The Florida Panthers have agreed to terms with defenseman John Ludvig on a three-year, entry-level contract, president of hockey operations and general manager Dale Tallon announced on Monday.

Florida selected Ludvig, 19, in the third round of the 2019 NHL Draft.

He had 17 goals and 45 assists in 60 games with Portland of the Western Hockey League last season while serving as the team’s captain.

Ludvig finished third among all WHL defensemen in points and assists while ranking fourth in goals to help Portland go a league-best 45-11-3-4.

"John had an outstanding season for Portland in the Western Hockey League and was among the league's top defensemen," Tallon said.

"He is a talented defenseman who possesses great compete, physicality and character.

“We are excited for John's continued development and look forward to his future in the Panthers organisation."

Jack Grealish has issued an apology and said he is "deeply embarrassed" after ignoring coronavirus lockdown measures to attend a party over the weekend.

West Midlands Police launched an investigation after they were called to the Dickens Heath area of Solihull, where two parked cars suffered minor damage.

Aston Villa captain Grealish appeared to be pictured at the scene on social media following the incident.

Grealish had urged the public to stay at home just a day earlier after the Government last week enforced a lockdown and the midfielder has expressed his regret over failing to heed his own warning.

"Hi everybody. I just want to do a quick video message just to say how deeply embarrassed I am about what has happened this weekend." he said in a video posted on his Twitter account.

"I know it's a tough time for everyone at the moment, being locked indoors for so long and I obviously just got a call off a friend asking to go round to his. I stupidly agreed to do so.

"I don't want anyone to make the same mistake that I did, so obviously I urge everyone to stay at home and follow the rules and the guidelines of what we've been asked to do.

"I know for a fact that I'll be doing that in the near future now and obviously, like I said, I urge everyone to do the same.

"I hope everyone can accept my apology and we can move on from this, and hopefully obviously in the near future we can all be out enjoying ourselves again, once this has all boiled over. So cheers guys and thank you."

A Villa statement confirmed Grealish would receive a fine, with the money going to a local hospitals charity.

It read: "Aston Villa is deeply disappointed that one of our players ignored the Government's guidance on staying at home during the coronavirus crisis. 

"Club captain Jack Grealish has accepted that his decision to leave his house was wrong and entirely unnecessary. It breached the government guidelines which are clear and should be adhered to by everybody. 

"The player will be disciplined and fined with the proceeds donated to The University Hospitals Charity in Birmingham."

Harry Kane's warning to Tottenham that he will not "stay for the sake of it" may have put several European giants on red alert as to his potential availability.

The England captain has made no secret of his ambition to win major trophies and, with Spurs having regressed since reaching last season's Champions League final, the prospect of Kane seeking pastures new is more realistic than ever.

Manchester United and Real Madrid have each been tipped with a big-money move for the prolific striker in the past and could be tempted to test the waters.

Here, we have taken a more in-depth look at what Kane brings to the table, with a little help from Opta.


LEADING FROM THE FRONT IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE

Since Kane became a regular starter for Spurs in the 2014-15 season, no player in the Premier League has managed more goals than his return of 133. Indeed, only five players have scored more across all top-five European leagues.

In 2017-18, Kane became the first Englishman since Kevin Phillips to score 30 Premier League goals in a single season and the first Spurs player to achieve the feat in a top-flight campaign since Clive Allen in 1986-87.

Kane is Tottenham's all-time leading scorer in the Premier League with 136 in 198 appearances (an average of a goal every 120 minutes), 39 more than Teddy Sheringham (97).

Since his first Premier League goal, Kane has managed 85 more more than any other Tottenham player (Son Heung-min on 51).


SURPASSING SHEARER

Alan Shearer has long held the record for the most Premier League goals with a remarkable 260, but Kane is on a promising trajectory and surpassed a couple of landmarks set by the Newcastle United legend.

Kane scored 39 Premier League goals in 2017, the most in the competition in a calendar year. Shearer previously held the record with 36 goals in 1995.

In that same 12-month period, Kane celebrated six hat-tricks - beating Shearer's benchmark of five trebles in one year (again in 1995).

Overall, Kane has eight Premier League hat-tricks to his name. Only three players have more - Robbie Fowler (9), Shearer (11) and Sergio Aguero (12).


DOING THE BUSINESS ACROSS EUROPE

Kane has also proven a threat in Europe, with an impressive return in the Champions League.

He scored a brace in a 4-2 win over Olympiacos in November 2019, the second of which was his 20th goal in Europe's premier competition.

