go and maybe try somewhere else and prove that he can do it on his own?
The other thing he could do is take a challenge like some past hall of Famers have done. Such as Mark Messier who took it upon himself to bring a championship to New York as Ovi has said he likes a challenge and he wants to beat Gretzky’s record for most points all-time and Ovi is on his way to do so. Ovi may want a challenge like that or the elephant in the room. He could want to finish his career on his home turf and go back to Russia. A lot of possibilities come to the 2020-21 offseason but all we know is he will get a very large contract no matter where he goes.
As we move closer to the fall, the NHL playoffs continue in their host bubble cities. Here are the top five notes for August 25, 2020.
Varlamov Makes History: Semyon Varlamov stands alone in Islanders postseason history, posting his second consecutive shutout, this time against Philadelphia, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Varlamov stopped 29 shots, after turning back 21 in the Islanders series’ clinching victory against Washington. Varlamov’s shutout streak is 136:20, trailing Billy Smith’s franchise mark of 135:59. Varlamov is 8-2 in the Islanders 10 postseason games. Only Billy Smith in 1980 won more games through 10 starts in franchise history.
Most Wins, First 10 Posteason Starts
Single Postseason, Franchise History
Andy Greene Finally Strikes Again! – Greene scored his first postseason goal since April 16, 2010, a span of 10 years, four months and nine days. Greene joined nine other players in NHL history to go 10+ seasons between postseason goals. Green (37 years, 299 days) is second to Ed Westfall (38 years, 215 days) as the oldest goal-scorer in franchise history.
Stars Streaking – After falling behind Calgary 2-1, the Stars are on a five-game win streak. Dallas is outscoring opponents 24-13 during their streak compared to opponents outscoring them by seven in losing four of their first six postseason games.
1st 6 games
Last 5 Games
Reverse Avalanche – In falling behind 2-0 to Dallas, the Avs look much different than they did finishing off Arizona in Games 4-5 of the Western Quarterfinals. After outscoring they Coyotes 14-2 in those two games, they are a minus-five in their first two games against Dallas.
Last 4 Games
Last 2 vs ARI
1st 2 vs DAL
Islanders EVEN better – A key to their success in winning eight of their first ten postseason games is their play at even-strength. The Islanders lead remaining teams by a wide-margin in goal differential during 5-5 play.
Now that the first round has been completed who is left in the chase for the cup and who will move on to the conference final?
First from the east is the Philadelphia flyers this team took out the Canadians in 6 games and they have a very good shot at going deep in the playoffs. Their biggest problem that could keep them from making noise is their defense as it was a bit shaky in the first round but it has to be almost perfect as they now have a very strong offensive team in the second round.
The New York Islanders a team that not only swept a two-time Stanley Cup champion in the first round last year. But they had almost swept the 2018 Stanley cup champions the Washington capitals in the first round making them look so bad that they fired their coach. This team is dangerous and is looking to give Barry Trotz his second Stanley Cup as he has shaped that team in his image and has made this team a force and will give Philly a problem in the second round.
The next matchup is the best defensive team the Boston Bruins who a lot of people wrote off after their number one goalie in Tuukka Rask. After he elected to leave the bubble due to family reasons. But now they are riding a hot Halak into the second round against a team that they know very well. This comes down to their whole team producing not just their first line.
Tampa bay needs to do one thing against Boston if they are looking to beat them in the second round and that is their offense has to get going. The lightning had a hard time against Columbus and now they have to take on the best defensive team in the league in Boston they are going to have to bring out the league’s best offense that the league saw in the regular season. For the lighting, it is cup or bust and of course, they have to go through Boston.
To the west, they top seed the Vegas Golden Knights are the team to beat in the west it is their cup to lose. This team is great upfront and in the back on defense. To close it out they have the hottest goalie in the league in Lehner playing out of his mind and backing him up is probably the best back up you could have in a three-time cup winner in Fleury. This is their conference to lose.
The team in the way of Vegas is the Vancouver Cunucks. The only way this team makes it any further is to take what they did in the first round which was taking out the defending champs in 6 games and harness the underdog mentality and put up a fight and hope a few lucky bounces go their way.
The last matchup in the second round sees an older Dallas team going up against a very young and hungry Colorado team. For Dallas to win this series they would have to take a win early which they have already done. They just have to keep Colorado to the outside and keep control of the series and they may have a chance to win it.
