– The Canucks are reportedly willing to trade G Roberto Luongo if someone meets their price. Luongo’s annual cap hit of $5,333,333 is more or less reasonable, but the 32-year-old remains signed through 2021-22. Luongo also has a no-trade clause, so he ultimately has the final say. G Cory Schneider, a young, talented goalie sitting in Luongo’s shadow, could be a more likely trade asset, given that he’s an RFA this summer.
– Penguins’ D Kris Letang (head) and D Zbynek Michalek (head) have been diagnosed with a concussion. Letang was hit in the head by Canadiens’ F Max Pacioretty on November 26. The Pens haven’t disclosed the severity of either concussion. Both will likely be tabbed as out indefinitely.
– Canadiens’ D Andrei Markov (knee) underwent successful surgery today. The procedure was performed by Dr. James Andrews. Markov is out indefinitely.
– Former Sabres’ F (and current ESPN analyst) Matthew Barnaby was arrested and charged with DWI early Monday morning. Erie County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call of an SUV driving erratically without a front tire. Deputies say Barnaby, 38, was behind the wheel of his Porsche Cayenne and driving on a rim, which caused sparks. There was also significant front end damage. The Sheriff’s Department says Barnaby failed several standard field sobriety tests and refused a breath test. He was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated. His license will be revoked because of the refusal. Barnaby was issued appearance tickets and released to his attorney. This is the second time this year Barnaby has been in trouble with the law. In May, Barnaby was arrested in Amherst and charged with criminal mischief, trespassing, harassment, contempt and aggravated harassment following an incident with his estranged wife and her boyfriend. Police say no one was injured. He was sentenced in July to 500 hours of community service, counseling, an issued an order of protection from his estranged wife and a one year ACD. Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita told 2 On Your Side that the ACD is now very much in jeopardy, meaning those misdemeanour charges could be reinstated.
– Citing a source familiar with former NFL QB Brett Favre, ESPN Chicago reports that Favre “would listen” if the Bears contacted him about playing quarterback for the 7-5 team down the stretch. ESPN Chicago’s Mike C. Wright notes that the Bears haven’t contacted Favre yet, and reports it’s “highly doubtful” they will. A source told ESPN Chicago, however, that Favre “has been working out and staying in shape.” While coach Lovie Smith denies the Bears are interested in adding a quarterback, the fact that they went after QB Kyle Orton means that they’re not confident in QB Caleb Hanie. Through two starts this season, Hanie is 29-of-60 (48.3%) for 387 yards, two touchdowns, and six interceptions with six sacks and a fumble. Ouch.
– A Monday MRI on Matt Forte’s right knee confirmed he sustained a Grade 2 MCL sprain, with no damage to his ACL. Great news for him and the Bears. MCL sprains typically don’t require surgery and players can make full recoveries in as little as 2-4 weeks–any sprains in his ACL would likely have cost him his season. The Bears will likely refrain from placing Forte on IR and hope he can return in time for the playoffs.
– Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said at his Monday press conference that RB Adrian Peterson (high ankle sprain) is “very close” to returning. PFT reported Sunday that Peterson might not only miss his third straight game in Week 14, but could soon be shut down for the season. We’ll know more Wednesday after the team’s practice.
– Vikings owner Zygi Wilf told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Sunday night that Leslie Frazier will return as the team’s head coach in 2012. ”Leslie will definitely be back next year.” Wilf also expressed confidence in QB Christian Ponder as a franchise player.
– After sitting out Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, Rams’ QB Sam Bradford revealed that his ankle is in almost as bad of shape as it was after he suffered a high left ankle sprain in Week 6. ”It’s definitely gone back to the first couple weeks after the injury. Going through Wednesday’s practice I realized how severely I tweaked it again.” Bradford said he went into yesterday’s game with the “mentality that I was going to start,” he’s likely week to week for a Rams team with nothing to play for besides draft position.
