Off the wire

Minnesotas head coach Dean Evason, rear center, attends the NHL Global Series Sweden ice hockey match between Minnesota Wild and Ottawa Senators at Avicii Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. (Claudio Bresciani/TT News Agency via AP)
Minnesotas head coach Dean Evason, rear center, attends the NHL Global Series Sweden ice hockey match between Minnesota Wild and Ottawa Senators at Avicii Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. (Claudio Bresciani/TT News Agency via AP)


Cardinals add pitcher Gray

The St. Louis Cardinals made their biggest splash yet in an attempt to revamp their lackluster rotation, agreeing with AL Cy Young runner-up Sonny Gray on a three-year contract Monday to anchor their staff heading into next season. John Mozeliak, the Cardinals' president of baseball operations, already had signed free agent right-handers Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn to one-year deals. But Mozeliak also said the Cardinals were not at "the finish line," and a week later, they have one of the best pitchers on the free-agent market at the front of their rotation. The 34-year-old Gray went 8-8 with a 2.79 ERA for Minnesota last season. The Cardinals went 71-91 last season for their worst record since 1995, and the biggest culprit was pitching. Their rotation had a 5.08 ERA, fifth worst in the major leagues, and when the bullpen was added to the mix, their 4.79 ERA ranked 24th. The Cardinals only had right-hander Miles Mikolas and left-hander Steven Matz under contract for 2024, so it made sense for them to move quickly and sign Lynn and Gibson to absorb innings at the back of the rotation.


Raiders drop veteran CB

The Las Vegas Raiders released veteran cornerback Marcus Peters on Monday. Peters was benched Sunday against Kansas City after struggling in pass coverage and as a tackler. Both have been persistent issues throughout the season. Raiders Coach Antonio Pierce, who had a spirited sideline conversation with Peters shortly after the benching, said after the game that benching the veteran cornerback was a "coach's decision." Peters, 30, is a two-time first-team All-Pro and has made three Pro Bowls.

Gators fire two assistants

Florida Coach Billy Napier began a much-needed defensive makeover by firing two assistants Monday. Napier parted with cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond and defensive line coach Sean Spencer two days after a season-ending, 24-15 loss to rival and then-No. 5 Florida State, according to a person familiar with the decision. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the coach nor the assistants had made the moves public. The Gators (5-7) lost five consecutive games to end the season and missed a bowl for just the third time since 1990. Defense was the biggest issue down the stretch, with Florida allowing 41.75 points a game in the first four of those losses. The unit was better in the finale against the Seminoles, who were playing without star quarterback Jordan Travis, but it was too little, too late to save the assistants.

Middle Tennessee fires coach

Middle Tennessee fired Coach Rick Stockstill on Monday after 18 seasons, capped by a 4-8 record and an ugly road loss in the Blue Raiders' regular-season finale. Stockstill was hired in December 2005. He had a 113-111 record at Middle Tennessee, with his win total ranked third all-time in program history. He had been the fourth-longest tenured coach nationally and third-longest with the Blue Raiders. He took the Blue Raiders to 10 bowls, with Middle Tennessee bowl eligible 12 times. They beat San Diego State a year ago in the Hawaii Bowl. The Blue Raiders started this season on the road, routed by Alabama followed by a 23-19 loss at Missouri.


Wild fire coach, assistant

The Minnesota Wild fired Coach Dean Evason and assistant Bob Woods on Monday after losing seven consecutive games and 14 of their first 19 to start to the NHL season. General Manager Bill Guerin announced the moves without confirming Evason's replacement. According to multiple reports, former New Jersey and Nashville coach John Hynes will take over. The Wild planned a news conference with Guerin and the next coach for today, prior to their game against St. Louis. Evason, 59, had three full seasons in charge of the Wild, who gave him his first head coaching job in the NHL on Feb. 14, 2020, when Bruce Boudreau was fired and he was promoted from his assistant role. He went 147-77-27 in 251 regular season games and 8-15 in the postseason without winning any series. During the pandemic break, Guerin decided to drop the interim tag and give Evason the job once the Wild resumed practice. They lost a best-of-five series to Vancouver in the qualifying round that year, then dropped best-of-seven first round matchups with Vegas in 2021, St. Louis in 2022 and Dallas in 2023.

NHL expands All-Star Weekend

The NHL has expanded its upcoming All-Star Weekend in Toronto to add a women's 3-on-3 event and bring back the popular player draft. The league announced the new "NHL All-Star Thursday" in a press release Monday. Members of the new Professional Women's Hockey League will take part in a game at Scotiabank Arena on Feb. 1. Four All-Star captains matched with celebrities will draft their teams for the skills competition on Feb. 2 and 3-on-3 tournament on Feb. 3. The NHL also will honor the 1967 Maple Leafs, Toronto's last team to win the Stanley Cup, as part of the festivities. The women's hockey involvement continues a recent trend of involving some of the best players in the world in NHL All-Star Weekend. Canada's Sarah Nurse scoring on New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin was a highlight of the skills competition in 2023, and Kendall Coyne shined in the fastest skater event in 2019.

Minnesota forward suspended

Minnesota Wild forward Ryan Hartman has been suspended two games for a dangerous trip of Detroit's Alex DeBrincat. The NHL's department of player safety announced the ban Monday after a hearing with Hartman. This is Hartman's second suspension of 2023 after getting one game for interference in April. As a repeat offender under the collective bargaining agreement, Hartman forfeits $41,463 in salary. He'll miss upcoming games today against St. Louis and Thursday at Nashville before being eligible to return Sunday against Chicago. In a video announcing the suspension, player safety said Hartman intentionally sweeping DeBrincat's feet out from under him in the third period Sunday made it rise to the level of supplemental discipline, along with Hartman's prior history. He has been fined six times since making his NHL debut in 2015, including twice for tripping or slew-footing an opponent.

  photo  Minnesota's head coach Dean Evason, standing, reacts as players Brandon Duhaime, left, Connor Dewar and Pat Maroon, right, look on during the NHL Global Series Sweden ice hockey match between Toronto Maple Leafs and Minnesota Wild at Avicii Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, Sunday Nov. 19, 2023. (Claudio Bresciani/TT via AP)
  photo  Minnesota Wild head coach Dean Evason, center top, checks the scoreboard during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)