As for the avalanche they are in the same boat as Boston they will need their impressive first line to show up and for the defensive dept to keep a strong head and they will move on to the conference final for the first time since 2002.
The father of the theory of evolution, Charles Darwin once said
“…Everyone takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path towards error is closed, and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.”
Perhaps no one in college football faces evolving faster than SEC cornerbacks. While most discover that reality on the field, Kristian Fulton also learned the consequences of his actions in his personal life.
During mandatory drug testing following his Freshman season at LSU, Fulton worried his sample would show signs of marijuana. The NCAA suspended the 18-year old per their mandatory sentence of 730 days for tampering with a drug test by swapping urine samples. The irony? Fulton’s urine came back negative as the NCAA tested for performance-enhancing drugs only.
LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva noticed Fulton’s desire to improve while accepting accountability. Fulton’s presence during training sessions, practice, team activities, class attendance, and GPA was exemplary. He began appreciating the advice of loved ones while avoiding those not out for his best interest. Whatever mental toughness previously possessed, grew in spades.
Alleva’s persistence appealing the length of the suspension (NCAA guidelines called for a one-year penalty for urine swapping) and vouching for his character, made a difference. Despite denying his initial appeal August 9, the NCAA reinstated him on August 23, a week before the start of the 2018 season. Fulton applied his approach during his final two seasons at LSU.
The NFL drafting process is distinctly harsher. Despite evolving into the 12th best prospect (according to Pro Football Focus) and second-best CB in the 2020 draft, Fulton fell to the second round. While the Tennessee Titans reap the rewards, here are three reasons why Fulton will make the rest of the NFL suffer consequences for not evolving as he did.
1. Something to prove – the athletes that have the proverbial “chip on their shoulder” are always hungry. Fulton understands the torment of failing to prepare. As he embarks on his rookie season, he will reap the life lessons learned in college.
2. The scheme and numbers fit – Fulton possesses the size (6-0) and speed (4.46 40-yd dash) to succeed in the NFL, especially in Tennessee. Under Head Coach Mike Vrabel, the Titans feature a heavy-man based defensive scheme, in which Fulton should flourish. Fulton’s coverage grade and forced incompletion percentage finished among the best at his position. Fulton thrives in press coverage, as his 323 snaps his senior season ranked the third highest in college football.
3. Opportunity knocks – Due to the departure of Logan Ryan, LeShaun Sims, and Tramaine Brock, Fulton should start immediately. LSU’s history of cornerbacks (Patrick Peterson, Greedy Williams, Morris Claiborne, and Tre’Davious White) making a smooth transition into the NFL, also bodes well for the former Louisiana Defensive Player of the Year (2014 & 2015).
Fulton awaits the chance to prove his falseness to teams who overlooked him. While the NFL and their fans prepare for the strangest NFL season to date, the Titans Kristian Fulton knows tough times do not last, but tough people do.
Diyral Briggs was an underdog before he ever set foot on an NFL football field. The Bowling Green linebacker went undrafted in 2009 in a linebacker class that featured pro bowlers Brian Orakpo, Brian Cushing, and Clay Matthews. Early on in his career, Briggs learned a successful stint in the NFL is earned, not given.
A firm believer in hard work and giving others a chance, Briggs was given his opportunity by the San Francisco 49ers later that year. The 49ers signed Briggs as an undrafted free agent to serve as a backup. Briggs had his first NFL contract, but was still a longshot to make the 53-man roster as a free agent. “I kept a page in my locker that said, “You’re not gonna make it.” But I made the first cut, then the second cut, that I made that 53 to make the squad, and it was a dream come true.”
(photo credit: SFgate.com )
The rookie linebacker’s stint with the 49ers was brief, only appearing in five games from 2009-2010, but Briggs picked up important values during his time in San Francisco.
“It was when I was in San Francisco that I learned the importance of hard work and grit. Playing with guys like Justin Smith and Takeo Spikes was a tremendous honor and I realized the value of believing in myself.” said Briggs, who carries those values with him today.
After being released by the 49ers in September 2010, Briggs was signed by the Denver Broncos later that month. With NFL experience under his belt, Briggs was looking to aid the Broncos’ last-ranked defense. “When I went to Denver, I busted my butt to be a starter, but ended up getting paid to be on the practice squad.” Briggs cracked the active roster for only one game in the Mile-High City and was released in October.
