Here is a recap of the NHL awards

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Here is a recap of the NHL awards

From Comcast SportsNet
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Geno and the Swedes were hockey's biggest winners in Vegas. Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin won the Hart Trophy on Wednesday night, becoming the NHL's most valuable player for the first time. Three Swedish players also claimed major trophies at the annual NHL Awards postseason ceremony, but the Penguins' Russian superstar claimed three awards for himself. Malkin won the Hart for the first time at the Wynn Las Vegas casino, beating out Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Tampa Bay scorer Steven Stamkos. Malkin also collected the Art Ross Trophy as the league scoring champion and the Ted Lindsay Award from his fellow NHLPA members as the NHL's best player. "It's the best day of my life," said Malkin, known to teammates and fans as Geno. "It's very exciting." Malkin gathered the Hart, Ross and Lindsay awards next to him after the ceremony, only occasionally struggling in his ever-improving English to express his excitement. Malkin's 109-point season and steady leadership were even more impressive because he largely did it without teammate Sidney Crosby, who played just 22 games after his comeback from a concussion. "I can't believe I'm sitting here, and around me there are three trophies," Malkin said. "It's an unbelievable day for me." Malkin, who turns 26 next month, edged out Stamkos and Lundqvist, who still won the Vezina Trophy for the first time. Lundqvist's win in his fourth Vezina nomination topped the impressive list of Swedish winners. Ottawa's Erik Karlsson won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman, and Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie. Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson also won the King Clancy Trophy for humanitarian contributions to hockey. "For sure, it's a great year for Sweden," Lundqvist said. St. Louis also had a pretty good day in Vegas: Ken Hitchcock won the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL's top coach for the first time in his lengthy career, while Blues general manager Doug Armstrong was selected he league's top executive. Blues goalies Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott also picked up their Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the regular season. Boston forward Patrice Bergeron won his first Selke Trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward. Florida's Brian Campbell became the first defenseman since 1954 to win the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanlike play, and Montreal forward Max Pacioretty won the Masterton Trophy for his comeback from serious injury. But the spotlight was on Malkin, who won his first MVP award after arguably the most impressive season of his six-year career in Pittsburgh. Malkin had a career-high 50 goals and 59 assists while carrying the Penguins during the extended injury absence of 2007 Hart winner Crosby. Malkin was the NHL's only 100-point scorer this season and the first scoring champion in a decade to win a second title despite being almost every opponent's top defensive target whenever they faced the Penguins. Malkin also grew into a more prominent role outside of Crosby's shadow. "Every year I'm a little bit more comfortable," he said. "I learn English, watch TV, go out with friends and teammates. I love this sport. I like my teammates, and I want to be the best." Malkin scored eight points in the Penguins' six-game loss to Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs. The four-time NHL All-Star then was named the MVP of the IIHF World Championships last month after leading the undefeated Russian team to the title. Malkin was a Hart finalist for the third time. He won the vote over Stamkos, who already had wrapped up the Richard Trophy with an NHL-best 60 goals. Lundqvist didn't seem disappointed about losing out on the Hart after the Rangers' tireless goalie finally claimed the Vezina. He went 39-18-5 with eight shutouts, a 1.97 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage while repeatedly keeping New York on track to the Eastern Conference's best record. Lundqvist beat out Nashville's Pekka Rinne and Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick, who got two better prizes last week when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL's playoff MVP for backstopping the Kings to their first championship. Karlsson appeared overwhelmed by his selection as the NHL's best defenseman. The 22-year-old had a big week, agreeing to a seven-year contract extension worth 45.5 million on Tuesday before beating out Boston's Zdeno Chara and Nashville's Shea Weber for his first Norris. "It's a huge honor," said Karlsson, who led all defensemen with 78 points in his breakout season for the Senators. "I couldn't be more happy than I am right now. I've never been a part of something this big, and it's something that took me by surprise a little bit." Karlsson also recognized the symbolism of winning the Norris in the same offseason as the retirement of Niklas Lidstrom, his fellow Swede and a seven-time Norris winner, including last season. Lidstrom retired from the Detroit Red Wings on May 31 after a 20-year career. "He really took the game to another level and showed people how to play fun hockey," Karlsson said. "It's an honor to be mentioned in the same way." Landeskog, who beat out Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and New Jersey playoff hero Adam Henrique for the Calder, had 22 goals and 30 assists for the Avalanche, who chose him with the second overall pick in last summer. The former Ontario Hockey League forward had little trouble adjusting to the NHL grind, playing in all 82 games for Colorado. "To me, Ryan would have won it if he didn't get hurt, and if you counted the playoffs, Adam would have won it," Landeskog said. "I'm just trying to enjoy it, trying to soak it all in." Bergeron beat out St. Louis captain David Backes and Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, a three-time Selke winner. Boston's defensive stopper had 22 goals and 42 assists for the Bruins while racking up a plus-36 rating as a dominant two-way player. "Ever since I was probably 12 years old, I never wanted to get scored on when I was on the ice," said Bergeron, a Stanley Cup champion in 2011. Pacioretty broke a vertebra in his back and incurred a concussion on a hit from Chara on March 8, 2011, knocking him out for the season. He returned to the Canadiens last fall and had 33 goals and 32 assists for his most productive pro season. The 60-year-old Hitchcock was recognized for his remarkable turnaround job in St. Louis, where he took over for Davis Payne 13 games into the season and turned the Blues into the Western Conference's No. 2 team, winning the Central Division and reaching the second round of the playoffs. Hitchcock has a Stanley Cup ring from Dallas in 1999, but hadn't won the Adams Trophy in three previous nominations. "I'll keep doing this for as long as I feel like I have the energy," Hitchcock said. "This year was just great."

Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

The Cubs are preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson, hoping the talented, frequently injured pitcher can stay healthy and provide insurance for their rotation.

Anderson posted a telling message on his Twitter account on Monday night, hinting at what would be another offseason check mark for the defending World Series champs.

The physical for the agreement — first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and MLB Network — won't just be a formality as Anderson underwent back surgery last March and appeared in only four games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.

But Anderson fits on paper as a left-hander who will turn only 29 on Feb. 1 and won't have to carry front-of-the-rotation responsibilities or feel Opening Day urgency on a team with five projected starters.

The Cubs had been willing to gamble around $6 million on Tyson Ross, who recently signed a similarly structured one-year deal with the Texas Rangers as he recovers from surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

The calculus would essentially be the same with Anderson. The Cubs have to factor in last year's grueling playoff run into early November, this season's sky-high expectations, the organization's lack of high-end, upper-level pitching prospects and the uncertainty surrounding the 2018 rotation.

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Anderson finished sixth in the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year voting with the Oakland A's, but he's reached the 30-start mark only one other time and never accounted for 200 innings in a single season.

Anderson underwent Tommy John surgery in the middle of the 2011 season, and the injuries piled up from there, dealing with a strained right oblique, a stress fracture in his right foot and a broken left index finger.

Anderson had such a fragile reputation that he accepted the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers after a strong platform year in 2015 (10-9, 3.69 ERA). The Dodgers only got 11 1/3 innings out of Anderson, who didn't pitch during a playoff run that ended at Wrigley Field in the National League Championship Series.

The Cubs stayed exceptionally healthy while winning 200 games across the last two seasons and need to be prepared in case John Lackey sharply declines at the age of 38 or Mike Montgomery experiences growing pains while transitioning from the bullpen.

Whether or not Anderson is ultimately the answer, the Cubs will be looking to place a sixth starter into their plans.

"I don't know if a six-man rotation on a permanent basis is the wave of the future," team president Theo Epstein said earlier this winter. "But we certainly endorse it on a temporary basis as a nice way to pace guys for the whole season.

"We can get them some rest, whether you do it in April to preserve depth and ease guys into the season, especially after a deep October and November run. Or after the All-Star break in the summer to kind of get through the dog days and give guys a little bit of a breather as you ramp up for the stretch run.

"I think it would be tough to pull off all season long. But it's something that (could certainly work) in the right spot."

The start of preseason brings the return of hope for the Fire

The start of preseason brings the return of hope for the Fire

A year ago there was hope surrounding the Fire. Hope that general manager Nelson Rodriguez, entering his first offseason with the club, and new coach Veljko Paunovic could spark a turnaround at the club. Those new faces, coupled with an overhauled roster, meant there was hope that things could be better.

Rodriguez and Paunovic had not yet failed with the Fire so there was still that hope that they had a magic touch.

That eroded as the season unfolded and the team’s shortcomings were quickly apparent. The reworked defense seemed to be improved, but the midfield was typically overwhelmed.

Now, after the Fire finished last in Major League Soccer for the second consecutive year, that innocent hope that a new coach and general manager bring is gone. Fans have seen Rodriguez and Paunovic fail and, even though they inherited a team that was not an easy one to turn around, there will be more skepticism.

This year there is hope again, but instead of coming in the form of new management, it comes in the form of accomplished players. Juninho (a three-time MLS All-Star and three-time MLS Cup winner), Dax McCarty (an MLS Best XI selection in 2015) and Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goalscorer in the Polish Ekstraklasa in 2015-16) on paper make the Fire a better team. Can they mesh into a cohesive team that will actually perform better in matches?

“You’d like to think so,” Rodriguez said on Monday at the team’s media day at the PrivateBank Fire Pitch on the North Side. “It’s an inexact science, or at least for me it is. I know others will be more brash and saying it’s all there and all the pieces are together. Until they’re on the field, until they’re in the hotel rooms, until they’re off the field at team meals you never really know.”

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Rodriguez did say that this group is “very different” than last year’s.

“You can talk about all these clever ways to change culture, but the best way to have a winning team is to have winners as part of your team,” he said. “With those four guys (including goalkeeper Jorge Bava) at least we’ve added certified winners.”

So with two former MLS All-Stars arriving in central midfield, arguably the team’s biggest weakness last season, and a proven goalscorer, the pieces are there for the Fire to be better. Now it’s up to Paunovic to put the pieces together in a winning way.

“Obviously we have high expectations because we believe we did this job so far in offseason by the acquisitions that we had and the guys that are still to come,” Paunovic said. “It’s going to be a better team, more competitive.”

Even with the additions, the roster isn’t finished yet. Two trialists are in camp with the Fire, right backs Drew Beckie and Boyd Okwuonu. Beckie is a 26-year-old Canadian who played the 2016 season with the Carolina Railhawks in the North American Soccer League. Importantly, Beckie has a green card and would not count against the Fire’s international roster spots.

Okwuonu, 23, was drafted by Real Salt Lake in the second round of last year’s draft but was not retained. He has represented the U.S. at youth levels, including as a part of the Olympic qualifying team last year.

Right back has been an opening on the roster since Rodrigo Ramos’ loan was not renewed and no player has been added to fill that spot yet so those two could be fighting for a contract. Rodriguez said further additions to defense and midfield are still possible.

“Preseason is going to tell us where we have to improve,” Paunovic said. “Of course, theoretically we all know that there are a couple of spots still to reinforce and a couple of spots that we have to improve. For us now during all this time we are open to all the possibilities.”

The roster appears to be better, but even Rodriguez admitted he had hope last year.

“I was confident last year and the results of last year were bitterly disappointing and utterly unexpected by me," he said. "I have to believe our roster is better, whether that roster comes together the way we imagine, time will tell.”