NLL: Trade deadline madness with marquee players on the move

Stephan Leblanc. Halifax, Nova Scotia – Mar 05, 2022: National Lacrosse League game between the Halifax Thunderbirds and Vancouver Warriors at the Scotiabank Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Trevor MacMillan/Halifax Thunderbirds)

It’s that time of year again: trade deadline week in the NLL. Top tier teams look to get better to make that last push for the playoffs, while teams at the bottom of the standings look into the future. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! No, let’s go with players and moves and trades, oh my!

The madness started early last week. On March 9th, the Rochester Knighthawks kicked off trade season with a bang. The K-hawks sent veteran forward Shawn Evans and a conditional second round pick in 2025 to the Halifax Thunderbirds for a second round pick in 2023 and a future first round selection. Evans led Rochester in points, with nine goals and 38 assists in 10 games played this year. Big loss for them, but big addition for Halifax who is currently second in the East and coming up on a huge home-and-home with Buffalo. Adding Evans gives the Thunderbirds another smart and productive veteran and what could be a key piece to a championship puzzle. As for Rochester, getting two picks for Evans seems a little light, but with the team sitting in last in the East, their eyes are definitely set on the future.

There was a lull in the action for about a week after the Evans trade, presumably teams just sussing out the situation. Two more moves were made on March 14th.

The first of the two trades made was Halifax sending Stephan Leblanc and a 2024 second round pick to Panther City Lacrosse Club  for Dawson Theede. Leblanc is another smart veteran who will be a huge addition to PCLC. In 10 games played this year, Leblanc has 34 points with eight goals and 26 assists. A former Champions Cup winner (Toronto in 2011), Leblanc will definitely help a young PCLC team, who seems to be finding their stride as of late. As for Halifax, the addition of Theede could be another piece needed for a championship push. With only 23 points (10+13) in 15 career games, the 24-year-old is just getting started, and is very excited to be with Halifax.

“I’m excited to be back,” Theede said. “I’ve been going to school here (in Halifax) for the past four years, so it’s exciting. I get to play in front of some of my friends. I’m going to bring a gritty game to Halifax and try and help the boys win an NLL championship this year.”

The second of the two trades was the Buffalo Bandits trading Brent Noseworthy and a 2022 fourth round selection to the New York Riptide for a 2024 first round selection. Noseworthy is a huge addition for New York. While Nosey has only five career points (1+4), he makes up for that in his defensive prowess and the intensity he has.

“We have heard nothing but good things about Brent and the competitive edginess he plays with,” Riptide general manager Jim Veltman said. “We are bigger and better with him in our lineup.” Noseworthy was a 2019 first round selection for Buffalo, so they’ll be looking to replace him with the newly acquired first rounder in 2024.

On March 15th, four more trades were made. The first being the Philadelphia Wings sending Anthony Joaquim and a 2022 third round pick to the Colorado Mammoth for Sam LeClair and a 2022 second round pick. Joaquim is a big, strong defenseman who has 22 points (9+13) in 53 career games. More importantly, he has an impressive 231 loose balls in that time frame. Colorado sits second in the West and clearly is looking toward the playoffs. As for the Wings adding LeClair, the rookie has six goals and four assists in four games this year.

“Our offense hasn’t been effective this year and we needed a change. Sam is a fast, dynamic player who adds to our inside game,” said Wings’ general manager and head coach Paul Day.

Next up was Philadelphia again. The Wings traded Brett Hickey to the San Diego Seals for a 2024 second round selection. Hickey’s veteran leadership will definitely help out an already talented Seals team. With 15 goals and 21 assists on the season, Hickey should produce swimmingly on the West Coast.

Can anyone confirm if Stephan Leblanc even unpacked his bags in Fort Worth? If you haven’t guessed yet, yes, the next trade is Stephan Leblanc. Again. This time PCLC sent Leblanc to the Georgia Swarm for a 2022 second round pick. Nothing changes in the adulation aspect of Leblanc and his game, just another change of scenery.

“We are really excited to have Stephan join our team,” said owner and general manager John Arlotta. “He is an experienced NLL player and brings great vision to the field. We expect him to make significant contributions to our offense, many of which don’t always show up in a box score.”

The final trade of the day was a multi-player deal. The New York Riptide sent Tyson Gibson to the Colorado Mammoth for a 2024 first round pick, Tyler Digby and Ron John. Gibson has recorded 28 points (8+20), 37 loose balls and five power play assists in 11 games with New York this year. The former first round pick has recorded 71 points (24+47) and 88 loose balls in 23 career contests. Gibson’s stellar first season with the Riptide earned him NLL Rookie of the Year honors. Some could argue this as being the steal of this year’s trade deadline. New York will look to replace Gibson with that first rounder in 2024. However, it seems as though there were some mixed emotions in the New York front office when completing this deal.

“This was the hardest deal I’ve had to make in my short tenure as GM,” Veltman said. “Tyson is a quality person and a good lacrosse player. However, we felt the pieces we got back in this deal improves our deficiencies on offense and defense and maintains our draft equity. We welcome our new additions and wish Tyson all the best going forward.”

Let’s catch our breath everyone; what a crazy couple weeks. We’re officially in the second half of the season and on the road to the playoffs. Buckle up.