– The Marlins had a 30-minute meeting with 1B Albert Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano, Monday at the Winter Meetings. The Cubs visited with Lozano on Monday morning, with the Cardinals going Monday afternoon. It’s not known what kind of offers have been exchanged or whether the Marlins have improved their original proposal, said to be well below of the $200M that Pujols is hoping to land. The 31-year-old has a 1.037 career OPS and has been an All-Star nine times in 11 major league seasons.
– Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com heard Monday that a recent meeting between Phillies officials and the agent for SS Jimmy Rollins “did not go well.” Rollins and his agent, Dan Lozano, are dead-set on a 5-year contract, a length the Phillies are apparently unwilling to go to. The 33-year-old is also drawing free agent interest from the Brewers. Rollins batted just .268/.338/.399 this past season for Philadelphia.
– According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Rays are telling teams they’ll have to be “overwhelmed” by a trade offer in order to move OF B.J. Upton this winter. The Rays said the exact same thing at the trade deadline in July. Upton made $4.825M in 2011 and is due a significant raise in his final year of arbitration, but the financially-efficient Rays’ front office is fine with it, at least for now. The 27-year-old batted .243/.331/.429 with 23 home runs, 81 RBI and 36 stolen bases in 153 games this past season.
– According to Joel Sherman of the NY Post, the White Sox asked for Yankees’ prospect LHP Manny Banuelos in return for LHP John Danks during a recent negotiation. The Yankees rejected the offer, but remain very interested in acquiring Danks and will continue discussions at a later date. Banuelos, 20, is one of the top young pitchers in the minor leagues. Danks, 26, registered a 4.33 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 27 starts this past year for Chicago.
– According to ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes, the agent for Cuban OF Yoenis Cespedes is telling interested teams that his client wants a $60M contract. That figure is double what Reds’ LHP Aroldis Chapman received. So far, the Yankees, Tigers and Marlins have shown the most interest.
– Marlins’ RHP Josh Johnson (right shoulder) began throwing five days ago. JJ has not experienced any sort of abnormal pain or discomfort in his troublesome shoulder thus far and should be ready to rock by the start of spring training next February. That said, he remains very early in his rehab, and things can change.
– According to Bill Shaikin of the LA Times, Rays’ executive Andrew Friedman has decided against accepting the Astros’ vacant general manager position. Friedman is a Houston native, but what he’s contributed to the Rays’ organization was too much to turn away from. The Astros have also been turned down by White Sox’ assistant GM Rick Hahn, Rangers’ assistant GM Thad Levine and former Dodgers’ assistant GM Kim Ng.
– MLB.com’s Chris Haft reports that the Giants have interest in free agent OF Ryan Ludwick. Club officials are expected to meet with Ludwick’s agent Monday at the Winter Meetings in Dallas, Texas. The 33-year-old batted .237 with a .674 OPS in 139 games this year between the Padres and Pirates.
– The Marlins have officially signed RHP Heath Bell to a 3-year/$27M contract with a $9M option for 2015. Bell has posted an excellent 2.36 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over his past three seasons in San Diego.
– Dodgers GM Ned Colletti told ESPN’s Jim Bowden that a deal for RHP Aaron Harang is not yet complete. Bowden heard from a source Monday afternoon that an agreement had been reached, but negotiations are apparently ongoing. Harang, 33, posted a 3.64 ERA and 1.37 WHIP over 170 2/3 innings in 2011 for San Diego.
– The D’Backs are among the teams with interest in RPH Takashi Saito, according to Yahoo’s Steve Henson. Saito has also drawn significant interest from five other unnamed clubs. The 41-year-old posted a strong 2.03 ERA and 23/9 K/BB ratio in 26 2/3 innings this past season for the Brewers. He’s expected to land a multi-year contract.
– FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Phillies are actively trying to trade 3B Placido Polanco. The Phils are moving hard on free agent 3B Aramis Ramirez. Polanco posted a weak .277/.335/.339 slash line in 122 games this year while battling dual hernias.
