New York Giants reportedly planning big effort to keep Leonard Williams

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

Leonard Williams is the big name free agent on defense this year for the New York Giants, and there’s a lot of speculation over whether the team will keep him. It’s not going to be cheap to re-sign Williams after his big season gave him more leverage to get paid, but most fans will want to see Williams back due to his impact on the pass rush. According to a report from ESPN, the team is planning to do just that and bring him back.

Jeremy Fowler claims that the team is likely to make a strong effort to keep the player.

I continue to hear the Giants will put forth a strong effort to keep Williams, who broke out with 11.5 sacks and 30 quarterback hits. Williams likes the way DC Patrick Graham got him loose with stunts and tilted fronts. Keep the party rolling with a big payday before the new league year. If that doesn’t happen, Williams will have plenty of suitors after realizing his enormous potential in 2020.

Williams had more sacks in his first year under Patrick Graham than he did during any other year in his career. And of course, his performance was a massive jump up from his first year in New York. Some have speculated that the Giants won’t be able to keep Williams as other teams will come with more attractive offers. But that largely depends on where the priorities are for the Giants.

If the Giants make a point of trying to re-sign Williams, there’s a good chance they’ll be able to get him back another year. But they may just have to give up other talent such as Dalvin Tomlinson, who himself has an unclear future with the team due to his contract.

New York Rangers fall in overtime as Artemi Panarin suffers an injury

It would figure that the 700th game between the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins would be interesting. After some end to end action and some video reviews, the Rangers fall to the Bruins 3-2 in overtime.

It is not surprising that the Rangers were involved in another close game, as coming into tonight’s contest, Each of the Rangers’ last nine games, and nine of the team’s 11 games this season, have been decided by two or fewer goals. Six of those contests and have been decided by one goal.

In addition to the final score, the biggest news of the night is the injury status of Blueshirts star Artemi Panarin. He missed a large portion of the third period after being shaken up late in the second period. Panarin did come on to man the power play with seven minutes left in the game. Even in the short amount of time, Panarin played in the third period, it was apparent that he was skating with a great deal of discomfort.

After the game, head coach David Quinn said in his post-game zoom conference that “Panarin has a little bit of a lower-body injury and will be reassessed.” If Panarin misses anytime, this would come as a big blow to the young Rangers team.

Julian Gauthier scored his first Ranger and NHL goal to get the scoring started. Kevin Rooney tapped in a loose puck late in the second period to tie the game that eventually went into overtime.

Alexandar Georgiev got the start in the net on his 25th birthday. However, it was quite different than the game he played last year on his birthday when he stopped 55 of 56 shots and earned a win on Feb. 10, 2019, vs. Toronto. Georgiev’s 55 saves were the second-most in one game in franchise history.

The first place Bruins came into the game red-hot, going 7-0-1 in their last eight games. Their win tonight is their fourth straight.

The Rangers and the Bruins will be seeing a lot of each other as the Rangers will play four home games against the Bruins in February, which marks the first time in franchise history that the Blueshirts will play four regular-season home games against the same opponent in one calendar month.

The two teams meet again on Friday night.

NASCAR: Alex Bowman christens new ride with Daytona 500 pole

Bowman will sit on the pole for NASCAR’s season-opening event. He will line up next to Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron.

In NASCAR, some things never change. Jimmie Johnson has retired and Jeff Gordon will be in the media booth, but their respective vehicles will nonetheless pace the field at the Daytona 500.

Alex Bowman christened his new number with a run of 47.056 around the iconic 2.5-mile oval on Wednesday night, earning the pole for Sunday’s Great American Race (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox). It will mark Bowman’s first race in the No. 48 Chevrolet after the retirement of its seven-time Cup Series champion Johnson. William Byron (47.314) will be right beside him in the No. 24 previously occupied by Gordon.

Qualifying for the Daytona 500 consists of two different stages. Single-car qualifying, where each car runs a single timed lap, settles only the front row, while the rest of the field is determined through qualifying races known as the Bluegreen Vacations Duels on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, FS1).

Bowman, 27, earns his fourth consecutive front row start in the 500, also winning the pole for the 2018 event while driving Hendrick No. 88. He also started in the front row next to then-pole sitter Byron in the year after. Alas for Bowman, coming off a career-best sixth-place finish in last year’s standings, no pole-sitter has won the 500 since Dale Jarrett did so in 2000 for Robert Yates Racing.

Byron will return to Daytona’s oval for the first time since earning his first Cup Series win at the regular season finale in August, a win that clinched him a spot in the NASCAR playoffs. The No. 24 rounded out the top five in Tuesday’s Busch Clash exhibition held on Daytona’s road course.

In addition to Hendrick Motorsports, Wednesday night proved to be a big one for both Ryan Preece (8th, 47.585) and David Ragan (13th, 47.730). Those two drivers were the fastest non-chartered drivers, guaranteeing them a spot in the main event on Sunday. Preece drives the No. 37 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing, while Ragan, who won Daytona’s 400-mile summer event in 2011, will pilot a part-time car for Front Row Motorsports. All other non-chartered drivers will have to race their way in through their respective Duel races. Among the contenders are defending Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric (driving a part-time car for Team Penske before making his full-time Cup debut next season) and his competitor at the de facto AAA-level Noah Gragson.

Wednesday’s qualifying saw 42 cars partake. Gragson’s No. 62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet was barred after failing inspection while Derrike Cope had battery issues with his No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet. Cope, the 1990 Daytona 500 winner, is locked into Sunday’s race through an RWR charter, will be making his first Cup Series start since 2018.

For Thursday’s Duel lineups, click here.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Should the New York Giants double dip at wide receiver in free agency and the draft?

New York Giants, Kenny Golladay

The New York Giants are in need of offensive reinforcements. General manager Dave Gettleman and co-owner John Mara promised fans that they would fix the offense this offseason. Finding weapons for Daniel Jones is going to be a top priority for the Giants and their front office.

Fortunately, there will be a boat load off offensive talent available this offseason. In free agency there will be numerous top-tier wide receivers that could hit the open market. This year’s NFL Draft class is also loaded with wide receiver and tight end talent. The Gaints have no excuses. They will have every opportunity to find an offensive playmaker this offseason, and they better take advantage.

Many fans and analysts are predicting that the Giants will sign a big-name wide receiver in free agency, like Kenny Golladay. This opens things up for the Giants and their draft strategy. Landing a playmaker in free agency would allow the Giants to focus on different positions, maybe even on defense, in the first round of the NFL Draft.

But what if the Giants did not alter their draft strategy in such a way? What if the Giants went best player available at eleven overall, whether that is an offensive playmaker or not? Well, the best player could potentially be one of the draft’s top wide receiver talents, such as Devonta Smith, JaMarr Chase, or Jaylen Waddle. The Giants could potentially double dip at the wide receiver position in the NFL Draft after signing a wide receiver in free agency.

Who could the Giants sign in free agency?

It seems like a very likely scenario for the Giants to land wide receiver Kenny Golladay in free agency. The only thing that could potentially stop Golladay from hitting the open market is if the Lions use their franchise tag on him. Golladay has already declined a lucrative contract offer from Detroit.

If Kenny Golladay hits the free agent market, the Giants should make signing him a top priority. The Giants had interest in trading for Kenny Golladay back in October. They inquired but no deal was made. Now, the impending free agency could be the Giants’ top target in free agency, and many analysts believe he will be. Many analysts are predicting that the Giants will, in fact, sign Kenny Golladay.

But even if New York does not land Kenny Golladay, there are other great wide receivers they could pursue. Names like Cory Davis and Curtis Samuel stand out as slightly cheaper options with different playing styles. Still, these players could be huge additions in the Giants’ pitiful, 17.5 points per game offense.

Double dipping in the draft

Assuming the Giants accomplish their mission and land a wide receiver in free agency, the likely next step would be to address a different position in the draft. But New York could go a different route and completely overhaul their offense. The Giants could double dip at the wide receiver position in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, depending on how the board shapes out.

If a player like Jaylen Waddle or Devonta Smith were on the board at eleven, those would be premiere offensive talents, extremely difficult to pass up on. Regardless of who the Giants sign in free agency, they should strongly consider drafting one of these top wide receiver talents if they have the chance to.

