Preps Talk

Kaplan: Trio of suitors for Dempster

831099.png

Kaplan: Trio of suitors for Dempster

After a busy Monday evening that saw Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer swing two deals sending Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm to the Atlanta Braves for two minor league pitchers and catcher Geovany Soto to the Texas Rangers for another minor league arm, Tuesday looks like it has the potential to be another extremely busy day for Cubs management.

Baseball sources have confirmed to me that three teams are in play for Ryan Dempster and he will approve a deal to any of the three teams if the Cubs can agree on a suitable return in exchange for the veteran right-hander who is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who have long been Dempster's preferred destination will have to increase their offer as the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have stepped up their pursuit over the last 48 hours. With Roy Oswalt having another poor performance on Monday evening, the Rangers have decided to upgrade their rotation and are looking at all available options including Dempster and Matt Garza.

"Texas is serious about adding a starter and Dempster isn't as expensive to trade for as Garza would be, but after finishing as runners-up in the last two World Series and seeing the Angels add Zach Greinke, Texas management has decided to make a run at adding pitching, a baseball source told me. "However, with three teams seriously involved, it won't be cheap to acquire him even though it is potentially a three-month rental."

"Dempster has made it clear to Cubs management that he would like to play in Los Angeles but he also understands that Epstein and Hoyer have a job to do and he will not stand in their way if it means that the best deal is somewhere else," a source with knowledge of the discussions told me this morning. "He never told them he would only go to LA, he only said that he wanted time to make the best decision for him and his family and that is his right as a 105 10 years in the majors, the last five with your current team man. Ryan is serious about wanting to win a World Series and he will approve a deal if it gives him that chance. People who have been critical of him about the Atlanta deal don't have all of the facts."

Former major-league reliever Mitch Williams told me yesterday on Chicago Tribune Live that he believes Dempster is right to use his veto power to determine where he plays next.

"Fans and media who are critical of Dempster are wrong to feel that way," Williams said. "He earned the right to determine his future and any one of us would use that privilege if we had it. He has been a tremendous player and teammate for the Cubs and he will go right up to the deadline before he makes a decision if that is what it takes to get him to the best situation for him and his family."

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

High School Lites had a busy show as it was the final week of the regular season for IHSA boys basketball Class 3A and 4A. The Class 1A and 2A playoffs also tipped in boys basketball as the show has some thrilling regional titles that were decided in the final minute. And finally, the girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals were played on Friday as the state's top teams played in Bloomington.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Richards wrestler Mia Palumbo

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Simeon boys basketball

Highlights

Marshall shocks Leo in Class 2A regional final

Aurora Christian runs past Harvert Christian for 1A regional title

Buzzer-beater lifts Monticello over Gibson City for regional title

Jacobs goes unbeaten in Fox Valley with win over Dundee-Crown

West Aurora gets by rival East Aurora

Yorkville completes season sweep of DeKalb

Lemont escapes past T.F. North

Marshall needs OT to get past Teutopolis in girls 2A semifinals

Harlan takes down Eureka in 2A semifinals

Stockton runs by Okaw Valley in 1A

Schlarman races by Lebanon

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

2-24_blue-jackets_matchup_nhl_chi_blank.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.