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Big NHL trade deadline moves happen early in ‘abnormal year’

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Between the All-Star break and the NHL trade deadline, teams completed 65 deals in all — far higher than the usual amount of moves in a sport known more for long-term security than risky business.

The vast majority of the deals that move the needle happened before Friday, when activity slowed to a trickle.

“This is just one of those years,” Carolina general manager Don Waddell said. “And maybe it’s an abnormal year. We’ll see what the future holds.”

What the immediate future holds is a race down to the wire for wild-card spots and what looks like an absurdly challenging path through the Eastern Conference to the Stanley Cup Final with Waddell’s Hurricanes, division-rival New York Rangers and New Jersey, league-leading Boston, two-time recent Cup champion Tampa Bay and suddenly stacked Toronto.

Every one of those teams made moves and they weren’t alone. Even losing teams that stocked up could wind up — someday — contending for a championship. But first they hope to win the draft lottery for generational talent Connor Bedard and weren’t afraid to give away players now for hope later.


The New York Islanders jumped the blocks to get 30-goal-scorer Bo Horvat from Vancouver before the end of January — more than four weeks before the deadline.

Waddell, the Carolina GM, waited until the final week to get offensive help in winger Jesse Puljujarvi and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. He said the trade of a top player like Horvat earlier than usual made some colleagues change gears to, “If we’re going to make a move, let’s get going now.”

Conversations just after the All-Star break culminated with the Rangers making their first major addition by getting prolific scoring winger Vladimir Tarasenko from St. Louis on Feb. 9, and the Maple Leafs answered a little over a week later in acquiring Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly.

The action built from there, with 11 trades being finalized Tuesday alone, including Chicago star Patrick Kane going to the Rangers.

“It felt like conversations were more serious a couple weeks out than they normally are,” said Washington GM Brian MacLellan, who made four trades from Feb. 23-March 1. “That’s the way it was working, so you’ve got to participate in it.”


The upcoming draft is regarded as one of the deepest in terms of talent, and yet multiple picks in the first round in 2023 got traded. A few — including one in the Horvat deal and one the Capitals got from Boston and flipped to Toronto — were even moved twice.

A total of 13 first-round picks over the next three drafts were traded in recent weeks, including two from New Jersey to San Jose for big winger Timo Meier, who’s just 26 and not a pending unrestricted free agent.

“Hey, that’s the cost of doing business,” said Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald, whose winning offer included first-rounders in 2023 and ’24 plus multiple players and prospects. “All depends on the supply and demand, what your options are, and there’s limited supply. Demand goes up, so not surprising that first-rounders are going like they go.”

The Lightning gave up a first-rounder as one of five picks sent to Nashville for Tanner Jeannot. After previous all-in moves led to Cup celebrations in 2020 and 2021 and a trip to the final in 2022, GM Julien BriseBois explained why he has no trouble targeing established players who can help Tampa Bay win now.

“Based on the odds of those picks turning into good players down the road, I’d rather have the good player right now for this season and next and help this group win right now,” BriseBois said. “None of the players we were going to draft with those picks are going to help us win this year or next or probably the year after that.”


Nearly all the first-round picks traded originated from East contenders going blow for blow with big trades in what MacLellan called “an arms race.” Now that the dust has settled, the East looks like the class of the NHL, while the West is wide open.

Boston, which is on pace to have the best regular season since the salary cap era began in 2005, added help from Washington with defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forward Garnet Hathaway and got winger Tyler Bertuzzi from Detroit.

There’s a first-round showdown coming between Tampa Bay and Toronto in the Atlantic Division bracket, and the Metropolitan is anyone’s guess among the Hurricanes, Devils and Rangers.

The same is true in the West after the defending champion Colorado Avalanche shored up their defense by reacquiring Jack Johnson and filled a void at center by getting Lars Eller from Washington.

Edmonton, which is giving up more than three goals a game, got defenseman Mattias Ekholm; Vegas scooped up veteran goaltender Jonathan Quick after he was traded from Los Angeles to Columbus; the Kings upgraded in net and on the blue line with Joonas Korpisalo and Vladislav Gavrikov; Dallas and Winnipeg each made moves, too.


Several trades were technically three-way deals, with one team stepping in to retain part of a player’s salary to make it happen. Arizona got as high as a third-round pick for helping Kane go from Chicago to New York. With the salary cap only going up $1 million since 2020 and another small increase like that expected this summer, having space was nearly as valuable as a rental.


Erik Karlsson remained with the San Jose Sharks, who will revisit trading him this summer, perhaps after he wins the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman for a third time. At 32, he has four more seasons left on his contract at an annual cap hit of $11.5 million.

