NLL champions Rush could lose key members
Derek Keenan and the Saskatchewan Rush are bracing themselves for Monday’s National Lacrosse League expansion draft.
The Rush stands to lose two “very good” players, admits Keenan, whose team is leaving a variety of top players from its 2018 NLL championship squad on the table and available when the NLL expansion San Diego Seals and Philadelphia Wings select nine players apiece Monday.
Each team will get to pick one player from the Rush.
This isn’t exactly good timing for the reigning NLL champions.
“Obviously, when you win a championship — and we’ve won three out of the last four years — you’d like to go forward with close to the same group,” said Keenan.
“Over the past few years, we’ve made little tweaks here and there, moving the odd guy out and bring a young guy or two in. We’d certainly like to have another stab at it, but it’s good for the league. It’s more jobs. It’s just unfortunate that we’re going to lose a couple of great guys. “That’s just the nature of it at this stage with expansion.”
The Rush has protected forwards Mark Matthews, Robert Church, Ben McIntosh, Ryan Keenan and Curtis Knight, transition Chris Corbeil, defencemen Kyle Rubisch, Ryan Dilks, Mike Messenger and Matt Hossack, plus goalie Evan Kirk.
Left unprotected, and up for grabs, are forwards Marty Dinsdale, Jeff Shattler and Dan Dawson, transitions Jeff Cornwall, Adrian Sorichetti and Jeremy Thompson, defencemen Nik Bilic, Matt MacGrotty and Brett Mydske, and goaltender Tyler Carlson.
“We could keep our offence in tact — we might not lose anybody from offence,” said Keenan, “but I still believe you can’t win in our league without having really good defensive players and we’ve been really fortunate over the years to have a real stable, but we could lose a couple.”
Unrestricted free agents who are left unprotected can opt to sign with any NLL team regardless if they are selected in Monday’s expansion draft — unless San Diego or Philadelphia decides to declare that player as its “franchise player.”
“I left the unrestricted free agents (Mydske, Thompson, Carlson) unprotected because I’m sure we can re-sign all of them,” explained Keenan.
“The only thing is that the teams could select them and put a franchise tag on them. Each team only has one franchise tag, but that could happen. All indications, talking to my guys who are unrestricted free agents, are they’ll resign with us.
“I’m not sure that, if I was sitting at the other side of the table, I’d be picking unrestricted free agents because it’s a crapshoot unless you put a franchise tag on them and you only get one franchise tag,” he added.
As well, practice roster players — transition Tor Reinholdt, defenceman Nick Finlay, forward Johnny Pearson, and goalie Adam Shute — are unrestricted free agents who are also available to sign anywhere.
Of course, the Rush and other NLL teams have the right to reacquire players selected in the expansion draft if a trade can be worked out.
Also, any holes remaining after the expansion draft could be at least partially filled at the NLL Entry Draft in September.
Saskatchewan owns three firstround picks — No. 5, No. 10 and No. 11.