It took Kane just 24 games to hit that mark, the quickest of any player in Champions League history.

Kane has the fourth-highest goal tally since making his debut in the competition (2016-17). Only Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi have score more. Esteemed company indeed.

Tom Brady may have won six Super Bowl rings, but Jason Licht has revealed the quarterback still felt the need to state his case to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during free agency.

Veteran Brady chose Tampa Bay as his next destination after bringing an end to a glorious two-decade run in New England, where he added six Lombardis to the Patriots' trophy cabinet.

The Buccaneers have not been to the playoffs for 12 successive seasons but general manager Licht, a former Patriots staffer, and head coach Bruce Arians did not need to pitch Tampa Bay as an ideal landing spot for Brady.

Instead, Licht has detailed how 42-year-old quarterback Brady tried to sway the Buccaneers' top brass in a phone call on March 18, the first day of free agency.

"We had a great conversation - Bruce and I - we talked to him for over an hour and a half," Licht told ESPN.

"And he made it clear in the conversation that he was very, very interested.

"It was almost like a recruitment on his part, telling us why it would make sense for him to come to Tampa Bay. The next call we made, we signed him, but it was at that phone call that we realised, that we felt like we had him."

In moving on from Jameis Winston, who led the NFL in passing yardage in 2019, to Tom Brady, the Buccaneers are going from a gunslinger to a far more risk-adverse QB.

However, there have been fears that Brady, who turns 43 in August, does not possess the requisite arm strength to thrive in Arians' offensive system, which favours taking big shots downfield.

Arians believes Brady still fits the bill for that type of quarterback, and Licht sees no sign of decline either.

"The tape showed to us that he had plenty of arm," Licht added.

"In fact, we thought that he had an ideal arm for Bruce in his system.

"He can still throw it deep. We felt like the mobility was still the same as he's always had, which, he's never been able to outrun anybody, but he certainly is good in the pocket in terms of eluding pressure and with his poise and his instincts.

"We did not see a decline in his arm talent whatsoever. And, in fact, we feel like he could still play for over two years for us, and hopefully that's the case."

Khabib Nurmagomedov is anticipating his proposed fight with Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 will be postponed for a fifth time as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the unbeaten UFC lightweight champion claimed promoters are trying to schedule a fight for Ferguson "with or without him".

Nurmagomedov, who has a 28-0 record, had been due to face Ferguson in New York on April 18 but the event cannot be held at Barclays Center due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Now back in his native Russia, Nurmagomedov revealed he had been told it was "99 per cent" that he would still face Ferguson in Abu Dhabi, but now believes the UFC are planning the card without one of their most high-profile fighters.

"Now I am hearing that they are looking to organise it with or without me. Okay, go ahead," Nurmagomedov said on an Instagram live chat.

"Everyone should follow the laws. I am not against it, I know that fighters need to feed their families and pay their bills. I know how hard it is for the fighter. Unless they fight they aren't getting any money.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Khabib Nurmagomedov (@khabib_nurmagomedov) on

“I am even hearing that they are looking for an opponent for Tony, because he is in the States and I am here in Russia. But I am here not on my own will."

He added: "The UFC told me that this fight 100 per cent isn't happening in the USA, and even if it's not happening in the Emirates it will happen on this side of Atlantic. We discussed everything with the UFC. 

"Now I don't really know what's going on. It's really hard to train and cut your weight when the whole world is locked down and you don't know what you are preparing for. But it's not the first time I face obstacles in my career."

On the previous four occasions Nurmagomedov and Ferguson had been due to meet in the octagon, health or fitness issues forced cancellations.

Ferguson accused Nurmagomedov of using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to avoid him, writing on Twitter: "April 18 Is Getting Close @TeamKhabib & You're Hiding In Russia.

"Travel Bans Will Not Prevent Me From Whoopin' That Ass. Don't Use It As An Excuse To Back Out. You Have Been Sent Many Locations, Send Us 1."

According to a report from ESPN, Ferguson has been offered an alternative fight with Justin Gaethje as an alternative option.

Welterweight Jorge Masvidal, who is one of the leading contenders in the weight class above Ferguson, also appeared to make his availability known by tweeting "April 18 I'm free #theresurrection".

Marcus Rashford has been cleared to step up his recovery from a back injury following positive scans on the problem, Manchester United have confirmed.

England star Rashford has not featured for United since sustaining a double stress fracture in the FA Cup third-round replay win over Wolves on January 15.

There were fears the 22-year-old, United's top scorer this season with 22 goals, could miss the remainder of the season and Euro 2020, which has since been postponed until next year.

