Oilers, Schultz agree to one-year deal (The SportsXchange)

August 29 2014 09:47AM

The Edmonton Oilers agreed to a one-year contract with defenseman Justin Schultz, the team announced Friday.

Did Edmonton cave on Justin Schultz's 1-year deal? (Puck Daddy)

August 29 2014 09:46AM

The Edmonton Oilers and restricted free agent Justin Schultz agreed on a 1-year, $3.675-million contact on Friday that makes him the team’s second-highest paid defenseman next season. Which probably says more about the Edmonton blue line than it does Schultz.  Going with one year is a little curious. (If two years is a bridge contract, then what’s a single season? An overpass?) First off, Schultz is actually taking a little less than the $3.775 million he made last season, which was a combination of his entry-level contract and performance bonuses. Keep in mind that as a rookie free agent, the Oilers had to sweeten the pot a bit more than if they had drafted him. So that was the starting point for his second NHL deal with the Oil Robin Brownlee wanted to see hardball played by the Oilers: Play hardball. “We’ll pay you $2.75 million this season. Prove you’re worth more and we’ll talk next summer.” I’m fine with that. Of course, what I think should happen and what I think will happen are distinctly different. Schultz made $925,000 in salary last season. Bonuses bumped that to $3.775 million. I can see why he wouldn’t like the sound of $2.75 million. I think $2.75 million sounds about right. That said, the Oilers have a history of overpaying and I don’t expect that to change with Arnott and Schultz.  Indeed it didn’t. As Jim Matheson wrote before the signing, agent Wade Arnott had that consideration when negotiating a new deal: Arnott admits there aren’t a lot of clear comparables for Schultz, but you can almost surely put Newport’s client Subban in a small group of possible yardsticks for Schultz, at least in terms of a short contract for now and let’s see what happens down the road. Subban got an average of $2.875 on his two-year deal. It seems unlikely Schutlz’s people would go for that considering his cap hit (with performance bonuses) was $3.775 million last season. His salary was just $925,000 but his agent may be looking at $4 mil a year as a starting point. Now, the Subban comparison might have triggered your gag reflex, but the bottom line is that the Oilers aren’t sure what Schultz’s upside could end up being: Arnott agreed both sides are trying to figure what Schultz’s “ceiling” is.He didn’t argue when suggested Schultz had the offensive chops to be a 55 to 60-point defenceman. But, he’s had average offensive stats (60 points) in his first 122 games. Subban had 74 in his first two full seasons of 158 games in Montreal. Schultz averaged .49 points a game, Subban .47. Subban’s plus/minus was way better (-1) to Schultz’s -39, but the Oilers have been bottom-feeders for years, especially exposing their back-end. Schultz had 33 points in 74 games last season for the Oilers. There are a few ways to read this deal, but the prevailing wisdom is that the Oilers bowed to Arnott’s demands ( which is something they’re used to when it comes to Arnotts ): No second year like Montreal got with Subban, and a cap hit that sets him up for another considerable bump next summer – or, perhaps, setting a high bar for a long-term deal. From Ryan Batty at Copper and Blue: To me this deal seems like the Oilers caved, that they decided that rather than risk a contract dispute that it was better to just get a deal done before the start of camp and then fight this fight again next summer with another year of data. I'm not sure that doesn't just lead to another over payment next summer, but I'm not the General Manager so it's not up to me. And who know, maybe Schultz learns how to play defence between now and then. Ouch. Here’s Dellow’s take … aw, crap, that’s right . Still getting used to that in the Oilogosphere. 

Oilers defenceman Justin Schultz signs one-year contract

August 29 2014 09:37AM

Unable to come to terms on a long-term deal or a bridge two-year package, Edmonton Oilers’ defenceman Justin Schultz has agreed to a one-year contract for what TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting is $3.675 million.

Ex-Oilers goalie pleads no contest to sexting 13-year-old

August 28 2014 11:02PM

Ex-Oilers goalie sentenced for sexting teen

Armed Canadian fighter jets move to Russia’s doorstep

August 28 2014 10:01PM

OTTAWA—As NATO leaders prepare to beef up the military presence in eastern Europe as a deterrence to Russia aggression, Canadian fighter pilots are already there.

Six CF-18 fighter jets were sent to Romania in early May, dispatched to Europe as part of a show of force in the face of Russian military moves in Ukraine.

The Canadian fighter jets have now moved to Lithuania to patrol the skies at the front lines of what some worry could be the next standoff with Russia.