Without a team for the second time in the young season, Briggs came to another important realization. “I needed to figure out how I could be more valuable to a team and find my role.”
Before Briggs could find his value to a team, a team needed to see value in Briggs. One day after being cut by Denver, the Green Bay Packers came calling for Briggs’ services and claimed him off waivers. The young linebacker did not find it hard to fit in with coach Mike McCarthy’s squad.
(photo credit: Krause Photography )
“Everybody had the opportunity to step up. Nobody was bigger than anyone else. We were in it together as a family.” That motto rang true late in the season. Heading into Week 16 against the 9-5 Giants, the 8-6 Packers needed a win to save their season. Before the game, Briggs recalls defensive coordinator Dom Capers delivering a powerful message. “If we want this team to sniff the playoffs, we have to win this game. But we know if we win this game, every game from here on out is a playoff game.”
Green Bay took Capers’ rallying cry to heart and came together and clobbered New York 45-17 while forcing six Giants turnovers. Little did the Packers know at the time that this was the start of a historic run.
The Packers became road warriors taking down the Eagles, Falcons, and Bears all on the road in root to Super Bowl XLV versus the Steelers. Experiencing a Super Bowl appearance was a lot for the 25-year old Briggs to take in. “It was a true honor. Being around so many hall of famers at one time was breathtaking and something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Despite being a six seed 10-6 team, the Packers headed into Super Sunday as three-point favorites over the two seed 12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers. Prior to the biggest game of their lives, cornerback Charles Woodson and Mike McCarthy gave inspiring messages. “We win with one mind, one heart, and one goal!” said Woodson. The cornerback’s ideology went along well with McCarthy’s rallying cry to leave it out there on the field.
With the Packers leading 21-3 right before halftime, it was Woodson himself who literally left it out there on the field. Woodson laid out to tip away a deep sideline pass intended for Mike Wallace. Woodson landed on his shoulder and broke his collarbone. He was done for the night, which was a big blow to Green Bay. “He really was our anchor, motor, and the true veteran leader on our defense.” said Briggs.
(photo credit: Heisman.com )
The NFL’s second ranked defense did not let Woodson’s injury stop them or discourage their nobody is bigger than anyone else attitude. Unified under one heart, one mind, and one goal, the Packers were 30 minutes away from football immortality. Green Bay was able to fend off the Steelers’ attempts to tie or take the lead. Pittsburgh got as close as 28-25 in the fourth quarter, but the Packers responded with a Mason Crosby field goal to go back up by six. 31-25 Packers, 2:07 on the clock. The defense had to make one final stop.
Briggs and his racing mind may not have been on the field for the final drive, but as Ben Roethlisberger’s 4th & 5 pass went off Mike Wallace’s hands, Briggs’ mind went from racing to hardly moving at all. “Everything was in slow motion. I started thinking about my mom and dad and all I’d been through to get to that point. I’ve been an underdog my whole life and it’s something I’ll remember forever.” The undrafted free had reached the top of the NFL mountain. Just goes to show that no goal is unreachable as long as you believe in yourself.
(photo credit: packers.fandom.com )
Since his playing days ended, Briggs has begun passing that message along to children with autism. Briggs began working one on one with autistic children ages four to five in a group home and immediately realized it is his new calling in life. So much so that the Super Bowl champion linebacker is currently looking to open his own school for children with autism.
“I really want to focus on motor and social skills with the kids. And it all starts with them feeling a sense of accomplishment. The smallest feeling of accomplishment means the world to these kids.” said Briggs, who feels keeping the kids active helps with their discipline as well.
Like so many other current and former professional athletes, Briggs is using his platform for positive change for so many young kids. It is no secret that athletes giving back to the community makes a huge difference in people’s eyes. In this challenging time for society, Briggs sees an appropriate action all people, especially athletes, can take. “We need more love in the world and I feel all athletes can promote positive change just by using their strong platform.”
(photo credit: MLive.com )
In order to make a positive impact, three values stand above the rest for Briggs. “It all starts with faith, hard work, and respect, it’s what I teach my kids. Carrying yourself in that manner shows and really makes a difference.”
Diyral Briggs, who became a Super Bowl champion because of hard work and belief in himself, has now become a champion off the field by teaching children with autism to do just the same.