Announced today on the National Lacrosse League website was a major deal between the Washington Stealth and the Edmonton Rush. The Stealth give up top transition player Paul Rabil in exchange for scorer Athan Ianucci.
Ianucci had been a holdout for the Rush, so picking up a player for essentially nothing is huge for Edmonton.
Meanwhile, the Stealth, who have been light on offensive firepower so far this year, acquire a player who set the single-season record for goals just a few short years ago.
This changes everything in the NLL West.
The Stealth, who are off to a terrible start, at 1-4, suddenly have one of the best offenses in the league. A one-two-three punch of Lewis Ratcliff, Rhys Duch and Athan Iannucci should cause defenses and goalies to break into cold sweats as any one of these guys is capable of winning a scoring title.
The Rush, who have also had their ups and downs so far, are sitting just a half game ahead of Washington in the standings, at 1-3. The addition of Rabil, who is unquestionably one of the top transition players in the league, should make the Rush much more difficult to match up against on both ends of the floor. Rabil has scoring touch, he can check and he is very effective in getting things moving from one end of the floor to the other.
His versatility will take a bunch of pressure off Jimmy Quinlan who has been called upon to lead a fairly weak transition unit for the Rush.
As the NLL approaches the mid-point of the season, this makes the West Division much more interesting. While the season to this point has demonstrated clearly that anybody can beat anybody on a given night, this gives both of the teams with the weakest records a huge boost where they need it most.
With the Stealth traveling to Rochester this weekend to face the Knighthawks and Edmonton heading down the road to Calgary to take on the Roughnecks, both games suddenly take on new meaning.
Rochester has struggled with consistency so far and now will be aggressively challenged by a suddenly potent offense.
The Roughnecks, who have lost a couple of very close contests, suddenly have to deal with a vastly improved Rush squad that will be looking to do some damage in their provincial rival's home building. And Rabil will be looking to avenge a tough loss to Calgary last weekend in Washington.
The question now becomes what the rest of the NLL will do in response. The next few weeks might see a few more blockbuster deals as teams jockey to keep pace with the newly improved Rush and Stealth.