With football almost entirely on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rashford could well have the opportunity to return to action if and when the 2019-20 season is resumed.

United said on Monday: "The club can confirm that Marcus Rashford has been cleared to step up his rehabilitation programme following encouraging signs on his latest scans. His progress will continue to be monitored by the club's medical team throughout the current lockdown period.

"Rashford had been working hard on his rehabilitation with medical staff at the Aon Training Complex, before the coronavirus pandemic forced all of the Reds to work individually at home."

Speaking to Sky Sports last week, Rashford said he was feeling "10 times better" as he worked towards a full recovery.

"For me, now it's just about getting ready to build back up to training and then playing games for the team," he said.

"I'm in a much better place. I'm much happier than I was about a month ago, so things are looking positive."

The Irish Open is the latest European Tour event to be postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There has been no European Tour action since the Qatar Masters at the start of March with much of the sports world in lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell was set to host the Irish Open at Mount Juliet Estate from May 28-31, but the second Rolex Series event of the year was cancelled on Monday.

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said: “The decision to postpone the Irish Open follows consultation with all stakeholders and was made with public health and well-being as our absolute priority.

"Our thoughts are with everyone right now and we are all united in trying to fight the spread of the pandemic.

"With this in mind, we will continue to evaluate all aspects of our 2020 European Tour schedule, and discussions on the rescheduling of postponed events will remain ongoing until we have clarity on the global situation."

McDowell said: "As important as the Irish Open is to all of us, everyone's health is our only concern. My thoughts are with everyone affected by the crisis and I hope everyone keeps safe and well during these difficult times."

World number one Rory McIlroy was also due to be in the field in a tournament that Jon Rahm won for a second time last year.

Tyrod Taylor believes the Los Angeles Chargers will "turn a lot of heads" if he is their starting quarterback in 2020.

The Chargers went a disappointing 5-11 in 2019, which proved to be the last campaign of Philip Rivers' time with the franchise as the veteran QB departed after 16 seasons.

Though there was reported interest in Tom Brady, who chose the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as his next destination, the Chargers are yet to acquire another signal caller in free agency, leaving Taylor at the top of their depth chart.

Los Angeles could still select a quarterback with the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft next month, though Taylor is confident he can turn their fortunes around if he is under center in Week 1.

"We have a lot of talent on our team," he told the Orange County Register.

"If I am the guy that would be calling the shots, I know for sure that we'll go out and turn a lot of heads."

Taylor was the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback for three seasons and then began the 2018 campaign as the Cleveland Browns' starter, but he has still yet to shake the impression held by many that he is just a solid backup.

Entering his 10th year in the league, Taylor says that gives him extra fuel.

"It's motivating just for the highs and lows of my career," he explained.

"To be drafted in the sixth round, walking into my 10th year, there's definitely a lot of motivating factors in there being from my time when I was in Buffalo and when I played in Cleveland."

Taylor has spent the early stages of the offseason working with quarterback coach Jeff Christensen, who also happens to be working with free agent Cam Newton.

The 2015 NFL MVP has been linked to the Chargers following his release from the Carolina Panthers and those rumours only grew when Taylor was pictured practicing with Newton.

"It's just two guys working on their craft trying to get better," claimed Taylor, who has also worked out with Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson recently.

"I wasn't implementing or trying to say anything with the photos. We were just out there working and the photos got sent. So no regrets, I posted it.

"We're really good friends and we're going to continue to remain friends, and we're going to continue to push each other and try to find ways to get better."

Billy Joe Saunders has had his boxing licence suspended after he offered advice to men on how to hit their female partners during the coronavirus lockdown.

Saunders demonstrated boxing techniques on a punching bag in a video posted on social media and was seen explaining what to do if "your old woman is giving you mouth" and how to "hit her on the chin".

Promoter Eddie Hearn said he was "appalled" by the WBO world super-middle champion's "idiotic" actions.

The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) on Monday suspended the 30-year-old Brit, who will face a hearing.

A statement from  BBBofC general secretary Robert W. Smith said: "The British Boxing Board of Control having considered comments made by Billy Joe Saunders on social media have suspended his boxer's licence pending a hearing under the Board’s misconduct regulation, at a time and venue to be confirmed as soon as possible."

Saunders issued an apology on Twitter and insisted he does not condone domestic violence after receiving a backlash online.

Hearn told talkSPORT on Monday: "I haven't spoken to him. I spoke to his management team last night. I was appalled really.

"It was so idiotic, it was so frustrating because I know Billy well. He's a really good kid, with a really good heart. 

