Winger agrees to eight-year contract with Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens are locking up one of their franchise cornerstones. The team has agreed to terms on an eight-year extension with star winger Cole Caufield, the team announced on Monday morning.

The deal will run through the 2030-31 season and will carry an average annual value of $7.85 million per season.

Caufield is coming off a season in which he scored a career-high 26 goals while dishing out 10 assists in 46 regular-season contests. The 22-year-old star’s season came to a premature end in January when he was forced to undergo shoulder surgery.

During the 2022-23 season, Caufield’s 26 goals were tied for the team lead and marked the second consecutive season in which he led the team in that category. At the time of his injury, Caufield was 11th in goals in the league, while also being ranked eighth in the NHL with 19 even-strength goals.

In his first three professional seasons, Caufield has racked up 84 points (53 goals, 31 assists) while topping the 20-goal mark in each of his last two seasons. In addition, the star forward has also tallied 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 20 postseason contests, which all came during the 2020-21 campaign.

Caufield was originally selected with the 15th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft by the Canadiens after a standout career at the University of Wisconsin.

Golden Knights vs. Panthers odds, NHL picks, Game 2 predictions from hockey simulation

The Florida Panthers attempt to even the 2023 Stanley Cup Final at one win apiece when they visit the Vegas Golden Knights for Game 2 on Monday. Florida allowed three goals in the third period on Saturday and suffered a 5-2 loss in the series opener, falling to 0-5 all-time in the Final. The Panthers were swept by Colorado in their only other appearance in 1996. Vegas, which also is in the Final for the second time in its history, has won all five of its home meetings with Florida since joining the NHL in 2017-18.

Opening faceoff at T-Mobile Arena is set for 8 p.m. ET. Vegas is the -140 favorite (risk $140 to win $100) in the latest Golden Knights vs. Panthers odds from Caesars Sportsbook, while the over/under for total goals scored is 5.5. Before making any Panthers vs. Golden Knights picks, be sure to check out the NHL predictions and betting advice from the SportsLine Projection Model.

This model simulates every NHL game 10,000 times, taking into account factors like current form, individual matchups, injuries and short- and long-term trends when making NHL picks. The model seeks the best values on the money line, puck line and total.

Now, the model has set its sights on Golden Knights vs. Panthers and just locked in its picks and Stanley Cup Final predictions. You can visit SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Here are the NHL odds and trends for Panthers vs. Golden Knights:

Golden Knights vs. Panthers money line: Golden Knights -140, Panthers +118
Golden Knights vs. Panthers over/under: 5.5 goals
Golden Knights vs. Panthers puck line: Golden Knights -1.5 (+185)
VGK: The Golden Knights have scored 11 goals in their last two games
FLA: The Panthers are 8-1 when scoring first this postseason after their Game 1 loss
Golden Knights vs. Panthers picks: See picks at SportsLine
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Why the Golden Knights can win
Trailing in a game has not bothered Vegas very much this postseason. The Golden Knights are 8-3 when giving up the first goal and have posted nine comeback victories, one shy of the playoff record set in 2009 by Pittsburgh and matched by Colorado last postseason. Jonathan Marchessault is riding a six-game point streak after scoring his 10th goal of the playoffs in Game 1.

The 32-year-old right wing, who is one of six players remaining from the Vegas team that reached the Final in 2018, has netted eight tallies in as many contests and amassed 16 points over his last 11 games. Ivan Barbashev also has been hot of late, registering 10 points in his past nine outings. Captain Mark Stone continues to be an offensive force at home in the playoffs as he has recorded 14 of his 16 points at T-Mobile Arena after scoring a huge goal on Saturday. See which team to pick here.

Why the Panthers can win
Matthew Tkachuk has set a franchise playoff record with 21 points, which ranks him second in the NHL. The 25-year-old left wing, who was kept off the scoresheet in Game 1 for just the fourth time in 17 contests this postseason, scored four of his nine goals during Florida’s sweep of Carolina in the Eastern Conference Final — three of which were game-winners. Tkachuk has not disappointed since being acquired from Calgary last July as his 130 combined points (regular season and playoffs) are the fourth-most by a player in his first season with a franchise.

Carter Verhaeghe also has come up big for the Panthers, with three of his six playoff tallies being game-winners after only two of his career-high 42 during the regular season decided contests. After scoring only two goals in 20 regular-season games, Anthony Duclair has recorded four in 16 playoff outings and enters Monday having tallied in back-to-back contests. Brandon Montour has gone nine games without a point but leads all NHL defensemen with six goals this postseason. See which team to pick here.

How to make Golden Knights vs. Panthers picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Over on the goal total, as the simulations have the teams combining for 6.2 goals. It also says one side of the money line has all the value. You can only get the model’s pick at SportsLine.

Biggest storylines to watch in promotion’s return to Boston

Although the card has taken some hits in recent weeks due to injury cancellations, the buzz entering Saturday’s UFC 292 pay-per-view card at TD Garden in Boston remains hot and heavy.

Rising star “Suga” Sean O’Malley gets his first shot at UFC gold when he challenges bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling in the main event while Chinese sensation Zhang Weili begins her second reign as women’s strawweight champion in a title defense against Amanda Lemos in the co-feature.

Even though fight fans won’t get to see originally advertised names like Henry Cejudo, Rob Font, Song Yadong and Cody Garbrandt this weekend in Beantown, there remains no shortage of big storylines to look out for.

