On a busy trade deadline weekend, the New Westminster Salmonbellies had a number of lines in the water but in the end chose to cut bait.
As general manager Dan Richardson sees it, those decisions could be the best result out of the past few days – well, besides welcoming a new family member.
Richardson spent the long weekend with family in Las Vegas attending son Clayton and Carolyn’s wedding, monitoring the trade situation while handling his duties as the father of the groom.
While the team put its cards on the table, in the end the asking price proved to be more than Richardson and his staff were willing to pay.
While the four teams ahead of the ‘Bellies in the standings made various moves, New West chose to stand pat. And while the optics, coupled with twin losses that dropped them to fifth overall, don’t look great, the GM said no deal is always better than a bad deal.
“We tried to make deals that would help our club and not put a burden on the team long-term, but in the end the right offer wasn’t there,” Richardson told the Record in a phone interview from Vegas. “At one point we had four or five trade offers out there but in the end we decided we wouldn’t do trades where the cost exceeded the value we were getting.”
Although the likes of offensive stickmen like Connor Robinson, Dane Dobbie and Dean Fairall were on the table, for New West the price wasn’t right. One sticking point may have been the team's concern that the expected introduction of territorial protection rights, where teams may select up to two local graduating talents each season prior to the Western Lacrosse Association draft, may be overturned before taking effect in 2020. If that yet-to-be used regulation is voted down, the draft will return to its current format, with all the best players open for selection.
Pointing to the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, Richardson noted the struggling Blues made few if any trade deadline deals last February and came out fine.
He also said that with the imminent return of 2018 Western Lacrosse Association scoring champion Logan Schuss, and re-appearance of Kevin Crowley, expected back in mid-July, the impact of those two players would be equivalent to a major trade.
Still, sitting at 5-5 with eight games to go, the squad is entering a critical phase where a full 60-minute effort is a must, as well as some out-of-town luck.
In Burnaby last Friday, the ‘Bellies were caught in an offensive showdown that saw the two teams combine for 22 goals over the first 40 minutes, where the decisive tally came in overtime. Burnaby’s Zach Gould buried the ball past Alexis Buque 3:12 into sudden death to lift the Lakers to a thrilling 14-13 victory, after New West had rallied on markersgoals by Austin Shanks and Keegan Bal to force extra time.
It was a contest where the 'Bellies only led briefly in the first period and spent the rest of the evening in a frustrating catch-and-release exercise with Burnaby. At six different times New West pulled even with the first-place Lakers, only to see the home team retake the momentum.
Shanks, who was named the Western Lacrosse Association’s Player of the Week, finished with four goals and two assists, while Mitch Jones scored once and set up seven others. Bal finished with a four-point night, including two goals, and Lynden Bunio chipped in a pair.
Less than a day later in a rare Saturday afternoon test at Queen’s Park Arena, the visiting Victoria Shamrocks charged ahead with four straight goals in the second period en route to a 9-7 decision.
Jones had knotted the game 4-4 just six seconds into the second period, but the Shamrocks fired off the next four goals to enter the third with an 8-4 cushion.
Shanks cashed in three times, while Jones picked up a goal and four assists.
Two straight losses to teams they’re chasing certainly didn’t help their cause, but Richardson feels it will be useful motivation for the next game.
“We’ve got the horses to get this done, especially if we play our game and don’t play down to the other team’s level,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with adversity; in fact, that’s where you find out where you stand, by how you respond. I’m certain we’re going to bounce right back.”
New West’s next test is Thursday when they host Burnaby, 7:30 p.m. at Queen’s Park Arena. On Saturday, they visit Coquitlam (7 p.m.).
WHEELING AND DEALING
The board of governors’ decision last winter to permit rentals, where players’ rights can be traded for just the current season and then revert back to the original club, proved popular on Sunday, as four deals involving rentals went down on the weekend, joining the others made in previous weeks.
Here’s a rundown on the weekend's swaps involving rentals:
Maple Ridge (3rd place at 6-5) acquired the 2019 rights to NLL standout Dane Dobbie and Reese Callies from Langley for the playing rights of Matthew Dinsdale and a 2020 second round draft pick.
Victoria (4th at 6-4) received the 2019 rights to Connor Robinson and Tyler Pace, plus the playing rights to Matthew Dinsdale, from Langley for Victoria’s 2020 first and second round picks, the playing rights of Keegan Bell and the 2019 playing rights of Daniel Smith.
Nanaimo traded for the 2019 playing rights of James Rahe, sending to Langley a 2nd and 3rd round picks in 2021.
Burnaby (1st at 8-3) acquired the 2019 playing rights to both Dean Fairsall and Vinny Ricci, sending Coquitlam the playing rights of Tyson Kirkness in return.