Then there’s the curious case of some pending free agents not getting traded, namely Philadelphia winger James van Riemsdyk, who has a pedigree for playoff success and a nose for the net. Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher said he never received an offer on van Riemsdyk until less than 90 minutes before the deadline, and that was conditional on another trade that fell through.

“I can only control my half and there has to be a willing buyer,” Fletcher said.

There were some willing buyers calling the Capitals about defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, a younger brother of James, and winger Conor Sheary. But MacLellan felt it was smarter to hold on to them and try to re-sign them for next season and beyond.


AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow, AP Sports Writers Tim Booth and Dan Gelston and freelance writer Denis Gorman contributed.


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Hawks star Young ejected after hard ball toss to referee

ATLANTA (AP) — Hawks star Trae Young was ejected after heaving the ball hard to referee Scott Wall in the third quarter of Atlanta’s 143-130 win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

After Hawks coach Quin Snyder called a timeout in the third quarter with the game tied at 84, Young first bounced the ball and then threw a hard, two-handed pass at Wall, who caught the ball. Young was immediately called for a technical foul and ejected.

Only seconds earlier, Young had an apparent 3-pointer disallowed when he was called for a technical foul for sticking out his leg and tripping Aaron Nesmith.

“It’s just a play he can’t make,” Hawks coach Quin Snyder said after the game. “I told him that. He knows it.”

Snyder said Young acknowledged his mistake.

“There wasn’t a single part of him that tried to rationalize what happened,” Snyder said.

The technical foul was Young’s 15th of the season. A 16th technical foul results in an automatic one-game suspension.

Young, who leads Atlanta with his averages of 26.8 points and 10 assists, had 14 points and five assists when he was ejected.

The game was tied at 84 when Young was ejected.

“We didn’t allow it to turn into a negative,” Hawks guard Dejounte Murray said. “We turned it into a positive and got the win.”


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Scheffler, McIlroy at their best to reach Match Play semis

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The golf was as good as it gets. Rory McIlroy made 17 birdies in the 36 holes he played Saturday. Defending champion Scottie Scheffler rallied with six birdies in his last nine holes to reach the semifinals for the third straight year.

A little luck never hurts in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. And as great as McIlroy played, he needed some of that, too.

McIlroy never led in his quarterfinals match against Xander Schauffele. They came to the 18th hole all square, and McIlroy slumped slightly when he saw his drive headed left toward the trees. Schauffele hit his shot and quickly picked up his tee.

Imagine their surprise. McIlroy came upon a golf ball behind a tree and figured it was his. Schauffele was walking behind him and was stunned when McIlroy kept going.

“He hit a worse drive than I did and he ended up fine,” Schauffele said.

He got no argument from McIlroy.

“I expected my ball to be Xander’s ball on 18 behind that tree, and I got fortunate that mine trundled down the hill and obviously made the chip shot a lot easier,” McIlroy said. “Look, you need a little bit of fortune in these things, and that was a bit of luck for me today.”

McIlroy won with a 12-foot birdie putt, the proper ending to a match that both said was a testament to the quality of golf required. Schauffele applauded all the pivotal putts McIlroy made to stay in the fight.

It was like that all over Austin Country Club. The final version of Match Play lived up to its edge-of-the-seat reputation, with wild turns of momentum until four players remained.

Sam Burns advanced by beating Patrick Cantlay in 17 holes and then overcoming an early deficit to beat Mackenzie Hughes of Canada, 3 and 2, to reach the semifinals.

Burns advances to meet Scheffler, his best friend on tour with whom he often shares a house when they’re on the road. Their last encounter was at Colonial last year, when Burns made a 45-foot birdie putt to beat Scheffler in a playoff.

Cameron Young looked as if he had an easy time, until it wasn’t. He was 3 up at the turn, missed a chance to go 4 up on the 12th and then had to go to the 18th hole before he could dispatch of Bay Hill winner Kurt Kitayama.

Scheffler, who lost in the final in his Match Play debut in 2021, now has won 10 straight matches. He was 2 down against J.T. Poston in the morning with five holes left when he birdied the 17th to square the match and won the 18th with a par.

He was 3 down against former Match Play champion Jason Day through seven holes in the quarterfinals when he battled back, taking his first lead with a birdie on the 13th and then pulling away. He closed it out with a wedge to 2 inches on the 17th.

Scheffler said he and caddie Ted Scott had a chat when Day went birdie-birdie-eagle on the front nine to go 3 up. The eagle came on a 5-wood from 282 yards to 5 feet on the par-5 sixth hole at Austin Country Club.

“Just ride out the heater,” Scheffler said. “I had to stay patient.”

Day began to struggle with allergies on the eighth hole, and then Scheffler had a heater of his own by making six birdies over their final nine holes.

McIlroy reached the quarterfinals by making nine birdies against Lucas Herbert, and it still wasn’t decided until the 18th hole.

