You may have heard by now that the Bandits' reconstruction project is underway. Buffalo picked up Ryan Benesch and Andrew Watt from Minnesota. In exchange, the Swarm received first-round picks in 2015 and 2016 and a third-rounder in 2017.
Now here's a deal that can create some offseason conversation. I'd call it "hot stove" talk - related to a century ago when baseball fans sat around a hot stove in the winter months and talked about their favorite teams. But, frankly, the idea of a hot stove today isn't a particularly good one in Buffalo.
Let's start with the obvious effects for Buffalo. Benesch is a heck of a player. You know that he's been in the top ten in the NLL in scoring for the past three seasons. Minnesota hasn't been a great team in that span, but Benesch has been a great player. if I had to pick 10 players who I'd like to put on my mythical team, he probably would be on the list. I haven't noticed Watt that much - tough to judge those Western teams some times - but he seemed like a responsible transition player.
Is it interesting that both are from Kitchener, Ont., and are much closer to home by playing in Buffalo? Yes, although I can't say I've heard of any public trade demands out of them.
As the Internet forums say, the Swarm have been collecting young players for the past couple of years and seem to not trust anyone over 30. Benesch and Watt are less than two years from hitting that number. I thought the Swarm were closing in on contender status last season, based on some big games down the stretch, but it's tough to think of this move as addition by subtraction. Still, Minnesota has the number one draft pick in the league this fall, courtesy of the Bandits and the Anthony Cosmo deal, and the team still will have a bunch of talent.
From the Buffalo standpoint, it was a shock to see the Bandits give up a couple of future first-rounders. There had been public statements that the team needed to go in a different direction, but this does feel like something out of the Darris Kilgour Era. Still, if you want to mortgage part of your future, acquiring Benesch and Watt is a good return on that investment.
There's one last point, which I mentioned on Twitter earlier in the day. Put yourself in the Bandits' shoes. You are coming off a 2013 season in which you missed the playoffs, the only team in the league to do so. And, you are facing the possibility of not having John Tavares in your lineup for the first time ever, if Tavares does indeed retire.
Would you want to try to sell season tickets for 2014 under those circumstances? Me neither. The trade gives the team a star to sell.
This move doesn't necessarily send out alarm bells that Tavares is set to retire, because it helps the roster no matter what the circumstances are. But the trade does offer some good insurance concerning that possibility. And if the Bandits believed that Tavares probably wasn't coming back, they'd want to acquire reinforcements before he made that announcement instead of after it. They'd have more leverage in negotiations that way.
--- Budd Bailey