Those tensions aren’t lost on the fighter pilots deployed overseas but it doesn’t influence their day-to-day flying, said Lt.-Col. Jonathan Nelles, deputy commander and chief of staff of the air task force during its time in Romania.

“We all want to understand the political situation and why it is we are in the location that we are, why we have been sent here,” Nelles said.

“But at the tactical level, we have a mission to execute,” Nelles told the Star in a telephone interview from Campia Turzii, Romania, where the Canadians were recently stationed.

“We are close to where those tensions are but our daily activities do not involve those tensions,” he said.

Yet those tensions will top the agenda when the leaders of the NATO military alliance, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, gather in Wales next week to discuss their response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and ongoing backing of separatist rebels fighting in Ukraine.

The deployment of the six CF-18s and several hundred military personnel to Romania in April was part of “reassurance” measures by NATO to step up its presence in eastern Europe in the wake of Russia’s military moves.

In Lithuania, those fighters will be flying missions on Russia’s doorstep — a mere 300 kilometres away as the CF-18 flies — where they will be until at least December.

“Through the hard work of our men and women in uniform, Canada will continue to demonstrate the strength of allied solidarity in response to Russian aggression,” Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said in a statement confirming the Lithuanian mission.

The deployments are a throwback to the era when Canadian fighters and army units were permanently based in West Germany, helping to maintain a nervous peace on the front-lines of the Cold War.

In those days, when Canadian CF-104 Starfighter jets thundered off the runways and into the sky, pilots knew well the deadly serious nature of their missions.

“Back then, during my flying in Europe it was during the Cold War, so 150 miles east of us were people who wanted to kill us. Our job was to prepare to do it to them,” said former fighter pilot Laurie Hawn.

“We weren’t just there to be a flying club. We were there for potentially a pretty serious reason,” said Hawn, now the Conservative MP for Edmonton Centre.

Indeed, the pilot-turned-politician got his call-sign “Hawnski” after flying for 20 minutes through East German airspace in his sleek Starfighter jet.

“I was chased out by some East German MiGs. They didn’t catch me,” said Hawn, adding that a fellow pilot thought that if he was going to fly in Soviet airspace, he should at least have a Russian-sounding name.

The times have changed. The end of the Cold War and shrinking defence budgets prompted Canada to shutter its European bases.

NATO jets still patrol European skies. NATO has been flying so-called air policing missions over the Baltic states — Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — since 2004, when the three countries joined the 28-member military alliance.

Though not a new mission, it has taken new urgency as geopolitical tensions rise. Since April, NATO has committed additional fighters to patrol the Baltic airspace.

This is the first time Canadian fighter jets have participated. Indeed, the deployments to Romania and Lithuania mark the first time Royal Canadian Air Force fighters have operated so far east in Europe, past the Cold War-era borders that divided east and west.

“Our fighter aircraft have certainly not operated in this area of the world, eastern Europe, in the past,” Nelles said.

Flying from an airbase in Siauliai, part of their mission over the Baltics will be to conduct air patrols and intercept any aircraft — usually Russian — that infringe on the sovereign airspace over the three countries.

It’s similar to the missions now flown by Canadian and U.S. jets under the umbrella of North American Aerospace Defense Command to protect airspace over Canada and the U.S.

“Same concept, just a different location,” Nelles said.

Yet because of the nature of that intercept mission, the CF-18s will be armed when they fly from Lithuania, unlike their time in Romania.

Canada’s deployment of fighters could be the prelude of a larger NATO commitment to position troops and equipment in the Baltic States to ensure they are not seen as an “easy target” by Russia.

That’s the advice from a July report from the British House of Commons defence committee, which warned that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are especially vulnerable “due to their position, their size and their lack of strategic depth.”

It quoted one retired Swedish general as saying the territories could be overrun in a couple of days. Without forces based in the Baltic states, it’s unlikely NATO could respond to a surprise attack.

It said that the attack on Ukraine has raised the possibility — albeit “unlikely” — of an attack on the Baltic states and said NATO must step up its readiness.

The report recommends that NATO leaders consider whether to pre-position equipment in the Baltic states, keep NATO troops on exercise there and establish a headquarters to focus on eastern Europe and the Baltic states.

Because all three countries are NATO members, under the alliance’s treaty 5, an attack on one would be seen as an attack on all of the alliance, potentially triggering a sweeping military response.

Academic Roland Paris, of the University of Ottawa, says the vulnerability of the Baltic states may have prompted Canada’s decision to contribute the air assets.

