Capitals

Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell leaving for NFL

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Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell leaving for NFL

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell is headed to the NFL draft after a tireless junior season in which he carried the ball 382 times.

Bell said Thursday he will skip his senior year following a terrific performance as the focal point of the Spartans' offense. He ran for 1,793 yards this season and also caught 32 passes.

``This was the hardest decision of my life,'' Bell said. ``It's difficult to leave my teammates and coaches as well as Spartan Nation, but I couldn't pass on pursuing my dream and the opportunity to change my mom's life.''

Michigan State also confirmed that tight end Dion Sims will forgo his senior season to enter the draft.

The 6-foot-2, 237-pound Bell ran for more than 200 yards three times this season, including a 266-yard effort in the regular-season finale at Minnesota that helped Michigan State become bowl eligible.

``It was his physical durability that was most impressive,'' coach Mark Dantonio said. ``As a 20-year-old, Le'Veon faced an extremely difficult decision. While I do believe there was both personal and program value in Le'Veon returning for his senior season, I acknowledge the difficult choice he had to make.''

The Spartans (7-6) edged TCU 17-16 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Bell ran for 145 yards and a touchdown in that game.

``I couldn't have written a better script for my final game in a Spartan uniform,'' Bell said. ``I ran the ball well against a great TCU defense, but the most important thing was getting the `W.' It was exciting to celebrate with my teammates one last time and leave on that note.''

Larry Caper, the only other Spartan to rush for over 100 yards for the season, was also a senior. Nick Hill, a 5-foot-8 sophomore, had 48 yards on 21 carries.

``Although I'm leaving, Michigan State still has some capable running backs returning, in Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford,'' Bell said. ``Those guys will be running behind a talented and experienced offensive line. Nick and Jeremy are both tough, talented athletes and their time is now.''

Sims caught 36 passes for 475 yards and two touchdowns this season despite missing three games.

``He's a big target with great hands. With his combination of size and power, Dion is difficult to bring down, so he gains a lot of yards after the catch. He's also a much improved run blocker,'' Dantonio said. ``Although we'll miss Dion in our offense next season, he felt the timing was right and we wish him all the best in his future.''

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Capitals deal Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik ahead of the draft

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals deal Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik ahead of the draft

DALLAS—The Capitals have dealt backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer and veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round pick, the team announced shortly before the NHL Draft kicked off Friday at American Airlines Center.

After the moves, the Caps had more than $21 million in space under the salary cap ceiling, according to www.capfriendly.com, and potentially enough room to accommodate new contracts for John Carlson and other key free agents.

GM Brian MacLellan was widely expected to deal Grubauer, a 26-year-old who wanted the opportunity to be a No. 1. As a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who was also coming off a strong season, Grubauer was due a significant raise.

“We would like to thank Brooks and Philipp for all of their contributions to our organization,” MacLellan said in a statement. “Philipp has been a consummate professional and a great teammate and we wish him all the best.”

Trading Orpik, on the other hand, was a bit unexpected, particularly considering how much the 37-year-old’s rugged play and leadership meant to the Caps during their run to the Stanley Cup.

By dealing Orpik, MacLellan shed his $5.5 million cap hit for next season—an important development given the Caps’ tight salary cap situation and the number of key players who need new contracts. Carlson, Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek are unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Avalanche are expected to help Orpik land a preferred spot, whether via trade or buyout. By taking on Orpik in the deal, Friedman reported, the Avs only had to give up one pick.

“Brooks,” MacLellan continued, “was a great leader and a tremendous role model for our young players in his four years with our organization. This was a difficult move, but the one we felt we needed to make in order to give some flexibility moving forward.”

Will moving out Grubauer and eliminating Orpik’s cap charge allow MacLellan to ink Carlson, who's set to become the top defenseman on the free agent market? That’s unclear, but it will sure help the Caps’ cause. Carlson is expected to command an extension in the eight-year, $8 million per neighborhood. 

Dealing Orpik also opens up a spot for a young and inexpensive defenseman such as Christian Djoos or Madison Bowey to take on a bigger role in 2018-19.

Without Grubauer, the Caps are likely to turn to Pheonix Copley, who is due to earn the NHL minimum of $650,000 next season, as their backup next season. And if Copley starts the year in Washington, that allows 2015 first round pick Ilya Samsonov to take the reins in Hershey.

The second round pick the Caps received in exchange for Grubauer and Orpik is the 47th overall selection.

MacLellan is expected to speak to reporters following the first round later Friday night. The Caps currently hold the 31st overall pick.

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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

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USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

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