THE ATHLETIC's Corey Brock noted the Mariners are in "prime position to earn their first postseason appearance" since '01 because of the deals Exec VP & GM Jerry Dipoto, who signed a multiyear extension last week, and his staff have made. Not to be overlooked is the "culture and creativity and collaboration they've cultivated." The deals and the wins "serve as a tangible validation for a fan base starved for a winner." But there is "more to Dipoto's influence than that." It is what has "occurred behind the scenes, with Dipoto at the forefront, that's shaped the direction of the franchise." It is a "holistic approach designed to touch all departments, to which he's provided the framework for success this season and beyond" (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/9).
NO BIG DEAL: Rockets Owner Tilman Fertitta said that the NBA's luxury tax is "not influencing" the team's offseason decisions. Fertitta: "We know we're going to be in the luxury tax, and if you want to compete for a championship, I feel like unless you get real lucky, you're going to be in the luxury tax. ... It never even came up in any discussion." ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon noted with 11 players on the roster, the Rockets' payroll stands at $118.5M, approximately $5.2M "shy of the luxury tax" (ESPN.com, 7/9).
CHANGING IT UP: In Buffalo, Mike Harrington noted Sabres C Jack Eichel is switching from No. 15 to No. 9 this season, and fans who "own an official-licensed Eichel jersey with the No. 15 can go to the Sabres Store in KeyBank Center and get a $49 credit toward the purchase of a new adult Eichel No. 9 jersey, or $29 toward the purchase of a youth jersey." The exchanges had to "take place at the store" starting at 10:00am ET on Monday. Eichel's No. 15 jersey was the "No. 13 seller on Shop.NHL.com last season" (BUFFALO NEWS, 7/7).