  1. Aljamain Sterling is quietly on the verge of bantamweight history
    From a disqualification victory to originally capture the belt in 2021 to a one-sided title defense against a one-armed TJ Dillashaw in which he never received credit, Sterling’s reign as 135-pound king has been much maligned. History, however, will likely be much kinder to exactly what Sterling is in the midst of trying to accomplish. Should Sterling defeat O’Malley on Saturday, he would pass two-time champion Dominick Cruz for the most title defenses (4) in UFC bantamweight history. He would also extend his winning streak to 10 fights dating back to a 2017 knockout loss to Marlon Moraes. And as Sterling enters what he has said will “99 percent” his final bout at the weight class, which should clear the way for rising teammate Merab Dvalishvilli to fight for the title, it might be time to take stock as to exactly what he has accomplished along the way. With 135-pound wins over former champions Renan Barao, Petr Yan (twice), Dillashaw and Cejudo, along with an 88-second submission of top contender Cory Sandhagen, Sterling has built a resume that is stronger than he ever gets credit for. Adding O’Malley to it should be the final straw in the “Funk Master” finally getting his flowers.
  2. Sean O’Malley looks to punch his ticket to crossover stardom
    Already one of the most unique personalities in UFC history, the 28-year-old O’Malley enters his shot at full critical respect to match the massive commercial acclaim he has been steadily building ever since his bold debut on the “Dana White Contender Series” in 2017. O’Malley, who has never shied away from the respect he holds for Conor McGregor as a breakthrough star, enters his first title shot in a similar position the Irish superstar was when he shockingly finished featherweight king Jose Aldo in their 2015 title bout. Even though O’Malley has recorded respectable wins on the come up and is fresh off a split-decision victory over a former champion in Yan, there remains no shortage of critics questioning just how good the dynamic striker truly is. Beating Sterling, whose biggest strength on the ground remains O’Malley’s biggest weakness, would likely change that conversation in a dramatic way. With his multi-colored hair, flashy tattoos and deep connection with the younger fanbase UFC covets in further developing, O’Malley appears ready to take his “Suga Show” to the global stage.
  3. It’s about time the women’s strawweight division got back to business
    For a division so historically deep with title-ready talent since its creation in 2014, the UFC’s 115-pound division has been strangely quiet at the elite level ever since Zhang regained her title by submitting Carla Esparza nine months ago. Yes, recent big wins from Tatiana Suarez and Yan Xianon (both over former champion Jessica Andrade) have prevented the overall conversation from growing stale. But quiet exits from former two-time champions like Rose Namajunas (who moved up to 125 pounds) and Esparza (who is expecting her first child in September) have reset the order atop the rankings. Zhang welcomes the 36-year-old Lemos on Saturday, a curious title challenger only in that she was finished by Andrade just last year. But to Lemos’ credit, the Brazilian quickly bounced back with two straight stoppage wins over Michelle Waterson and Marina Rodriguez. Lemos is the decided underdog against the 3-1 favorite Zhang in a fight that has lacked buzz of any kind. Yet still, it’s nice just to see the title back up at stake as Zhang, 34, looks to continue her resurgence following a pair of title defeats to Namajunas in 2021.
  4. Will Irish eyes be smiling on red-hot welterweight Ian Garry?
    It’s no coincidence that O’Malley, with his Irish surname, is featured on Saturday’s card in the same city that McGregor once electrified the Boston crowd with a star-making knockout of Dennis Siver (before hurdling the Octagon and verbally accosting Aldo in the crowd). But another Irish fighter on the rise appears to have been strategically placed onto UFC 292 in hopes he can have his own breakthrough moment. Enter the 25-year-old Garry, who is not only 5-0 since making his UFC debut in 2021, the 12-0 striker has also sampled some of McGregor’s famous celebratory moves after recent big wins. Garry looks for his third straight finish in 2023 alone when he welcomes Neil Magny, a late replacement for the injured Geoff Neal. But fresh off a viral head kick of Daniel Rodriguez in May on ABC, Garry looks for his biggest win to date. He’s as brash as he is precise in his striking and a win over the always stingy Magny would be a validating moment in his meteoric rise.
  5. Chris Weidman’s courage knows no limits
    It has been two years and four months since Weidman’s right fibula and tibia devastatingly snapped in a 17-second loss to Uriah Hall. It’s the same exact injuries Anderson Silva gruesomely suffered on his left leg in his 2013 middleweight title rematch with Weidman. Most fighters would’ve called it a career after the injury, especially since Weidman, now 39, was already in the midst of his own career twilight after having lost six of his previous eight fights since 2015. Most fighters, however, don’t have the same resolve that has kept Weidman rehabbing and training to be able to go out on his own terms like this with a surgically repaired leg. The durable and sturdy Brad Tavares stands in his way as most fans will likely be watching with equal concern and admiration for the respected former champion as Weidman aims to prove to himself that he can still do this.

Mac McClung signing deal with Orlando Magic, per report

The Orlando Magic are loaded with young guards and are adding another to the mix. Mac McClung has agreed to a partially guaranteed deal with the team, according to a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The former Georgetown and Texas Tech standout is looking to stick with a team after logging just four NBA appearances through his first two pro seasons.

McClung only played one game for the Philadelphia 76ers last season but had plenty of success with the Delaware Blue Coats. The 2023 slam dunk champ notched 18.9 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.4 rebounds over 31 games for the 76ers’ G League affiliate. He shot 54.8 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from deep. It could be difficult for him to steal minutes from the lanky, athletic ballhandlers Orlando already has, though.

Markelle Fultz is fresh off a strong season in which he posted career highs in points (13.9) and assists (5.7) per game. Then there are Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs, who provided scoring support and much-needed defensive intensity off the bench last season. Anthony Black, the sixth overall pick from the 2023 NBA Draft, will join that trio of guards in 2023.

McClung has his work cut out for him if he wants to break into the rotation despite his success in the G League. He’s averaged 21.8 points per contest through 55 games split between the Windy City Bulls, South Bay Lakers, and Blue Coats.