Chicago Blackhawks

Cole Hamels is now a very, very, very rich man

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Cole Hamels is now a very, very, very rich man

From Comcast SportsNet
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies have agreed to a 144 million, six-year contract that prevents the 2008 World Series MVP from becoming a free agent after the season. The deal includes a club vesting option for 2019 and a limited no-trade provision, the team announced Wednesday in a statement. A news conference is scheduled for noon before the game against Milwaukee. It's the largest contract signed by a Philadelphia athlete and second-highest for a pitcher behind the 161 million deal the New York Yankees gave CC Sabathia in December 2008. The deal was originally reported by FOXSports.com. The 28-year-old Hamels becomes the third Phillies starter making 20 million per season, joining Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. A three-time All-Star, Hamels passed up an opportunity to possibly get more money on the open market to stay with the team that drafted him in 2002. The lanky lefty is 11-4 with a 3.23 ERA this season. He's 85-58 with a 3.38 ERA in seven years in Philadelphia. Hamels has never won more than 15 games in a season, and his 2.79 ERA in 2011 was the only time he was under 3.06. Hamels reached the majors in 2006 after battling injuries in the minors. He went 15-5 with a 3.39 ERA in his first full season in 2007, establishing himself as the team's ace and helping the Phillies win the first of five consecutive NL East titles. He was the team's ace in 08 when he went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five postseason starts. Hamels was MVP of the NLCS against Los Angeles and helped the Phillies beat Tampa Bay in five games for their second World Series title in franchise history. Hamels struggled in 2009. He was just 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA that year, and pitched poorly in the postseason as the Phillies tried for a repeat. Hamels was passed over for veteran Pedro Martinez to start Game 2 of the World Series at hostile Yankee Stadium. Hamels then blew a 3-0 lead in a pivotal loss in Game 3, and New York took the series in six games. Following the additions of Halladay and Lee, Hamels went from ace to No. 3 starter. He began 2011 as the No. 4 starter behind Halladay, Lee and Roy Oswalt. There's no doubt that Hamels is the team's best pitcher this season -- and now richest, too. Halladay is 4-5 and Lee is 1-6.

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

It’s preseason: you don’t need a lot of build-up. Let’s just delve right in, shall we?

1. Lots of shots, but…

The same Joonas Korpisalo that the Blackhawks’ youngsters scored five goals against on Tuesday was on top of his game on Saturday. The Blackhawks peppered him with 54 shots but only two got through, and the second was a 6-on-4 power-play goal in the final two minutes.

“I thought we could have gotten a little more traffic in front of him," Nick Schmaltz said. "I thought we were playing along the outside. I mean we had some great looks. He made some big saves. Some nights you get the bounces and some nights you don’t.”

2. Bérubé’s Blackhawks debut.

Jean-François Bérubé had a tough sequence early in the second period, when he gave up two goals in a 28-second span. This was against a Columbus team that didn’t send many of their top players. He also didn’t see a ton of action in this one; the Blue Jackets fired just 21 shots his way.

3. Growing pains.

Alex DeBrincat had his up and down moments on Saturday night. His turnover led to Columbus’ first goal, he took a slashing penalty and he fought the puck quite a bit. You still saw glimpses of that skill, though, especially with his quick release. Hey, he’s a 19-year-old guy getting his first taste of the NHL. Nights like this are going to happen.

“We all make mistakes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You gotta be safe in certain areas and you learn from that.”

4. Slash-o-meter.

Four more were called on Saturday night. Don’t be surprised if that number starts dwindling sooner rather than later, though, because the edict has apparently changed already. Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported earlier on Saturday that the league told officials to ease up on slashing and faceoff violations. But we all figure that’s going to happen once the regular season begins anyway, right?

5. Notre Dame bound.

The destination is familiar but the Blackhawks threw it into their second week of camp this season. It’ll be bonding time for the Blackhawks, who will send a smaller group for several practices there this week. Quenneville figures it’ll be a productive time. “We’ll get some bonding in, play golf together, have a nice outing, couple of road games and a nice campus.”

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

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USA TODAY

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

Nick Schmaltz seemed to be everywhere the puck was on Saturday night. Great pursuit of the puck, great passes to Patrick Kane or Alex DeBrincat and an all-around confidence that’s becoming more apparent by the game.

So has coach Joel Quenneville seen what he’s needed to from Schmaltz at second-line center?

“And more.”

It’s been a pretty impressive showing for Schmaltz this month. The 21-year-old has played in all three of the Blackhawks’ preseason games and keeps getting better in each one. The uncertainty Schmaltz understandably showed as a rookie is gone; the NHL game no longer feels uncomfortable.

“I feel like the game’s slowing down for me, just seeing plays,” Schmaltz said. “I know what I’m doing with the puck before I get it. It feels good and just trying to get better every day.”

Schmaltz and his fellow second liners didn’t connect for goals in the Blackhawks 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The three combined for 12 of the Blackhawks’ 54 shots on goal – Kane and DeBrincat each had five – and the chemistry continues to build between the three.

Jonathan Toews talked on Saturday morning of how much more relaxed Schmaltz looks with the puck now, and that was evident again later that night.

“He’s really starting to get comfortable physically at this level,” Toews said. “He thinks the game so well, puts himself in good spots, much like Kaner where he can skate with the puck and use his speed. He has his head up so he backs guys off. Those two were making great plays tonight and Brinksy was fitting in well. They couldn’t buy a goal but Schmaltzy’s getting better and better, and you’re’ seeing that calm poise that he has really come out the more he gets comfortable.”

Schmaltz was likely getting a second-line audition in some capacity this fall; the original thought was at left wing in the wake of Artemi Panarin’s trade. But Schmaltz has always felt at his best at center. He’s showing that. And more.

“It’s always fun to play no matter if it’s preseason or regular season," he said. "I’m always happy to play, especially when you’re playing with great players. I feel like I’m more comfortable in the middle, able to use my speed a little bit more, create more offense that way.

"I think it’s going well. Wherever I end up, I’ll be happy.”