A wide receiver corpse featuring Kenny Golladay, Jaylen Waddle, and Sterling Shepard would be dominant. The more playmakers the better for Daniel Jones entering his third season.

Kenny Golladay is an elite wide receiver that could go for one thousand receiving yards and make plays at every level of the field. Jaylen Waddle has a ceiling so high no one can see it and could be a game-changing playmaker to stretch the field for the Giants’ offense. Sterling Shepard, now a savvy veteran, would be that underneath option to get open and make scrappy plays. The Giants cannot forget about Darius Slayton as well, who, in this scenario, would be an incredible fourth receiving option.

Throw this group of playmakers in alongside Saquon Barkley and the Giants’ offense could go from worst to first in a year. Sure, drafting a stud cornerback or edge rusher would be beneficial for the Giants’ defense in round one, especially if they sign a wide receiver in free agency. But if the Giants are going “best player available,” they cannot pass up on one of the top three wide receiver talents in this year’s draft. The Giants’ offense could receive a massive overhaul and turn things around in one short offseason.

New York Rangers: Igor Shesterkin is Finally Playing to His Potential

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin got off to a very rough start in his 2021 campaign. His confidence was low, his outings were consistently poor, and the title of ‘starting goalie’ was non-existent. Shesterkin has rebounded nicely in recent games though, and the Rangers are playing their best hockey of the young season. Though it took longer than desired, he is playing like Broadway’s goalie of the future – and is only going to keep getting better.

How Igor Shesterkin is Finally Playing to His Potential:

His Early-Season Jitters Stopped

Over his first four starts of the season, Igor Shesterkin was extremely underwhelming. His .894 save percentage and 2.73 GAA were close to the bottom in the NHL among qualified goalies. He looked lost, confused, and tremendously anxious. On top of his poor play, the coaching staff didn’t do much to help. He was swapped with teammate Alex Georgiev after each start start, lowering his self-confidence even more. Even after stopping .920% of shots against the Sabres in a 3-2 overtime victory, head coach David Quinn sent Shesterkin to the bench. He was in desperate need of a spark to rejuvenate his play.

And on the first of February against the Penguins, he got that spark he needed. In a crucial game for the Rangers, Shesterkin stepped up in a huge way. He had his best outing of the season by a large margin, stopping .962% of shots faced, while allowing only one goal. The Rangers built off of his strong performance and won the game 3-1. It was exactly what he needed. And this time around, the coaching staff showed their belief in their goalie of the future, naming him the starter against Washington. 

His Hot-Streak Began

In a game on the fourth of February against the then one-loss Capitals, Shesterkin was magnificent once again. He stopped .939% of shots and allowed two goals. Shesterkin made a number of impressive saves throughout the game, while leading his team to a 4-2 victory.

His save above hasn’t gotten enough praise. Attempting to stop a shot that is tipped is extremely difficult. The sudden change of direction makes it impossible to guess where the puck is going to land, but Shesterkin makes it look easy.

He kept building confidence in his following start against the Islanders, where he didn’t allow a goal until the 11:15 mark of the third period. Despite his stellar performance, his team was unable to pocket a goal at the other end, and the Rangers lost 2-0. His .933 save percentage was his third-best of the season though, and he single-handedly kept his team in it for more than 50 minutes.

He’s Having Fun Again

It’s extraordinarily difficult to have fun playing a game when you’re struggling the way Shesterkin was. It’s clear he’s enjoying himself now though, and the video below proves it.

For those confused about the meaning behind the video, former Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo was recently waived by the time for fighting backup goaltender Alex Georgiev. It’s clear Shesterkin found the situation to be quite humorous, as he pretends to engage in a fight with forward Artemi Panarin – right in front of Georgiev. You love to see it.

When the doubters of Shesterkin came out, he quieted them, and he’s finally in his groove. The future is bright for the 25-year-old from Moscow, and best of all, the best is yet to come.

What’s next for Beneil Dariush after UFC Vegas 18?

This past weekend at UFC Vegas 18, Beneil Dariush (20-4-1) took on Diego Ferreira (17-3) for the second time. The two had previously met back in 2014 and Dariush handed Ferreira his first career loss at UFC 179.