"He does a lot for the community, he does a lot for charity, but every now and again he does the most stupid things. 

"The world has changed and realised about all kinds of different things, about how you need to treat people.

"It's always with Billy. He spent the weekend down at the NHS, delivering food packages, and meeting people. It's one step forward, four steps back with Billy Joe Saunders and it is frustrating.

"He's got this mentality where it's me against the world. Sometimes you can have a conversation with him and say, 'Bill, what are you doing?' And sometimes that can make it worse. I leave him alone now and when I talk to him, I will be telling him, 'You're a prat, what are you doing?'.

"I can only tell you he does have a good heart, he didn't mean anything in the video, but you just can't do it, especially when you're in his position. It's unacceptable for Joe Bloggs down the street to do it. It's much more unacceptable for a world champion boxer to be doing it.

"Thinking you're having a laugh, or not having a laugh, young people are watching that video. People who are in abusive relationships are watching that video. You cannot do it, it's unacceptable."

Saunders has been awaiting a decision as to whether he or fellow Briton Callum Smith would fight Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez next, although a third bout between the Mexican great and his rival Gennadiy Golovkin has since reportedly moved closer to being finalised.

The heavyweight fights between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin and Oleksandr Usyk and Dereck Chisora have been called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Whyte was due to step into the ring with Povetkin for an interim WBC heavyweight world title showdown at the Manchester Arena on May 2, but the fight will not go ahead.

The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) on Monday further extended its suspension of boxing events until the end of May, with the United Kingdom in lockdown.

Matchroom Boxing stated that the bout has been rescheduled for July 4, although that is subject to how long the ongoing crisis lasts for. 

Usyk was set to do battle with Chisora at The O2 in London on May 23, but that has also been called off and no new date has been agreed.

A BBBofC statement said: "The British Boxing Board of Control has further extended its suspension of boxing tournaments under its jurisdiction for the month of May.

"We will continue to follow the government and medical authorities' advice and keep the situation under review, and when possible explore all options available to find a way of lifting the suspension when conditions permit."

Katie Taylor's world title showdown with Amanda Serrano was due to be on the undercard for Whyte's battle with Povetkin.

 

 

 

Karim Benzema said he "simply told the truth" with his jibe at French compatriot Olivier Giroud.

Real Madrid striker Benzema said "don't confuse Formula One with karting" when asked on Instagram live about comparisons to Chelsea centre-forward Giroud.

Giroud has filled the void left by Benzema's continued international exile, which dates back to 2015, helping France to World Cup glory in 2018.

Benzema sought to clarify his comments on Monday, stating that he had also talked up Giroud's strengths and adding that the same comparison could be used between himself and ex-Brazil superstar Ronaldo.

However, Benzema doubled down with his assessment.

Speaking on Instagram, he said: "About Giroud, I simply told the truth. 

"But we didn't remember what I said about him, especially about what he brings to the French national team. 

"We just remembered the moment when I said I was F1 and he was karting. That's what I think, that's the truth, and that's how it is. 

"Because now, if you ask me with R9 (Ronaldo): R9 is F1, and I am karting. That's the way it is. We're going to move on."

Benzema scored 27 goals in 81 international appearances for France, while Giroud is third on the all-time list with 39 from 97 matches.

Prior to coronavirus postponing the likes of LaLiga, the Premier League and Euro 2020, Benzema had scored 19 goals across all competitions for Zinedine Zidane's Madrid in 2019-20.

Lionel Messi has taken aim at senior figures behind the scenes at Barcelona following confirmation of a massive wage cut to help the club during the coronavirus pandemic.

It was confirmed on Monday that players have agreed to reduce salaries by 70 per cent and make further financial contributions to ensure that all club employees are able to take home the full value of their wages during Spain's state of emergency.

The news came following reports of a disagreement between senior Barca players and club directors over the degree of wage reduction.

Club captain Messi issued a statement on behalf of the players, which was soon shared by other members of the first-team squad, in which he insisted they had always been happy to reduce their pay in order to help the club and its staff during the nationwide lockdown, with LaLiga under indefinite suspension while Spain attempts to arrest the spread of COVID-19.

The message accused those in charge of Barca of placing the players under unfair levels of scrutiny while negotiations over wage cuts continued.

The statement, shared via Instagram, said: "A lot has been written and spoken about the first team of Barcelona in terms of the salaries of the players during this period of a state of emergency.

"Before anything else, we want to clarify that our will has always been to apply a reduction in the salary that we receive, because we understand perfectly that we're going through an exceptional situation and we are the first who have ALWAYS helped the club when we have been asked to do so.

