Penguins pick up Derick Brassard, trade Ian Cole to Senators in deal involving Vegas

The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired center Derick Brassard from Ottawa on Friday night in a three-team deal that sent defenseman Ian Cole to Ottawa and forward Ryan Reaves to the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Penguins announced the deal Friday night during their 6-1 victory at Carolina, with Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford calling it “the most complex trade I’ve made” because of salary cap issues and the involvement of a third team.

For different reasons, the Senators and Golden Knights will have an oversized impact on the trade deadline. We preview what could be a wild weekend, along with the Jersey Foul of the Week, a potential Olympic return for the NHL, puck headlines and more.

Pittsburgh is trying to become the first team since the 1982-83 New York Islanders to win three straight Stanley Cups. Brassard figures to slide in as the third-line center behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

“We’ve tried to get more depth at center and get more insurance there,” Rutherford said. “Our centers have played pretty well, but you’ve got to have a lot of strength at center and we just felt we had a chance to get a guy like this, this was a good addition.”

This offseason, you can expect quarterback-needy teams to try to make space for Kirk Cousins. He’s going to require a large contract, especially after Jimmy Garoppolo signed his mega deal. The Jaguars are just one of a handful of teams that we could see making a push for him, but they would have to make some cuts to make that happen. They could start with Bortles, immediately opening up $19 million.

The spread on the Super Bowl had the Patriots favored by 4.5 points. The line opened at Patriots -6, and dropped as low as -4, but it didn’t matter with the Eagles winning outright. At kickoff, the Eagles were +176 on the moneyline, so if you bet $100 on the Eagles to win the game, you won $176.

The point total was at either 48 or 48.5 at kickoff, depending on your sportsbook of choice. This too did not matter as the game blew past it in the third quarter. After a relatively quiet first quarter, things picked up from there and the final score brought a total of four points. That is the highest point total since 75 combined points between the San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl 29.

At a Super Bowl press conference, Justin Timberlake says his son ‘will never play football’

Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel have a 2-year-old son, Silas Randall Timberlake. Justin Timberlake is the headliner for the Super Bowl 52 halftime show on Sunday. At an NFL press conference ahead of that event, Timberlake said his son will never play football.

“He will never play football,” Timberlake told a reporter. He’d been asked whether he’d support his son if he wanted to “run some routes and get in the NFL.” It was part of a longer exchange about his son following him into an artistic field.

“I don’t even get down to the details at this point,” said Reich, who has “had a conversation or two” with Luck since being hired. “There’s been a lot done and said. I trust the rehab process and the doctors. He’ll be ready as soon as he can.”

In the meantime, Reich is readying an up-tempo system that he believes can bring out the best in a quarterback whose performance leveled out in 2015 before the shoulder surgery. He said the scheme will look similar to the one used by Luck’s predecessor in Peyton Manning, albeit with the increased use of RPO (run-pass option) plays that helped spur Philadelphia’s run to winning Super Bowl 52 with Reich as offensive coordinator.

For some reason, Gronkowski is obsessed with the number 69. During a Week 17 matchup against the New York Jets, he didn’t collect a reception and ended the season with 69 receptions. In fact, that was the first time he played in a game without any targets. No one knows why Gronkowski didn’t receive any catches, but it’s possible that he didn’t want to eclipse 69 catches.

In fact, when he caught his 69th career touchdown this season, his mother congratulated him for that huge achievement.

Gronkowski’s fascination for the number 69 will probably live on, and that’s perfectly fine. But for now, though, we should be excited about him playing in Super Bowl 52.

After suffering a concussion against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship, Gronkowski passed the concussion protocol last Thursday. This is great news for the Gronkowski family, especially since he didn’t play in last year’s Super Bowl due to a season-ending herniated disc. Let’s see if Gronkowski can accumulate 69 receiving yards against the Eagles.bears_026-223x223

He hit a career-best .315 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs last year despite being slowed by a thumb injury that kept him out from mid-July to September.

The first overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft has always been a solid defender, but he is looking to take that part of his game to the next level.

I want to be able to save more runs and be an elite defender, and I think if I can do that with the way I hit it’s just going to be something special, he said.

Stage 2 has ended with Ryan Blaney in the lead. He’s now led 46 of 120 laps. Paul Menard and Joey Logano round out the top three. Just 21 teams are on the lead lap, while 11 of the 40 teams are now off the track for the remainder of the race.

Following two multi-car crashes that knocked out several contenders, the Daytona 500 has settled down and is in amidst the longest green-flag racing stretch of the afternoon. Ryan Blaney continues lead, with Joey Logano second and Denny Hamlin third.

When he went down it really cut it short, Servais said. We were already a little bit short on how far we were able to stretch our starter. We were in tough spots in a number of games in that sixth inning, early seventh inning.