“They are more vulnerable that the other countries and there are signs that Russia has been connecting with Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic countries in a way that is worrisome,” Paris said in an interview.

“In the end, six CF-18s are not going to change the strategic calculus. It’s symbolic. The deployment of six CF-18s means we are putting skin in the game,” he said.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he fears that the ambitions of Russian President Vladimir Putin go beyond Ukraine. But he said the best security of the Baltic states is their membership in NATO.

“I think the leaders in the Kremlin are very well aware that any attempt to test our determination to defend and protect our allies would provoke a very firm response from our side,” Rasmussen said, vowing that the alliance would take “all measures” to protect a member state.

In Romania, the Canadians got a chance to work with a NATO partner overcoming differences in culture, language, tactics and procedures.

And because Romania flies Soviet-era MIG-21 Lancer fighters, Canadian pilots got a chance to fly alongside — and mock fight against — aircraft they don’t normally see.

The lessons learned during peacetime collaboration are vital for those times when “things get more complex,” Nelles said.

“Knowing how someone else is going to react and respond and knowing other’s capabilities is truly important,” he said.

“We had a lot more integration than just flying jets in the air. It was developing a camaraderie, a rapport, an understanding and a trust which I think is vital for defining what interoperability really is,” Nelles said.

John MacKinnon: Katz finds perfect pitchman for Edmonton Arena District: Himself

August 28 2014 08:21PM

EDMONTON — With Rogers Place, the Oilers’ under-construction new home, framed by what soon will be a mixed-use development, Daryl Katz found the perfect salesman to champion the emerging brick-and-mortar of the Edmonton Arena District — himself. For 75 minutes on Thursday, from a 17th-floor board room affording a panoramic view of the district, the Oilers owner was by turns passionate, witty, charming and in total command of the file as he briefed six journalists about his vision.

Sportsnet adds Drew Remenda as Edmonton Oilers TV colourman

August 28 2014 05:34PM

EDMONTON — As rumoured the last few days, Drew Remenda will be the new voice in the Edmonton Oilers’ TV broadcast booth. The 52-year-old Remenda, who was an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks from 1991-95 then got into colour commentary on radio then TV, is replacing Louie DeBrusk as play-by-play man Kevin Quinn’s sidekick.

Ryan Smyth trying to keep busy as NHL camp time approaches

August 28 2014 04:02PM

EDMONTON — Ryan Smyth took off his No. 94 jersey for the final time in a tearful April goodbye after playing 1,270 NHL games and nobody called over the summer to see if he’d changed his mind about retiring after 19 seasons. “I’m old and I’m washed up, I guess,” the former Edmonton Oilers winger said with a laugh from his off-season home in the Okanagan.

Fans to See Every Minute of Edmonton Oilers Season, Exclusively on Sportsnet and Rogers

August 28 2014 01:50PM

TORONTO (August 22, 2014) From the first puck drop to the final whistle, Oilers fans will get a front row seat to all 82 games this season on Sportsnet and Rogers. The Oilers’ regular season broadcast schedule, featuring 32 national games and 50 r...

What you need to know for Thursday in Toronto: News, weather, events

August 28 2014 05:27AM

Weather and traffic:

Better grab your sunglasses as you head out the door: Torontonians can expect a sunny Thursday with a high of 22 C and a low of 13 C.

The UV Index will be 6, considered high by Environment Canada.

GO Transit and TTC are running smoothly. Flights out of Billy Bishop and Toronto Pearson are running on time.

Events in the city:

The Ashkenaz Festival, which showcases Jewish music and culture, runs Aug. 26-Sept. 1 at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre and other venues throughout the GTA. The majority of events are free.

The free Summer Music in the Garden concert presents baroque cellist Kate Bennett Haynes. The concert runs from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Toronto Music Garden, 475 Queens Quay W.

Edwards Summer Music Series: Gardens of Song continues Thursday evening at the Toronto Botanical Garden, 777 Lawrence Ave. E. The free concert runs from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and features Payadora Tango.

For additional Toronto events, check out the City of Toronto website.

Top headlines:

The Jays may not be able to salvage their season, but they managed to defeat the Boston Red Sox 5-2 Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.

As a coach, Rob FordMayor Rob Ford made his high school football players “roll in goose scat,” threatened to beat up a teacher, showed up intoxicated to the final practice before the Metro Bowl and made numerous other questionable decisions, according to internal documents from the Catholic school board. At the same time, recent poll results suggest Ford is the only mayoral candidate gaining ground.

