Cubs

Hjalmarsson becomes the latest Blackhawk to head overseas

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Hjalmarsson becomes the latest Blackhawk to head overseas

Niklas Hjalmarsson has inked a deal in Italy, becoming the latest member of the Blackhawks to head overseas as the NHL lockout continues.

The 25-year old defenseman agreed to join Serie A club Bolanzo-Bozen Foxes and is expected to arrive on Friday. The addition of Hjalmarsson to the team's roster was "made possible by a strong financial support from private sponsors," according to the team's website.

Hjalmarsson's joining the team two weeks before the start of the Continental Cup--a tournament of national champions, not including the "Super Six" European nations according to the IIHF World Rankings--and will have time to adapt to playing for Bolzano before the Cup campaign opens on Nov. 23.

In the meantime, the NHL and NHLPA continue negotiations this week with the hope of salvaging at least part of the season. After both sides participated in a nearly seven-hour meeting on Wednesday and continue chats Thursday, it appears that some headway is being made between the two sides. However, both the league and union are keeping there talks quiet until they have a new proposal or something significant to report.

Anthony Rizzo is ready to be the leading man 

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USA TODAY

Anthony Rizzo is ready to be the leading man 

When discussing his unconventional lineup choices, Joe Maddon had this to say, "It's almost a backwards way of doing this right now that I'm finding fascinating.....So I'm just gonna let it play for just a little bit and see where it takes us."

And it is hard to blame Maddon for letting his experiment ride out longer.

Via our Chris Kamka, Rizzo has hit in the leadoff spot seven times this season. In those seven plate appearances he has a single, double, triple (July 21), home run, walk, hit by pitch and a groundout. Rizzo’s numbers as a leadoff hitter are staggering:

And it appears the Cubs agree.

After their 7-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, Ben Zobrist joked that Rizzo is the “self proclaimed greatest leadoff hitter...”. And while on paper, having Zobrist bat fourth in the order and Rizzo lead off seems contradictory, the move has definitely energized the offense. Immediately following all the lineup shuffling, the Cubs reeled off four straight wins before the Cardinals 18-run, 18-hit explosion, but even in that game Rizzo did draw a base by HBP.

And sure enough, in Saturday’s game, there was Rizzo, dominating to the tune of three walks and a triple. There is no telling if Maddon will continue to keep him in the leadoff spot. The move was originally made to help Rizzo get his groove back, which if Saturday’s win was any indication, he has.

But with Jason Heyward having a great offensive season, Jesse Chavez looking good in his Cubs debut (two clean innings with one strikeout) and Baez continuing his MVP-like play, Cubs fans should be as optimistic as one certain fan at Wrigley Field.

Training Camp Daily: Peter King Talks Bears Upside

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USA TODAY

Training Camp Daily: Peter King Talks Bears Upside

Training camp Daily: Peter King joins the Under Center Podcast on Day 2 of practice in Bourbonnais. King and John "Moon" Mullin talk Trubisky year 2, Trubisky comparison, Bears upside this season and Urlacher's Hall of Fame Induction.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded link below: