'Bellies add Salt to Mann Cup-chasing lineup

Everyone knows too much salt is a bad thing -- and in lacrosse circles, that Salt is especially bad for opposing offences.

The New Westminster Salmonbellies bolstered its defensive ranks by acquiring standout Justin Salt in a deal with the Burnaby Lakers on the weekend.

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The trade, which occurred as both teams prepare for this week's Western Lacrosse Association's Junior Draft, sees the 'Bellies forgoing its first and second round selections, as well as New West's first choice in 2021.

In Salt, the reigning regular season champs are getting a versatile, fiesty defender who is known to be a thorn with his transition work.

"What we're getting is a guy who we view as being in his prime lacrosse years, who has a track record on transition and defence that is among the best in the league, and who is a strong character for the dressing room to boot," remarked New West general manager Dan Richardson.

"For me, it was an easy decision to make. We stocked up an area we were hoping to improve on, and (Salt) is excited to be back in Salmonbellie colours."

He noted that plugging Salt in a defence with Brett Mydske, Mike Messenger and Justin and Brandon Goodwin, along with the expected return of Brendan Ranford, gives the team a very strong backline.

The 28-year-old Salt, although a native of Coquitlam, played junior in New West, and is a starter with Richardson's winter team, the National Lacrosse League's Vancouver Warriors.

Last year, due to NLL commitments and a lingering injury, Salt only dressed for five Laker games, contributing two goals and two assists. In Burnaby's run to a WLA regular season title in 2017, he tallied 10 goals and seven helpers over 13 games. He was named to the WLA's first all-star team. As a second-year player with the Lakers in 2013, Salt was awarded the Fred Wooster Award as the league's unsung hero. He was a second round pick by the Lakers in 2012.

Taking the sting out of the cost, from a New West perspective, was that after their pre-draft scouting meetings the organization believed this year's junior draft was neither as talented nor as deep as previous draft years.

"Quite honestly we didn't think that this is a strong draft. We did an analysis, as a group, and felt the players projected in the seventh (selection) hole would struggle to make our team. Now you can't project how other teams will draft ahead of you, but from what we see we could afford to move (the seventh overall and 14th overall) picks.

"Burnaby was interested in acquiring more picks, and so we feel both teams got what they wanted."

The other element which New West factored into the dealing of the 2021 selection was that the WLA is scheduled to incorporate territorial protection next year, allowing each team to protect one local product prior to the junior draft. If a team does not have a player it views worth using its territorial pick on, it can abstain, and would receive a compensatory pick for a one-round draft, which would only be for those not keeping a territorial player, and would occur before the regular draft.

Burnaby also shipped a pair of draft picks in 2021, from the second and third rounds, depending if Salt plays for the 'Bellies in either 2019 or 2020. Should he appear in one game in either of those years, the Lakers retain those picks.

"I don't think we're finished in changing and molding our roster, but right now I'm very pleased with what we have," said Richardson, admitting the team is all-in when it comes to competing for a Mann Cup. "We're not going to stand pat."

* The NLL Warriors, meanwhile, jumped out of the gate Saturday but were unable to follow up in the fourth quarter in an 8-5 loss in Calgary to the Roughnecks.

Vancouver built a quick 3-0 lead before the game was five minutes old, with 'Bellies forward Logan Schuss notching a pair. They'd lead 4-2 late in the first quarter, but Calgary stormed back. After the Roughnecks went up 5-4 on Curtis Dickson's second of three on the night, the Warriors' Mitch Jones pulled it even with less than 12 minutes to play. The home team countered with three unanswered goals to help the Roughnecks end a three-game losing skid.

Both netminders -- Calgary's Christian Del Bianco, expected to go first overall in Thursday's WLA draft, and Vancouver's Eric Penney -- had strong games.

"We had control of that game really until the third quarter," said Richardson. "Our powerplay was our nemesis, as we hardly generated any quality shots. I felt that our (defence) and goaltending certainly did what they needed to do for us to win that game. Both goalies played very well."

The Warriors' next game is Friday in San Diego against the expansion Seals -- whose roster includes one-time jr. Salmonbellies Drew Belgrave and Johnny Pearson and future lacrosse Hall of Famer Dan Dawson.

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