“I got to beaten by the best player in the world probably playing the best golf of anyone in the world would today,” Herbert said. “Pushed him all the way to the end. I just didn’t feel like there was a hell of a lot more I could have done.”

Schauffele made seven birdies against McIlroy and it wasn’t enough.

“I needed to dig deep,” McIlroy said. “He’s one of the best players in the world. I knew I was going to need to produce something similar to this morning. I was 16 under for two rounds of golf. That shows the caliber you need to play out there.”

Next up for McIlroy is Young, who finished ahead of him at St. Andrews last year with a 31 on the back nine. Young has made 31 birdies and two eagles in his five matches this week. He won his group on Friday with a 5-and-3 win. He made it through Saturday morning with a 5-and-4 rout of Billy Horschel. He was on his way to another romp against Kitayama.

But he missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the 12th that would have put him 4 up. Kitayama won the next two holes with birdies. Young missed from 10 feet for birdie, 15 feet for eagle and 10 feet for birdie on the next three, all three putts burning the edge.

Ultimately, he only needed two putts from 15 feet on the 18th for the win. That was about the only easy part of his back nine.

“I don’t think I made a bogey today and I was biting my nails trying to win my match,” Young said. “I think it just shows you the quality of golf that’s played out here and how hard it is to get through even just one day like today, never mind that today was our fifth match.”

Day earlier on Saturday beat Matt Kuchar, leaving the 44-year-old American one match short of the tournament record. Kuchar leaves sharing the mark of 36 wins with Tiger Woods.

Now it’s Scheffler’s turn. Woods is the only player to win Match Play back to back. One day remains, and it feels like a long way to go.


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Gonzaga’s Drew Timme ends storied career in loss to UConn

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Gonzaga was down 10 points early in the second half Saturday night in the West Region final against UConn, but Julian Strawther had just secured a defensive rebound, and perhaps the Bulldogs had a run in them.

But then came a whistle. Zags forward Drew Timme had picked up his fourth foul. Shortly thereafter, it became clear that Gonzaga’s NCAA Tournament run would end.

Without him, the third-seeded Bulldogs weren’t a match for No. 4 seed UConn, which pulled away to win 82-54 and end Timme’s college career.

Timme, who gained fame for his masterful inside moves and world-class mustache, put together perhaps the finest college career in recent memory. He was a throwback for his crafty low-post game and for spending four years at the same school.

“I’m just so thankful that the program and the place took me for who I was,” Timme said. “They didn’t ask me to be anybody but myself. I’m forever in debt for Gonzaga, just the love I have for just everyone that helped me and made this journey so special and so fun. I just don’t think I could ever repay that.

“I’d do anything for Gonzaga. I always will. This isn’t a goodbye; it’s a see-you-later.”

The emotions were clear on Timme’s red face, which he covered with a towel a handful of times. He sniffled as the postgame news conference was about to begin.

But Timme held it together when the questions came, including about the fourth foul less than three minutes into the second half. That came after he was whistled for a charge just 26 seconds into the half.

“The bottom line is they were the better team tonight,” Timme said of UConn. “They made more shots. They got the 50-50 balls. Regardless of whether we want to say what-ifs, the refs didn’t control that game.”

Timme, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds against the Huskies, departs knowing he left a mark not only at Gonzaga but on college hoops.

He owns the Gonzaga record with 2,307 points and led the Zags to the Sweet 16 in each of the past three seasons and the national title game in 2021.

“I think he’s one of the greatest college players in this modern era,” coach Mark Few said. “He’s won at the highest level. We leaned on him as hard as we’ve ever leaned on a player, and he delivered time and time and time again.

“But that’s just a small piece of it. He’s a bigger-than-life character. It was a blast to coach him.”

Gonzaga will have a new man in the middle next season, and the Bulldogs got a taste of that experience will be like when Timme sat for about three minutes and UConn rolled to a 58-37 lead.

By the time Timme re-entered the game, the Huskies were well on their way to their fourth double-digit victory in as many games.

Had Timme never picked up that fourth foul, the Huskies likely still would have pulled away, but the call altered the tone of the game and sped up the rout.

“You try to stay positive,” Bulldogs forward Anton Watson said. “We brought the team together and tried to keep positive thoughts and try to keep chipping away at that lead, but it’s hard when Drew goes out.”

It was another disappointing end to the season for Gonzaga, which is still searching for its first national championship. Expectations were low it would happen this year, so making the Elite Eight was a win in itself.

The Zags can thank Timme, who entered the game leading the team with averages of 21.5 points and 7.5 rebounds, for helping get them there.

“I don’t think anybody thought we would make it this far this year,” Timme said. “Just the stuff we overcame as a group and how we stayed together, I think, speaks volumes to who we are as people, more than players.”


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