Both men were carrying in five-plus fight winning streaks into Saturday night. Ferreira has improved so much from their first matchup, but there were a lot of questions around his inactivity and if he could deal with Dariush’s style.

The fight on Saturday was very similar to their matchup at UFC 179. Dariush was able to land several takedowns and control the majority of the fight on the ground. However, there were some spots where Ferreira did have some success.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, Dariush walked away with the split decision. Although, I don’t think anyone outside of those judges believes that this fight at UFC Vegas 18 was all that close. Dariush picked up his sixth straight victory on Saturday night.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 18?

After the fight was over, Dariush made it clear that he wants someone in the UFC’s top five. Originally, Dariush was supposed to fight Charles Oliveira (30-8, 1 NC) in October. However, Oliveira had to pull out of that matchup.

Dariush expressed his frustrations with Oliveira last week. While he’s likely not going to face Oliveira next, there are some top contenders out there for Beneil Dariush. Dariush is now ranked ninth in the lightweight division. 

A couple of options for Dariush are the two guys right in front of him. Dan Hooker (20-10) and Rafael Dos Anjos (30-13) both need opponents. In an ideal world, Dariush would get to face the former UFC lightweight champion, Dos Anjos, next.

However, Dan Hooker might be the more logical opponent. Hooker is coming off of back-to-back losses, but he’s got the name recognition that Dariush needs. Dariush needs a win in the UFC over someone with pop in their name. Pickup a win over Hooker and he’ll get a bump.

Another potential name could be Tony Ferguson (25-5), however, I don’t see that one happening either. No matter what, Dariush needs an opponent ranked above him next. He deserves that opportunity.

New York State allowing limited attendance at games beginning February 23rd

Madison Square Garden

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that beginning February 23rd, limited fans will be permitted to attend sporting events in stadiums and arenas. This applies to venues with a capacity of over 10,000 people.

In his decision to allow fans, Cuomo cited the two Buffalo Bills playoff games with limited attendance. The games didn’t cause a spike in COVID-19 cases, leading to the decision to open all sports venues.

The state is allowing 10% capacity to games with assigned socially-distant seating. Fans must have a negative COVID-19 PCR test to gain entry to any venue and must wear face coverings at all times. Additionally, stadium staff will conduct temperature checks at entrances.

Each game with attendance needs to be approved by the state, and teams are already beginning that process. Both the Knicks and Nets will each welcome around 2,000 fans to their home games beginning right on the 23rd. The Rangers will allow fans to games beginning February 26th, and the Islanders are expected to follow suit. Up in Buffalo, the Sabres are also expected to allow fans.

Come springtime, teams will also be allowed to welcome fans to outdoor events, including baseball and soccer. Outdoor events are less likely to transmit the virus, and those venues can seat more fans.

With fans returning to the stands, it’s a step in the right direction towards normalcy. As more and more people become vaccinated, attendance will likely increase as the COVID-19 transmission rates goes down. Hopefully by fall, COVID-19 will be a thing of the past and attendance will be back at 100%.

 

New York Yankees DFA Ben Heller to make room for Darren O’Day

New York Yankees, Ben Heller

The New York Yankees announced on Wednesday that they have officially signed Darren O’Day to a one-year, $2.45 million deal. O’Day also has a player option for the 2022 season. Both sides verbally agreed to a deal on January 27th, as reported by Lindsey Adler.

O’Day, 38, is known for his sinker and his unique side-arm delivery. A 13-year veteran, O’Day was undrafted out of college and made his MLB debut in 2008 with the Los Angeles Angels. That off-season, the New York Mets selected him in the Rule 5 draft and would pitch just four games in Queens before being placed on waivers. The Texas Rangers picked him up shortly after and he pitched to 1.84 and 2.03 ERAs in his first two seasons in The Lone Star State.

However, his third season with the Rangers saw struggles, and he was once again placed on waivers following the 2011 season. The Baltimore Orioles snagged O’Day and had great success with the organization. Each of his first four seasons in Baltimore saw O’Day with ERAs under 2.30, even adding an all-star selection to his name. O’Day remained an Oriole well into 2018, but a trade deadline deal that season sent him to the Atlanta Braves. O’Day remained with the Braves through the 2020 season.