The sister of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is facing charges of aggravated harassment after allegedly threatening to bomb a New York City woman. Ailina Tsarnaeva is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 30.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay is being criticized after he was photographed wearing a pro-gun T-shirt during a Conservative Party fundraiser in Edmonton last week.

An endangered Burmese star tortoise hatched at the Toronto Zoo in early June, and is now on display. This species of tortoise is so endangered it has been listed as functionally extinct.

Did you know:

The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) was founded in 1879, and is considered one of the 10 largest fairs in North America. It attracted around 1.36 million people during the 18 days of the fair in 2013, according to CNE statistics.

A look back:

Former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin was born Aug. 28, 1938 in Windsor, Ont. Martin was PM from 2003 to 2006; he turns 76 today.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay poses in pro-gun T-shirt

August 27 2014 07:45PM

Justice Minister Peter MacKay is drawing criticism after appearing in a photo wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a logo from Canada’s National Firearms Association (NFA) — a pro-gun lobby group — during a Conservative Party fundraiser in Edmonton last week.

The photo shows MacKay standing between two people wearing a black T-shirt with a white image combining a maple leaf and an assault rife and the words “No Compromise” written underneath it.

“A Canadian veteran wounded in Afghanistan approached me at an event in Edmonton, handed me one of his T-shirts and asked if I would pose for a photo. Having spent a great deal of time with members of the Canadian Forces, I have never shied away from an opportunity to demonstrate my support for them and their families,” MacKay explained in an emailed statement from his office.

“I have always been clear: I support safe and sensible firearms policies. Furthermore, our government is working on legislation to stand up for law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters,” he said.

His explanation, however, didn’t wash with NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay), who accused the justice minister of “hiding behind the veterans.”

“Here’s a man who is doing photo ops with his political homies but has no time to meet with the families of the murdered and missing (aboriginal) women,” he said Wednesday night.

“The NFA is doing major lobbying with politicians,” Angus said. “For Peter MacKay to wear one of their T-shirts when they are calling for the stripping of all the gun laws in the country and then later say he didn’t know? . . . He is either being very cynical or he’s just not very bright.

“And either reality is just not very comforting when you are dealing with a man whose job it is to uphold the laws of our country.”

Canada’s National Firearms Association did not return a phone call or an email Wednesday evening.

A version of the photo could still be found on the association’s Facebook page with the caption “Peter Mckay (sic) believes in freedom!”

The photo first appeared online Aug. 22 and has since garnered a lot of attention from gun advocates and critics on social media.

Ericka Clarke, a NFA field officer who appears beside MacKay in the photo, refused to comment Wednesday night and directed inquires to NFA executives, who were unavailable.

Adam Vaughan, newly elected as the MP for Trinity—Spadina, retweeted the photo with the words “unbelievable, yet sadly predictable.”

The Conservative Party abolished the federal long-gun registry in 2012 after campaigning to get rid of it for years.

Johnny Boychuk ‘loves’ being on Boston Bruins blueline

August 27 2014 05:19PM

The kid in the Ryan Smyth Edmonton Oilers replica jersey had two requests of Johnny Boychuk just before he was leaving Perry Pearn’s annual pro hockey conditioning camp Wednesday. “Can I have your autograph, please ... and I sure hope the Oilers get you,” said the youngster.

Former Edmonton Oilers Oilers prospect Taylor Fedun eager for fresh start

August 26 2014 06:10PM

Taylor Fedun still has that mechanical engineering degree in his back pocket — any guy who can build a hovercraft as a school thesis can probably get a high-paying job in the real world — but his National Hockey League dream continues to burn brightly, even though it won’t be in his hometown. He was the best defenceman on the Edmonton Oilers farm team, but with a raft of drafted, younger blueliners on the organizational ladder, Fedun was asked if he’d like to look around following late June’s NHL draft to gauge if there was interest somewhere else.

Edmonton Oilers optimistic Justin Schultz deal will get done before training camp

August 26 2014 10:39AM

With Edmonton Oilers’ training camp only 25 days away, there is still one piece of unfinished business — getting Justin Schultz signed. There’s a possibility the defenceman may sign only a one-year deal if both parties can’t agree on the numbers for a two-year bridge contract.

Edmonton Arena District Joint Adventure Announces Construction of Edmonton's Tallest Tower

August 26 2014 10:31AM

EDMONTON (Aug. 26, 2014) – The Edmonton Arena District (EAD) joint venture, between Katz Group and WAM Development Group, announced today the construction of Edmonton’s newest and tallest tower and one of the tallest structures in Western Canada. ...