Nationals

Stempniak leads Flames past Oilers 4-3

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Stempniak leads Flames past Oilers 4-3

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Lee Stempniak scored a power-play goal and added two assists to lead the Calgary Flames to their first win of the season, 4-3 over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night.

Jay Bouwmeester, Mikael Backlund and Curtis Glencross also scored for Calgary. New Czech acquisitions Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka both played well in their debut on a line centered by Matt Stajan with Hudler picking up an assist.

The Flames got off to a bad start to the season with back-to-back home losses last weekend before picking up a point in a shootout loss in Vancouver on Wednesday.

Sam Gagner, Justin Schultz and Jordan Eberle scored for Edmonton, which was outshot 35-20.

Stempniak's power-play goal at 14:57 of the second period, restoring a two-goal cushion for the Flames at 4-2, was set up on a beautiful effort by Bouwmeester. The Flames defenseman pinched in from the blue-line, made a slick move to fool Ladislav Smid, then zipped a hard pass across the top of the crease that was neatly deflected in by Stempniak.

That goal would turn out to be the winning goal as the Oilers, with goaltender Devan Dubnyk pulled for an extra skater, got a goal from Gagner with 2 seconds left.

Despite having won two of its first three games, the Oilers entered the night not having led yet in a game and that trend continued as goals by Backlund and Bouwmeester gave Calgary a 2-0 first-period lead.

Backlund's goal at 5:16 came when he banged a loose puck under Dubnyk from the top of the crease after Mike Cammalleri got it there by neatly weaving his way through the slot.

Bouwmeester made it 2-0 at 14:25, ripping a wrist shot past Dubnyk from the blue line with Jarome Iginla providing a screen.

The Oilers cut the gap to one after taking just 5 seconds to convert a power play in the final minute of the first period.

With Glencross off for goaltender interference, Edmonton won the faceoff back to the blue line where Eberle slid the puck across to Schultz and the impressive Oilers rookie wristed a shot past Miikka Kiprusoff at 19:19.

Calgary restored its two-goal lead four minutes into the second period when Iginla's centering pass was tapped in by Glencross who was wide open on the far side of the net.

Eberle got the Oilers back to within one again with Edmonton's second power-play goal of the night. Breaking off the sideboards, Eberle looked off Bouwmeester, then neatly dodged the stick check of Stajan before wiring a shot into the top corner.

NOTES: Calgary has won 10 of the last 12 games between the two teams. ... Since Taylor Hall was born 21 years ago, Calgary and Edmonton have made the playoffs in the same season only once - in 2005-06. ... With the debut of Hudler and Cervenka, the Flames had two Czechs in their lineup for the first time since Jan. 29, 2003, when they had Petr Buzek and Roman Turek. ... The teams don't meet again until April 1. They'll meet three times in the season's final month. ... After this four-day layoff, Calgary's has no more than two days off between games the rest of the season.

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Reports: Nationals to pay minor-league players $300 a week in June

Reports: Nationals to pay minor-league players $300 a week in June

The Nationals will reportedly pay minor-league players in their farm system $300 per week for the month of June, The Athletic's Britt Ghiroli and Emily Waldon first reported.

The new pay rate for the players in Washington's system is a drop of $100 per week - or 25% from the $400 teams had pledged to pay their inactive minor league players each week up until May 31. The Washington Post also reported the move. 

That change in salaries for Nationals' minor-league players comes after hundreds of minor leaguers across baseball were released on Thursday due to the coronavirus pandemic, including players in Washington's system. The cuts were attributed to there likely being no minor-league season at all. Around 30 players were let go Thursday from the Nationals system, The Athletic's story stated.

Though Washington has pledged to pay remaining minor leaguers for June, it is the only franchise that has stated it will be doing so at that rate of $300. Other teams have stuck with the $400 figure so far - except the Oakland Athletics, who informed players they would not be paid after May 31

NBC Sports Washington reported last week that the Lerner Family announced there would be no furloughs or layoffs for the Nationals' staff - though pay cuts range from 10% to 25% and will not go back up even if there is a baseball season.

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Releases of minor-league players and cuts in pay are just the latest fallout from what is slowly becoming a lost season for baseball. Though there is still optimism that a 2020 season will happen, at least for Major League Baseball, the two sides trying to negotiate a safe and fair deal continue to hit road bumps. Disagreements in salary, safety measures and other factors have talks continuing on into June between owners and the MLB Players' Association. 

As the calendar turns to another month, MLB remains in a tough position. Problems exist now, and the current landscape could lead to future struggles for the game of baseball.

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Stalled 2020 negotiations could hinder MLB's future, according to ESPN's Buster Olney

Stalled 2020 negotiations could hinder MLB's future, according to ESPN's Buster Olney

The feelings around a 2020 Major League Baseball season have slowly shifted from hopeful to cautiously optimistic to questionable as negotiations between the players and owners continue to hit road bumps.

Further salary cuts, player safety and the structure of the potential season are all factors that the two sides have different opinions on. Therefore, an agreement that would bring baseball back has continuously stalled. MLB Network's Jon Heyman explained that a "soft deadline" for a deal to be reached was June 1st. That now seems highly unlikely.

As players continue to voice their displeasure with the idea of losing a larger sum of their salary and owners stand pat, there is still a lot to be worked out if games are going to be played. Now, another concerning detail has emerged, as ESPN's Buster Olney wrote on Sunday that there is a faction of owners content with no baseball happening in 2020.

"Sources say there is a group of owners perfectly willing to shut down the season, to slash payroll costs and reduce losses, and the disparate views among the 30 teams have been reflected in the decisions to fire and furlough," he wrote.

Whether this mindset takes control or not, Major League Baseball is facing a major turning point both for the 2020 season and beyond. As Olney explains in his piece, the messy negotiations aren't just dangerous for the near future, but for years to come.

The focus has been on salvaging the current season, but what about losing next year? That's a reasonable thought according to Olney.

If the current season disappears, there's a reasonable expectation that tensions will carry over into the '21 season that will require a new Collect Bargaining Agreement. If the sides couldn't settle on an appropriate deal for a shortened season, things won't be any easier when the fate of their careers for years to come is now on the table. 

Olney explained that on the side of the players, the threat of a strike could be enacted if negotiations continue to sour. As for the owners, the thought of losing more money in the future on a new deal is enough for them to continue to not budge. 

The stalemate continuing on would completely shatter the league's ability to get things back to normal. That's bad for Major League Baseball internally, but the outside optics could be even worse. 

Olney notes that a lost season will obviously not go over well with supporters. Whether fans are supporting the player's request or believe pay cuts should be made, no one will be happy if they can't watch their team play in 2020. 

"If that doesn't happen -- if they can't agree on a deal to play in 2020 -- baseball will become a loathed presence on North America's sporting landscape, scorned by many fans," Olney wrote.

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But, the anger at the MLB may not end there. Even if 2021 does see baseball happen, drawn-out disputes to get to that point could push fans even further away.

"The labor fight could go on and on, and by the time it all plays out, it's impossible to know how many fans, feeling alienated or disgusted, will leave baseball behind once and for all," Olney added.

The frustration wouldn't just be at the owners, either. Though the players have reasons for their stances, it doesn't mean everyone is going to understand. Olney brought up former pitcher Tom Glavine's explanation to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution of how the current situation compared to the 1994-1995 strike. A largely economic-based stoppage, arguments over large sums of money didn't gain much support from the public, even if what the players wanted was fair.

"If it were to come down to an economic issue and that's the reason baseball didn't come back, you're looking at a situation similar to the strike of '94 and '95 as far as fans are concerned," Glavine said. "Even if the players were 100% justified in what they were complaining about, they're still going to look bad."

At this time, figuring out the 2020 MLB season is still of the utmost importance. Not all hope is lost, but a tough road lies ahead. Should things continue to sour, Olney notes that the future of baseball will face countless more problems.

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