"This includes many times we have done so through our own initiative, at other moments when we have thought it necessary or important.

"It doesn't stop surprising us that from within the club there were those who will try to put us under the magnifying glass and try to add pressure to do something that we always knew we would do.

"In fact, the agreement was delayed for a few days simply because we were looking for a formula to help the club and also its staff in such difficult times.

"For our part, the moment has come to announce that, aside from the 70 per cent reduction of our salary during the state of emergency, we will also make contributions so that club employees can collect 100 per cent of their salary while this situation lasts.

"If we didn't speak until now, it was because the priority for us was to find real solutions to help the club, but also those who were most affected by this situation.

"We don't want to say goodbye without sending a loving greeting and a lot of strength to all the fans who are finding things difficult in these hard times, as well as all those who are patiently waiting in their homes for the end of this crisis.

"Very soon, we're going to get through this and we will all do it together."

Daniel Ricciardo admits there is still huge uncertainty over the 2020 Formula One season but hopes to be racing again by July.

The first eight scheduled grands prix of the year were either cancelled or postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

F1 organisers hope to stage at least a revised season of 15 to 18 races, which could finish as late as January 2021, as Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto suggested at the weekend.

However, it appears unlikely that the sport will return for several weeks and Ricciardo, whose Renault team officially entered a three-week shutdown on Monday, told talkSPORT: "I've kept in contact with the team and we're just trying to figure out what is going on.

"I'm also aware that no one really has a hold of this virus yet. We are predicting maybe July we will get going, but, really, who knows?"

Ricciardo would relish the chance to start the season with the Canadian Grand Prix, which on June 14 is the next race on the initial calendar that has not yet been rearranged.

"I'd love for it to get started at home [in Melbourne] but knowing what I know for now, I don't think Montreal has been cancelled yet and that is the next one on the list," he said.

"I love Montreal as a city and a circuit; it's one of my favourite grands prix. So, if we could start there, that would make my day."

There was huge confusion around the planned curtain-raiser in Melbourne this month, with the race only called off when McLaren withdrew three days before after a crew member tested positive for coronavirus.

"It was weird being there, and even on Thursday I was preparing myself to compete that weekend," Ricciardo remembers.

"But I was never certain it was going to happen; I knew there was a slight risk it could all get pulled last minute.

"The bombshell for me was really when I went to bed on Thursday night, and just before I went to sleep I saw McLaren had pulled out of the race, because of the case within their team.

"I then stayed up for probably another three hours trying to fish out a bit more information, but I knew then we weren’t going to race without a full grid.

"To be honest, I was no longer comfortable with it either; I was like, 'Look, this is the first race of the season, either we are all in it or we're not, that's just how it is'."

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank believes the NFL will be able to put on a full 16-game season despite complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

After a dramatic free agency went ahead despite the spread of COVID-19, the draft is also scheduled to take place in April, although public activities around it have been cancelled and teams are likely to conduct their business from remote locations.

Amid speculation over whether the regular season, due to start in September, will be affected, Blank hopes disruptions are mainly limited to offseason activities and training camps.

"If I had to speculate now, and I use the word speculate because that's really all it is, I would say yes," Blank said to NBC Sports' Peter King when asked about whether a 16-game season would be possible.

"Only because it's so far away from where we are today. I could easily see camps being shorter, players being tested on a daily basis, things of that nature. No fan attendance. Things like that. 

"We may have fewer preseason games, which probably wouldn't be the end of the world. But I think by September, my hope is by the time the regular season starts, that we'll be able to bring people together in some form or fashion in a safe manner and play."

At a time of global strife, Blank believes NFL action is needed more than ever, and he added: "I do think we need football now.

"It's hard to turn on any device you have today, almost any site, television, PCs, laptops, phones - without the first thing popping up being something on the virus. And that's appropriate. 

"However, I also think that people want a diversion. People want to be optimistic. People want to think about things that are really good times for themselves and their families and their loved ones and their communities. 

"To have that kind of hope and aspiration mixed into your daily life is important."

Despite his optimistic outlook, Blank acknowledges alterations are likely to be required.

"I think the NFL’s going to be fine," he said. "I don't mean it won't be changed. It is being changed now [with] how it will impact things like training camp, the OTAs.

"Training camps will probably affected in some way. And of course, your point about the stadiums, with 50,000 to 70,000 people, whatever it may be, it's just too early to tell.

"Of course we have to be able to provide a safe environment for fans. That's the most critical thing." 

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