Word on the Street: Cubs ink Pena to one-year deal

Word on the Street: Cubs ink Pena to one-year deal

Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010

Cubs ink Pena to one-year deal

Ideally the Cubs wanted a left-handed first baseman who could hit for power and improve their overall defense. They needed someone who would make a short-term commitment and be flexible enough to fit within their budget.

From the start, Carlos Pena matched that description. And in a negotiation that stretched from late Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning, the Cubs finalized an agreement with Pena on a one-year deal worth 10 million, (CSNChicago.com).

Kane out 'upwards' of three weeks

After a previous report in which Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Patrick Kane's injury was "not real serious," the news has become far more pessimistic. The injury is now being referred to as "significant" and, Tracey Myers is reporting that Kane will miss "upwards" of three weeks. In the meantime, the Hawks will once again have to find a way to win without one of their top players, something they have become all too accustomed to this year.

"We've found a way to play without some of our top players," team captain Johnathan Toews said. "Guys like Campbell and Hossa and I guess now we don't have a choice, we'll have to do it without Kane. It's about everyone else stepping up. (CSNChicago.com)
Kid K back in Chicago?

Maybe, but not on the north side. Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the White Sox have interest in former-Cub Kerry Wood to fill their eighth inning vacancy. Wood, however, is seeking a multi-year deal worth 9 million or more; which could be a problem for the Sox who are already significantly over budget.

If Wood is to end up on the south side, though, it likely won't be until after the winter meetings end on Thursday. (ChicagoBreakingSports)

Alou to the Mets?

Former Cubs outfielder Moises Alou is reportedly a candidate to join the coaching staff of the Met's new manager Terry Collins. Alou is currently serving as the general manager of Escogido in the Dominican Winter League, where his team won the Caribbean World Series in his first year on the job. It is believed that Alou is now simply waiting on a front-office job in the majors. (ChicagoBreakingSports)

NBA buys the Hornets

On Monday the NBA officially announced that the league would be buying the New Orleans Hornets from current owners George Shinn and Gary Chouest. NBA Commissioner David Stern said that, in light of the current state of the economy in New Orleans - and the lack of viable suitors to buy the franchise - it is in the best interest of the team and the league for the NBA to take control of the Hornets.

"The Hornets have a strong management team in Hugh Weber, Dell Demps, and Monty Williams and we have recruited Jac Sperling, a seasoned sports executive and New Orleans native, to be the teams chairman and governor, with Hugh serving as president and alternate governor," said Stern. "I have notified Governor Jindal and Mayor Landrieu about this transaction and will continue our dialogue with them about ways to strengthen the franchise for new ownership in New Orleans. (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

Nationals to make 'huge' offer to Lee

Just one day after signing Jayson Werth to an obscenely large 7-year 126 million deal, the Washington Nationals may be on the verge of doing it again. Juan C. Rodriguez of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel is reporting that the Nats might be ready to give Cliff Lee, the most prized free agent on the market this winter, a "huge" offer. While the Rangers and Yankees are considered the front-runners for Lee, the Nationals may be prepared to jump into the race with a 7-year offer. (Chicago Tribune)

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

When coach Joel Quenneville has put Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together it’s usually been during the postseason.

It’s rare when it happens in the regular season and when it does, it seems like an in-case-of-emergency move. But in this case, it may be more of a get-the-captain’s-production-going move.

The Blackhawks made a few more line changes on Thursday, including combining Toews and Kane, as they prepared for Friday night’s game at the New Jersey Devils. Marian Hossa moved to right wing on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov. Marcus Kruger and Nick Schmaltz flip-flopped as third- and fourth-line centers. Tyler Motte and Ryan Hartman were the third-line wings while Dennis Rasmussen and Jordin Tootoo were on the fourth line.

Coach Joel Quenneville said the line changes, including Kane’s move to the first line, were because the Blackhawks continue to look for balance. To a point, that’s true; the Blackhawks still haven’t come close to getting that four-line rotation with which they’ve found so much success. But considering how successful the Toews and Kane combination has been for each, you’d have to think it’s to help bolster Toews’ point totals. Toews has just two assists through the first seven games.

“Right now I think Jonny, his production isn’t where you look at his play – we still always like the way he plays, he’s so useful in so any different ways,” Quenneville said. “I think maybe we get more balance on both lines. We’ve been trying a number of different looks in our top two groups there. over seven games we still need to be better in a lot of ways. hopefully we can find it.”

Still, if you can get your top players producing points, it’s worth a try. And Kane and Toews, regardless of how long they’ve been apart, usually click immediately upon reuniting.

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“Yeah, I guess change can be good in this sense. We can probably produce a little bit more offense and have the puck a little bit more throughout the game,” Kane said. “I’ve played with Jonny a bunch before. Obviously, not as much lately. But I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a fun way to play hockey. Obviously he’s one of the best players in the game, and probably in my mind, the easiest player to play with. It’ll be fun to get back out there with him and try to create something, try to produce and have some fun with it.”

As for that usual second line of Panarin, Anisimov and Kane, remember: as we’ve seen before, it can be put together again fast.

“They get a lot of shifts and a lot of looks. It’s not like we’re too far away from going back to it at any time. It’s always close and available,” Quenneville said. “Maybe we get more balance and a little more scoring across the board.”


- Defenseman Gustav Forsling (upper body) did not skate on Thursday and will not travel to New Jersey. Quenneville is still hoping Forsling can play on Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Kings.

- Forward Andrew Desjardins (lower body) continues to improve. Quenneville said Desjardins could be skating in the next day or so.

- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Devils.

Illini announce athletics hall of fame with Dick Butkus as first member


Illini announce athletics hall of fame with Dick Butkus as first member

Illinois announced Thursday the establishment of a university athletics hall of fame, and who better than Dick Butkus to be the first inductee?

According to the announcement, Illinois has discussed creating an athletics hall of fame to honor past student-athletes for years, but this is the first time it's been acted upon — not necessarily a surprise now that Josh Whitman, a former Illinois football player, is now in charge of the department.

"The University of Illinois has an incredible and storied history in athletics," Whitman said in the announcement. "Legendary names in sports history are found throughout the Illini record books, and we are excited to honor them in our new Hall of Fame. Since the athletic program's inception in 1890, some of the world's greatest athletes have competed in the orange and blue. Ultimately, as we begin to populate the Hall of Fame, our collection of recognized greats will compare favorably with that of any institution in the nation."

Butkus, of course, is the obvious choice to be the first announced member of the hall of fame's inaugural class.

Regarded by many as the best linebacker and defensive football player ever, Butkus spent three seasons in Champaign, twice a unanimous All-American selection. Playing both center and linebacker at Illinois, he finished in the top six in Heisman Trophy voting in 1963 and 1964, a shocking accomplishment for someone playing a position other than quarterback, running back or receiver.

Butkus made 374 tackles in three seasons and is one of just two players — the other being Red Grange — to have his number retired at Illinois. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame (thanks to his remarkable career with the Bears), and the annual award for the best linebacker in college football is named after Butkus.

"The University of Illinois has played an extremely important role in my life," Butkus said in the announcement. "I have many life-long relationships that began at the U of I and have always been proud to call myself a Fighting Illini. To be recognized in the inaugural class of the Athletics Hall of Fame is a terrific feeling. I'm very proud of what my teams and I accomplished, including the 1963 Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl victory. Thank you for this honor."

The Illini will announce the entire inaugural class in February, with induction coming next September.