After a warmup period, the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) pair of Jonathan Guerreiro and Tiffani Zagorski kicked off the second group. They had an excellent technical score, 34.15, and had a total score of 66.47, taking first place. Next was the French team of Romain Le Gac and Marie-Jade Lauriault, and they scored a 59.97, taking third place.

The team of Kirill Khaliavin and Sara Hurtado from Spain came up seventh, and they knocked it out of the park with a score of 66.93, and a technical score of 35.07. They took over first place with the routine. Alper Ucar and Alisa Agafonova of Turkey are up next. They scored a 59.42, which put them fifth overall.

Cubs’ Willson Contreras not buying limit on mound visits

Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras isn’t exactly on board with Major League Baseball’s new pace-of-play rules, which include a limit on mound visits per game.

Contreras is claiming he’ll defy the rule that limits teams to six visits for the first nine innings of a game, minus a few exceptions.

I don’t even care, Contreras said Tuesday. If I have to go [out there] again and pay the price for my team I will.

Contreras indicated he would be willing to pay a fine or deal with even harsher consequences — though baseball is hoping it never gets that far. Speaking at a news conference later Tuesday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and chief officer Joe Torre said umpires simply will tell a catcher or other player to return to his position if his team has used up its six visits. If a catcher defies that order and gets into an argument with an umpire, then an ejection could be in order.

Now it’s Adam Rippon time. He skated to Let Me Think About It and had an appropriately sparkly outfit to match.

Rippon hit most of his spots with little-to-no trouble, although the judges docked him for not landing a triple axel perfectly. Beyond that, he had another clean program that got a great reaction from the crowd. Rippon earned an 87.95 score, vaulting into first place.

Due up: Bryce Harper, Bryce Harper and Bryce Harper! As MLB experiments with pace of play, there are more intriguing ways to add spice to bonus baseball than by simply starting innings with a runner on second base.

So with Cactus and Grapefruit League games scheduled to begin Friday, commissioner Rob Manfred listened to his pragmatic side. He refrained from forcing the clock on the players, settled for a limitation on mound visits and put the onus on players to start bringing games home at a brisker pace this season.

Each season, NASCAR begins with its biggest race, the Daytona 500, a quirk that is unique in sports. On Sunday, the 60th annual Daytona 500 goes green at Daytona International Speedway at 3 p.m. ET and can be seen on FOX.

Alex Bowman (195.644 mph) and Denny Hamlin (195.092 mph), the 2016 race winner, share the front row after posting the fastest speeds in qualifying last weekend. Bowman is making his first start as the full-time driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, replacing the retired Dale Earnhardt Jr. Heralded third-year drivers Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott start third and fourth, respectively, earning those positions by winning their Duel qualifying races on Thursday.

The Rams went from 4-12 to 11-5 in McVay’s first season as they won the NFC West for the first time since 2003.

That year was also the last time the Rams had a winning record and the franchise snapped a streak of 10 straight losing seasons.

McVay was Washington’s offensive coordinator for three seasons before the Rams made him the NFL’s youngest-ever head coach. McVay, who turned 32 on Jan. 24, improved the NFL’s worst offense to a unit that led the league in scoring at 30 points per game.

The Rams had the second-highest margin of victory in the NFL (18.91), and posted 30-point-plus efforts against all three NFC West opponents in 2017. McVay also became the youngest head coach to lead a playoff team in NFL history.

Pederson received just one vote, however, as Vikings coach Mike Zimmer received 11 votes as the runner-up to McVay’s 35 votes. Jaguars coach Doug Marrone received two votes while Patriots coach Bill Belichick, whose team will face Pederson’s Eagles Sunday, also received one vote.

One of the most popular national anthem prop bets has to be the time length of the performance. Pink does boast quite a vocal range, but the odds of her breaking Alicia Keys’ near four-minute rendition in 2013 seem slim. Pink grew up about an hour outside of Philly and is a big Eagles fan, so uttering some sort of “Go Eagles” cheer or donning green apparel is a strong possibility.

The oddsmakers had to have something for Mr. Timberlake’s wardrobe in arguably the biggest concert of the year. The shoes prop bet seems a bit tough to guess, but betting on him wearing the hat, that shows a true gambler. Being that the Super Bowl is in Minneapolis, it would only seem right that they pay some sort of tribute to the Minnesota native and pop legend Prince, whether that’s sung by Timberlake or potentially a special guest. And speaking of special guests, could we see J.T. throw back all the way to his *NSYNC days with Lance Bass or Joey Fatone? Let’s hope not.bills_043

Inexperienced young veteran quarterbacks since the turn of the century typically have gone for second- or third-round picks in trades.

