Buffalo Bandits Broker Blockbuster Deal Bringing in Benesch

Jim Flannery@@calgaryjimboAnalyst IJuly 19, 2013

(Photo: Alex Carroll, nll.com)
(Photo: Alex Carroll, nll.com)

The Buffalo Bandits have made the first big player move of the NLL off-season, acquiring all-star forward Ryan Benesch, along with transition Andrew Watt, from the Minnesota Swarm.

Benesch is the key piece of the deal and should bring an instant boost to a Bandits roster that scored the second-fewest goals in the league last year. He finished the 2013 season with 84 points, seventh-most in the NLL.

By comparison, Buffalo's top-scoring player last year was Shawn Williams, who picked up just 65 points and was the only Bandit in the top 30 in the NLL.

In 2011 Benesch led the NLL in scoring with 95 points. He leaves the Swarm as their all-time leader in goals (141), fourth-best in assists (193) and second-best in points (334).

Watt comes to the Bandits as a solid defense-first transition player. In his five-year career he has amassed a team-best 13 short-handed goals and is tied for forced turnovers with 42. He has also accumulated 312 loose balls and 67 points in his time with Minnesota.

In exchange for the two players, Buffalo gives Minnesota its first-round picks in 2015 and 2016 as well as a third-round pick in 2017. Given that they also don't have a first-round pick this year, this has the potential to put serious pressure on general manager Steve Dietrich to keep the team stocked with fresh blood.

The Bandits do have four of the top 20 picks in 2014, so they might be able to stock up on youth next year, however.

It all works very well within the current Minnesota Swarm philosophy, however. They've spent the past two years stocking the franchise with young, inexpensive talent, they have four first-round picks in the upcoming draft, and this sets them up to have a minimum of two first-round picks per year for at least two more seasons.

The additions of Benesch and Watt to the mix in Buffalo might be enough to turn around the struggling franchise that missed the playoffs in 2013. It might also encourage the NLL's all-time points leader, John Tavares, to come back for one more season rather than end his career on the duel sour notes of a bad season for the team and an injury-plagued season as a player. 

The combination of a healthy Tavares, Benesch in his prime and the talents of Williams and sophomore Dhane Smith could give the Bandits a better and more balanced attack than they've been able to put on the floor in years. In spite of some shaky goaltending the past two years, that offensive boost could put them back into contention in the NLL East.


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