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Jason Spezza signs with Maple Leafs at league minimum for third straight season

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TORONTO — Jason Spezza will once again be sporting blue and white next season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Wednesday the 38-year-old forward has re-signed with his hometown team at the league minimum US$750,000 for the 2021-22 campaign.

Spezza registered 10 goals and 20 assists in 54 contests for Toronto during the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season before adding five points in the Leafs’ stunning first-round playoff loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

Selected second overall by the Ottawa Senators at the 2001 NHL draft, Spezza has put up 970 points (351 goals, 619 assists) in 1,177 regular-season games to go along with 75 points (28 goals, 47 assists) in 92 playoff outings.

The two-time all-star will be suiting up for the Leafs at the league minimum for a third straight season. According to the website capfriendly.com, Spezza has earned more than $89 million in his career.

The Leafs need bargain contracts in their bottom-6 forward group with nearly half the team’s wage bill — the NHL salary cap will sit at $81.5 million for the foreseeable future because of the COVID-19 pandemic — earmarked for Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

Toronto, which has not won a playoff series since 2004 and the Stanley Cup since 1967, led Montreal 3-1 in the first round of this year’s post-season before the underdog Canadiens won three straight to advance in the North Division.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 16, 2021

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Canada’s Jessica Klimkait wins bronze in under-57 kg judo event

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TOKYO — Canada’s Jessica Klimkait has won bronze in the women’s under-57 kilogram category at the Tokyo Olympics.

The reigning world champion from Whitby, Ont., defeated Kaja Kajzer of Slovenia by waza-ari in a bronze-medal match.

Klimkait missed a chance to add a gold medal to her world championship title when she lost to Sarah Leonie Cysique of France in the semifinals.

Klimkait was defeated by ippon when she was assessed a shido in the golden score period for a false attack. It was Klimkait’s third penalty of the bout, giving Cysique a berth on the gold-medal match.

Klimkait was in fine form before her semifinal loss. She defeated Poland’s Julia Kowalczyk in their quarterfinal bout at the Nippon Budokan.

The victory, her second straight via ippon, came after she beat Bulgaria’s Ivelina Ilieva in the round of 16 earlier in the day

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2021.

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Mac Neil finishes first in women's 100 butterfly to capture Canada's first gold medal

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TOKYO — Swimmer Margaret Mac Neil has won Canada’s first gold medal of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Mac Neil was seventh at the halfway point of the women’s 100-metre butterfly, but swam a strong second length to win in a time of 55.59 seconds.

Zhang Yufei of China was second and Emma McKeon of Australia finished third.

Mac Neil became Canada’s first multi-medallist in Tokyo following a silver medal in the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay in the first day of finals.

The 21-year-old from London, Ont., was a surprise winner of the 100-metre butterfly at the 2019 world championship in Gwangju, South Korea, where she bested reigning Olympic champion Sarah Sjoestroem of Sweden.

Mac Neil, a senior at the University of Michigan, is also a two-time NCAA champion in freestyle and butterfly. 

She’d posted the sixth-fastest semifinal time in the 100-metre butterfly an hour before swimming the second leg of the relay in Tokyo.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2021.

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