Given that Rex Ryan is an adult only in the sense that he can be charged as one — that’s he’s otherwise an uncouth, childish cheap-shot artist — it stands to reason that if we knew that, ESPN knew that.

In 2007, the Texans acquired restricted free agent Matt Schaub from the Falcons in a sign-and-trade deal where they gave up two second-round picks (2007 and ‘08) and switched 2007 first-round picks.

It’s easy to forget that Jackson and Timberlake were not the only acts that night. Produced by MTV — who had previously organized the 2001 halftime event — the show first featured performances by Jessica Simpson, Diddy, Nelly and Kid Rock. Jackson took the stage with a marching band for her 1989 hit “Rhythm Nation,” then was joined by Timberlake for his “Rock Your Body.”

The two had a sexy, playful chemistry and had previously been rumored to have been hooking up. Jackson was in the early throes of a romance with producer Jermaine Dupri, but “everyone — including [her mother] Katherine knew the chemistry was there,” a Jackson insider said.

You could practically feel the heat as the two gyrated against each other onstage. At the end of the number, while singing “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” Timberlake reached across Jackson’s chest, grabbing her right breast and ripping off part of her top — exposing her bare breast, the nipple completely covered by a large silver sun attached by a piercing.

“It’s that time just to get it over with,” Beckham told NJ Advance Media on Saturday, via ESPN. “I really want to do it so I can move past it. It’s too much sitting around thinking, ‘Where am I going to be at?’ I need to know where I can start buying furniture for a house. I want to have a place set where I know, ‘OK, this is home. I can always go back to home.’ So it’s just a little intermediate process right now. I’m sure it will get worked out.”

Beckham first became eligible for a contract extension this offseason but was unable to reach an agreement with the Giants. Before the season began, Beckham also said he wanted to be the highest-paid player in the league, though he had to settle for just $1.8 million this season. He is set to earn $8.5 million in 2018.

Following the recent hiring of general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur, Beckham confirmed that both had reached out to him in recent weeks and the conversations went “great.”

And Tomlin is not getting fired after reaching the playoffs in four consecutive seasons, three of those as AFC North champions.

The Steelers have emphasized stability since hiring Noll in 1969, with their head coaches’ tenure averaging more than 16 years. Tomlin has been at it only 11. In those 11 seasons, he has yet to post a losing record, something only Green Bay’s Curly Lambeau achieved before. Tomlin has won 116 games over his first 11 seasons, second only to Don Shula. His .659 winning percentage is second only to New England’s Bill Belichick among active NFL coaches.

Tomlin had a terrible day on Sunday. This is indisputable. He even failed with the coin toss, deferring the decision to the second half and allowing Jacksonville to take control of the ball first. Putting the Jaguars’ struggling offense behind always seemed like the most logical plan. He gave them the ball, and they shoved it down the Steelers’ throats. Pittsburgh was chasing the game the rest of the day.

Obi Melifonwu is one of my favorite names to say out loud and after what he did on the last day of the combine, we’ll all be saying his name in the coming years. The former Connecticut safety (yes, that’s correct, safety) measured 6-4, 219 pounds, ran a 4.40 in the 40 and put up 17 impressive reps on the bench. That wasn’t all either; he then started jumping. He bounded 44-inches on the vertical jump and 11-feet, 9-inches in the broad jump, both of which were combine highs for all positions. Keep in mind, he’s a safety and he should be a small forward, it appears.

Alternatively, we can use raw numbers to compare the states with the most service members — active-duty and reserve — to the states that produced the most players currently in the NFL — the idea being to see whether the states most frequently represented in professional football also have large military populations.

No. They haven’t been anything close to the same team since his injury. They were shut out Sunday by the Cowboys in the regular season finale, and Foles failed to inspire much confidence in his abbreviated outing against Dallas.

Their ability to run the football and rush the passer make the Jaguars a viable threat to the Steelers if they can get past the Bills this weekend. The biggest issue, of course, is which version of Blake Bortles will show up for the postseason. He resembled a franchise QB at times this season, but reverted to his mistake-prone ways on too many other occasions.cowboys_096

The win over the Saints will go down in NFL playoff lore as the first postseason game ever decided on a touchdown with time expired in the fourth quarter.

Including Oregon as a No. 1 seed isn’t a hard sell, but Baylor falling off the top line and all the way to a No. 3 seed was the lone shocker as the NCAA revealed its top 16 teams Thursday, Charlie Creme writes.

Duke was left out of the committee’s top 16 and lost a possible opportunity to move up after falling in overtime to unranked North Carolina on Sunday. Losses by Cal, Marquette and DePaul also prevented those teams from making any significant jumps.

With its placement of Baylor at No. 9 on Thursday, the committee illustrated its heavy use of RPI, strength of schedule and nonconference SOS. So when putting together a bracket moving forward, it is important to apply that same philosophy to be consistent.

