Before we get into expansion news, the hockey world was met with some monumental news this morning. Luke Prokop - a Nashville Predators prospect and the 73rd overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft - has made the courage decision to come out as a proudly gay man.
Luke told his story and spoke about how he hopes to precipitate the change the hockey world so desperately needs.
“But I’ve grown out of that in a sense and had the attitude of ‘I’m going to come out regardless of the way people around me talk.’ But there’s going to be a reason why I don’t necessarily associate with you anymore. I believe hockey has a long way to go still in that sense. There’s some change to be made. And hopefully I can start some of it.’’
“If I can inspire or help make a difference to one person, then I’ve done my job in wanting to create change and to create an environment where it’s healthy for players to come out now.”
You can ready more about Prokop’s story and how big a moment it is for both him and the hockey world here.
Thank you Luke
The countdown is officially on: the Seattle Kraken, the NHL’s 32nd team, will officially select their expansion draft players in a mere two days’ time.
For some teams, the expansion draft likely won’t make much of an impact on their roster overall. But for others, the number of high-profile stars they have — and the limitations set by the league in terms of who they could and couldn’t place on their protected lists — left them making some pretty tough choices when all of the lists were revealed on Sunday morning.
The Colorado Avalanche certainly had a surprising set of players that they left exposed. While goaltender Philipp Grubauer and the team’s up-and-coming younger stars were all kept safe (never fear, Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar aren’t going anywhere), some of the older — and pricier — players were left exposed by Colorado out of necessity. [Mile High Hockey]
One of those players, of course, was captain Gabriel Landeskog. It was reported earlier in the week that talks between the 28-year-old Swedish winger and the Avalanche weren’t going as well as expected, but it was still a bit of a shock for many to see Landeskog land on the list.
One possible reason general manager Joe Sakic was willing to leave a cornerstone player exposed, though? He’s a pending unrestricted free agent — so even if Seattle opts to select him on Wednesday, the Avalanche could still find a way to bring him back when free agency opens up on July 28th. [The Denver Post]
Some other big names, of course, were left off of their teams’ protected lists, as well:
- In Montreal, a pair of aging — but high-profile — players were left as carrots to dangle for Seattle in goaltender Carey Price and defender Shea Weber. It’s possible that neither player’s cap hit is attractive to the league’s newest Pacific Division franchise, but a goaltender like Price could be a big-name draw for the club. [Montreal Canadiens]
- The Washington Capitals also left arguably their most high-profile player, Alex Ovechkin, exposed — but don’t expect Seattle to take him. The Russian-born captain, who currently sits sixth all-time in goals scored in NHL history, is set to become an unrestricted free agent next week, which means that the Capitals could easily sign him back on if Seattle tried to select him. It’s the second time they’ll have pulled this trick, too; they did the same thing with TJ Oshie just a few years ago. [The Washington Post]
- Then, of course, there’s the New York Islanders. Lou Lamoriello wasn’t able to shed as much salary as he wanted ahead of the expansion roster freeze, despite dealing Nick Leddy to the Detroit Red Wings and Andrew Ladd to the Arizona Coyotes. Still, it was a surprise to many to see him leave a pair of high-quality players in Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey exposed — while protecting fourth liners Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck. [Lighthouse Hockey]
- Oh, and then there’s Vladimir Tarasenko. The Russian winger has struggled with injuries with the St. Louis Blues, but some contentious reports that have recently surfaced suggest that he believes the team’s medical care led to his faster deterioration. With that relationship seemingly broken beyond repair, he’s on their exposed list — which means that Seattle could have a stab at him completely for free. [NHL.com]
Finally, outside of hockey there’s been a bit of a hiccup in the sporting world thanks to the announcement that multiple Olympic athletes have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and will not be allowed to participate in the upcoming international games.
Two athletes test positive for coronavirus in the Tokyo Olympic Village after a team colleague is also infected, officials say, raising fears of a cluster just days before the opening ceremony #Tokyo2020 #AFPsports https://t.co/G7ClEjkCPu pic.twitter.com/J8ktAh4KiZ— AFP News Agency (@AFP) July 18, 2021
The IOC has been keeping the nationality of the athletes and worker who have tested positive within Olympic Village, for the safety and anonymity of the athletes themselves.
The athletes at Olympic village aren’t the only ones who have had their Olympic hopes dashed due to the ongoing global pandemic, though. Not long after the news broke of positive tests in Tokyo, American tennis star Coco Gauff — who is just 17-years old — announced on social media that she had tested positive as well and would not be able to compete at the games in the coming weeks:
Breaking: Coco Gauff announced on social media that she has tested positive for COVID-19 and won’t be able to compete in the Tokyo Olympics. pic.twitter.com/QXYAq1VNMA— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 18, 2021
Gauff, who is currently ranked number 23 in the world in women’s singles tennis, just turned 17 in March — meaning that she didn’t become eligible to receive the covid-19 vaccine until mid-April, and that she is currently only eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. At the moment, in the United States, neither Moderna nor Johnson + Johnson vaccines have been approved for use in individuals under age 18.
It has not been confirmed whether or not Gauff was vaccinated, but the loss of her presence for US Tennis is stark. She was set to lead the US Women’s Tennis group at the Olympic Games, which will be the first to not have either Williams sister present in the last quarter of a century. [NPR]