EX­PAN­SION DRAFT

NLL cham­pi­ons Rush could lose key mem­bers

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - DAR­REN ZARY dzary@post­media.com

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.

Derek Keenan

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