The most memorable characters in the drama were Vikings wideout and former Maryland star Stefon Diggs, who was on the receiving end of the 61-yard catch and run, and Saints safety Marcus Williams, whose missed tackle gave Diggs a free path to the end zone. But it was Keenum who delivered the throw.

Through that prism, you find defenses that are far ahead of their respective offenses — a Vikings unit that buttressed a 17-0 lead over Drew Brees and the Saints, and an Eagles unit that kept them within reach against the Falcons until Foles, Jay Ajayi and the rest got the turnovers and gaffes out of their systems.

With no disrespect intended to the Eagles and their goal-line stand to save the game, the Vikings’ defense has the edge from front to back and side to side, from Everson Griffen to Harrison Smith to Anthony Barr (he covers the side-to-side). They don’t have to apologize for the Brees comeback, or for being bailed out by the Diggs miracle.

But the compelling on-field action Sunday in Dallas was overshadowed when Jones said afterward that any Cowboys players “disrespecting the flag” will not play.

“We’re going to respect the flag, and I’m going to create the perception of it,” Jones said.

We believe in the right to protest inequality and support the players’ movement to create a new platform for change.

We also believe together, as Americans, we should honor our anthem. There is a way to do both.

“We will work with the players and league to find a positive way forward,” Papa John’s continued. “Open to ideas from all. Except neo-nazis — [middle-finger emoji] those guys.”

The statements made on our earnings call were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive. That definitely was not our intention. (1/3)

“Any lack of fan support might not have as much effect on the overall business model of the NFL and those teams as building a shiny new stadium that has every bell and whistle under the sun and what accompanies it. Will all the face-painters want to show up and support this team? That’s a different question and a different issue.”

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, ratings figures by Nielsen showed that 8 percent of homes in the Los Angeles market tuned in to NFL broadcasts on Fox this season, down from the 8.3 percent who watched those telecasts in 2015 before the Rams’ arrival. The NFL’s TV ratings were down on a national basis this season.

ESPN NBA reporters give their inside fantasy takes on the strange case of Russell Westbrook’s free throws and LaMarcus Aldridge’s role with Kawhi Leonard out again. Plus, buzz on Dennis Smith Jr., Lonzo Ball and Nikola Mirotic.

T.J. McConnell, Philadelphia 76ers (14 percent): You’ll need to endure some lean scoring nights when rostering McConnell, but you’ll also net fairly stellar steal and assist rates for a complementary guard. For some context, McConnell is fifth among point guards in added value from steals over the past seven days.

Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots player who committed suicide in April while serving a life sentence for murder, suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the neurodegenerative disease linked to bruising hits on the football field, according to a Boston University study of his brain.

The findings prompted a federal lawsuit against both the NFL and Hernandez’s former team.

The 27-year-old had the second-most severe form of the disease and one of the most advanced cases that researchers had seen in a subject his age.cowboys_045

Foster worked from the far hash marks to the numbers and landed a punishing hit that kept the gain to a minimum.

“I’m excited for that man,” Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson said in the locker room after Bortles played well in Sunday’s triumph at Pittsburgh in an AFC semifinal. “All these quarterbacks are paid with no playoff games. I wish I was Blake.”

Keenum, Foles and Bortles also had plenty of help. The Vikings led the league in total defense this season; the Jaguars were second, and the Eagles were fourth.

But the first rule in NFL roster-building always has been that if you don’t have a franchise quarterback, you must do what it takes to try to get one. And that mind-set is not likely to change simply because Keenum, Foles and Bortles are playing on the second-to-last Sunday of NFL competition this season, or because either Keenum or Foles will be a Super Bowl quarterback.

The range is clear to see, as is the big-hitting ability. That burst and closing speed can make Foster a real handful on run blitzes.

These types of plays that allow Foster to win with his athletic ability are where Foster excels in the run game.

The past two seasons, it’s been the regular-season MVP QBs, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton, leading their teams to the Super Bowl out of the NFC. Before then, it was Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Eii Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Kurt Warner. With the exception of Kaepernick, who was exceptional for the 49ers in 2012, all those QBs, including Eli, likely will be in Canton when it’s all said and done.

The NFC last season got the breakout of Dak Prescott. This year, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff showed they’re capable of playing for a ring soon. But at the same time, Rodgers and Wilson couldn’t get back to the playoff party. Prescott hit a sophomore slump. Goff wasn’t quite ready for his playoff close-up. Ryan, Newton and Brees didn’t have enough to last deep into the tournament.

Now it’s down to elevated backup vs. elevated backup for a trip to Minneapolis. Keenum is playing in front of a now healthy again Sam Bradford, and Foles is playing for a still injured Wentz.