To make room for O’Day, the Yankees DFA’d reliever Ben Heller. Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 22nd round of the 2013 MLB draft, Heller was traded to the Yankees in the 2016 blockbuster involving Andrew Miller. In 31 MLB games, Heller has a 2.59 ERA and a 1.340 WHIP.

If Heller clears waivers, the Yankees can re-sign him to a minor-league deal. Otherwise, he’s fully available for any other team to pick him up.

The Yankees 40-man roster currently sits full with O’Day’s signing.

New York Islanders: The Josh Ho-Sang experiment is over

The New York Islanders drafted Josh Ho-Sang with the 28th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. It seemed like a sure-fire hit, as Ho-Sang ripped it up in the OHL and the GTHL U16. Sadly, Josh Ho-Sang never reached his first-round potential. It seemed like in 2016 that he was about to hit his stride and make a name for himself in the NHL. He was one of the most excitable players on the Islanders, behind Tavares, of course. But, his exciting play does not equal good performances, and it certainly doesn’t make up for office actions.

Ho-Sang’s attitude has prevented him from being a star, and it was one of the main reasons he got picked so late in the draft. Recently, Ho-Sang was dropped from his SHL team due to a lack of talent and preparation. What’s next for the young forward?

Waivers

Josh Ho-Sang cannot be on the Islanders for another minute, even a minute seems like I’m pushing it. The Islanders preach no turnovers, with hard checking and tight defense. Ho-Sang literally does none of these. He’s almost always turning the puck over in the offensive zone because he tries to do too much. If Ho-Sang just used his teammates and skated off the puck better, and actually played sound defense, he would be a good top 9 forward in the NHL.

Better Coaching

Barry Trotz and his current staff is the best coaching staff in the entire NHL. But, Ho-Sang needs a different type of coaching/system. He needs to go to a team like the Coyotes or the Jets where he can just let his natural talent flow. He’s a good player, everyone knows he is, but he needs to act like he wants to play. Come to training camp on time, never oversleep, be a good teammate, and do not criticize the organization he’s with. Every Hockey fan is rooting for Ho-Sang to become who he should be, but he needs to help himself.

New York Yankees’ farm system ranks in the middle of the pack according to Keith Law

New York Yankees, Clarke Schmidt

The New York Yankees are clearly a win-now team. They haven’t been in rebuilding mode since 2016, when they traded closer Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for a package that included a then-prospect Gleyber Torres.

However, a team doesn’t have to be rebuilding to have a good farm, just like a contending team doesn’t necessarily have to boast a bad system. Having a good foundation to win in the present time AND a bright future coming up is the ideal scenario, though.

For the New York Yankees, the farm system has suffered several hits in the last few years. It was considered great in 2016-2017, but trades have decimated it to the point it was ranked 14th in the most recent release by prospects guru Keith Law, currently working for The Athletic.

In the last few years, Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman has surrendered prospects such as Justus Sheffield, Miguel Yajure, Roansy Contreras, Dillon Tate, Blake Rutherford, Cody Carroll, Billy McKinney, Giovanny Gallegos to upgrade the Major League roster.

The Yankees’ farm, analyzed

Here is what Law has to say about the Yankees’ farm (link courtesy of NJ Advance Media):

“The Yankees seem to develop velocity as well as any organization and have used it to great effect for their own system and for packaging unheralded prospects into bigger trades, while largely hanging on to their own high-dollar guys from the draft and the international market. Because they’ve drafted so low in recent years, their top 20 reflects more of the high-upside talent they’ve found internationally than draft products, although they do have a few recent draftees whose industry value might rise quickly once they get to play this year. They have some depth up the middle, especially at catcher, and even with trades like the Jameson Taillon deal they still have a lot of power arms.”

Despite the 14th position in the ranking, the Yankees still have some ammo to strengthen the team via trade.

Law’s top 10 farm systems are:

1. Tampa Bay Rays

2. Cleveland Indians

3. Toronto Blue Jays

4. Miami Marlins

5. Arizona Diamondbacks

6. Atlanta Braves

7. San Diego Padres

8. Minnesota Twins

9. San Francisco Giants

10. Los Angeles Dodgers