– John Cena says it’s time for him to get the WWE title back – and he plans to do so tonight on RAW. WWE has not yet announced a WWE championship match for RAW – but Cena tweeted the following on Monday morning:
“Raw tonight. Going to bench now..then to st Pete times forum. Time to get wwe championship back.”
Based on what we’ve heard from reliable WWE sources, CM Punk’s next opponents are scheduled to be The Miz and Alberto Del Rio – with John Cena shifting gears to his feud with The Rock. The dark match main event for tonight’s RAW will see WWE Champion CM Punk vs. John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio.
– Jim Ross says he has no interest in seeing the final days of Chris Benoit re-told in a new big screen ‘biographical thriller’, entitled Crossface. When asked for comment on the upcoming movie, he tweeted:
“No thoughts…no interest…too sad.”
When further pressed about the issue, Ross wrote:
“I was asked my opinion re: potential Beniot movie. I gave my opinion, did ‘man’ up. Have no interest reliving the tragedy. I lost 3 friends.”
As we reported over the weekend, SRG Films announced Saturday formal plans to produce a film based on the life of the deceased former wrestler, which will be adapted from Matthew Randazzo’s book Ring of Hell: The Story of Chris Benoit and the Fall of the Pro Wrestling Industry. Production is tentatively scheduled to begin next fall.
– The Sports Business Daily Journal published an article on Monday that includes many new details on the upcoming WWE Network, including a firm launch date, the scope of the channel’s distribution at launch lots more. Here are some highlights of what we now know:
WWE is looking to launch the Network on April 1, 2012 – the day of the company’s biggest pay-per-view of the year, WrestleMania XXVIII.
WWE executives have told cable and satellite operators that it is expecting to reach 40 million homes at launch – a huge number for an upstart network.
Comcast executives are representing WWE in its negotiations to get picked up by the nations other top providers, including Time Warner Cable, Cox and Bright House Networks.
WWE also expanded its programming search beyond wrestling, which their sources indicated could include some professional team sports.
WWE has leased space in South Norwalk, Connecticut (close to the company’s headquarters in Stanford) dedicated to the Network. WWE has not yet named a President of the WWE Network, although it’s said they are looking for somebody with reality-show experience. WWE has retained Sucherman Consulting Group to hire 200 employees to staff the network.
WWE’s Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle Wilson is overseeing the launch of the Network.
The article states that “most, if not all” of WWE’s annual 13 PPV events would migrate to the WWE Network. Early surveys by WWE indicated that the “Big 4? traditional shows (WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series & the Royal Rumble) would air exclusively on the Network. Later, another survey indicated WWE had changed their mind on that plan and would have the “Big 4? remain on pay-per-view – with the other “off-brand” shows airing on the Network.
– Damien Sandow, a top prospect at FCW, competed on this weekend’s SmackDown live event tour in matches against Tyson Kidd. Triple H is reportedly high on Sandow, who was signed last year after competing in Puerto Rico.
– TNA President Dixie Carter was recently interviewed by Tennessean.com and had this to say about the following topics:
How TNA has changed with the times: “We’re not just a wrestling company anymore. We do our own booking. We do our own promotion and public relations. We’re a licensing company. We have toys, Halloween costumes, trading cards. We make our own music. All of those things are sold and promoted around the world. But we still do more than 500 hours of television a year.”
How TNA Keeps Up With WWE: “I don’t care who you are, competition makes you better. There’s a reason there’s a Lowe’s across the street from every Home Depot and a CVS across the street from every Walgreens. I think we’ve made WWE better, just as they’ve improved us.”
TNA’s Ongoing Challenges: “When a company first starts out, you have to do whatever you can to get into the business. Then, once you’re established, you spend a lot of time getting out of all the bad contracts that got you into the business. Deals with companies, bad partnerships or licensing deals. We’re still working through some of those now that we’ve found our footing.”
The Next Trend in Wrestling: “Maybe pulling back the curtain a little more. People now are so reality driven. The way we view wrestling in the coming years might respond to some of that. Fans will be able to see a little bit more than they’re used to. They’ll be able to see more of the wrestlers’ unscripted emotions and drama.”