Capitals

Rivera feels safe this year, not sure beyond that

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Rivera feels safe this year, not sure beyond that

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Ron Rivera said based on recent conversations with team owner Jerry Richardson he doesn't know if he'll remain the Carolina Panthers head coach beyond this season.

Rivera said Richardson didn't offer him any guarantees, but said ``I know that nothing is going to happen until after the season.''

Rivera's coaching seat got a little hotter after the Panthers (2-8) suffered yet another fourth quarter meltdown Sunday, losing 27-21 to Tampa Bay in overtime. Rivera is 8-18 in his two seasons as Carolina's coach.

Richardson fired general manager Marty Hurney four weeks ago and Rivera indicated at the time his own future was tied to Carolina's ability to start ``trending upward'' the rest of the season.

But the Panthers are just 1-3 since Hurney was ousted.

With a new general manager coming in at some point, Rivera has reason to be concerned. He knows many GMs like to assemble their own coaching staff. Rivera said he most recently spoke to Richardson on Friday and said the owner has been ``supportive'' and ``fair and open'' with him.

But Rivera also knows the NFL is a production-based business.

``With him it's `Ron, we've got to get things going. I know it's frustrating on you and your coaches' because it's frustrating on him,'' Rivera said of Richardson.

Richardson was unavailable for comment.

Rivera, 50, said this season has been frustrating with the Panthers losing a number of close games, including four of which they've held a lead in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Cam Newton said the closes losses have been ``the story of the season.''

Rivera said knowing the Panthers are good enough to beat teams like Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle and Tampa Bay is sometimes more difficult to swallow than if they were losing by 14 points every game.

``There just seems to be something missing,'' Rivera said.

The Panthers set out with a goal to win the Super Bowl, but 10 weeks into the season they've already been eliminated from contention to win the NFC South.

``It's tough when you lose (because) things aren't as good as they are when you win, obviously,'' Rivera said. ``Food doesn't taste right. It's difficult to communicate with people looking them in the eye and talking to them. It's hard, and I get it.''

Defensive end Charles Johnson, the team's highest-paid player and a captain, took to Twitter after Sunday's loss to express his frustration over the Panthers giving up an 11-point lead with six minutes to play against the Bucs.

``Embarrassed to be a part of that last drive! Some people study and work harder than others and they get expose(d) in the game,'' Johnson wrote.

Johnson said Monday the frustration wasn't directed at any teammate or member of the coaching staff and in hindsight he should have kept the comments in house, something Rivera urged him to do next time.

But Johnson said he supports Rivera.

``You can't worry about who is going to go and who is going to stay. That is for the front office to decide,'' Johnson said. ``But I'm going to fight with coach until the end. No matter what he does I'm going to ride with him. He's trying to lead us to the right place, so you have to stick with him.''

Rivera said he thinks he has what it takes to turn things around in Carolina given time.

He's in the second year of a four-year contract.

``I'd like to believe that we're doing things the right way - not completely obviously because we've lost too many games in close situations,'' Rivera said.

He points to the players' work ethic and the extra time they put in after practice as examples that they're willing and eager to get better and the team is headed in the right direction.

``I was on a team when I first started coaching that wasn't very good and as soon as practice was over the players couldn't wait to leave,'' Rivera said. ``I'm on a team right now where when practice ends, you've got guys catching balls and guys walking through protections. You'll see the DBs staying out there and working on their technique. There's a commitment that they're still making. ... (But) we haven't won. That's the hard part.''

After the game a linebacker Thomas Davis and other Carolina players expressed concern over Rivera's job security because of their inability to close out games.

``I'll be all right,'' Rivera said. ``No matter what happens, I'll be OK. Whether I'm here next year or not, I will be A-OK. I will go forward. I will make things happen. I will do things. Whether it's here or somewhere else, I will. I believe in who I am and firmly believe in my abilities as a coach.''

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

Will their offensive dominance propel them to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe? Will a different player emerge as the hero of the series?

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler