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Sports This Week: Rush make off season noise with two big trades

Matthews has played 170 games for the Rush, scored 343 goals, added 606 assists for 949 points. 
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Mark Matthew's has been traded to TO.

YORKTON - It might be summer, but there is no holiday for Saskatchewan Rush management, as they completed two trades this week.

The first deal was one that will be long-remembered by Rush fans as it sent Mark Matthews – the popular face of the franchise since before the team arrived in Saskatoon – to the Toronto Rock.

“It was very, very, very tough,” said Rush General Manager Derek Keenan of the decision to make the deal. “He’s like a second son to me.”

While the trade takes Matthews back to his home province, it was not something he had asked for.

In fact, Keenan said at the last couple of trade deadlines he had asked Matthews if he wanted a move, and the answer was no, which the GM added made the trade that much tougher.

Keenan noted he and Matthews have had a relationship dating back to a Minto Cup win in 2011, and then drafting the forward first overall in the 2012 NLL Draft.

Since then, Matthews has basically driven the Rush offence.

Over 10 NLL seasons, Matthews, 33, has topped the 100-point mark five times and almost made it six as he put up 98 points with the Rush last season. The 33-year-old from Oshawa, ON, is showing no signs of slowing down.

Matthews has played 170 games, scored 343 goals, and added 606 assists for 949 points. 

Matthews is also a three-time NLL champion (2015, 2016, 2018), a regular season MVP (2018) and a Champion’s Cup Finals MVP (2015).

“Without question, he’s the best player in franchise history,” Keenan told Yorkton This Week.

But, the Rush missed the playoffs the last two seasons, and Keenan said that was not acceptable, so changes had to be made.

“Two years out of the playoffs is not what this organization is all about,” he said, adding team ownership wants the team back in the playoffs.

In the deal, the Rush acquired a 2023 first-round pick, forward Zach Manns and defender Adam Jay from the Toronto Rock.

Zach Manns, a lefty forward, is entering his fourth season in the NLL. The Victoria, BC product has a total of 116 points in 48 regular season and playoff games. This summer in Senior A ball, Manns leads the WLA with 60 points in 11 games, only trailing Keegan Bal, Mitch Jones, Curtis Dickson and Kevin Crowley in points per game.

Adam Jay, also from Victoria, B.C., is heading into his fifth NLL season. The 6'3 defender has a total of 49 professional games under his belt, averaging 2.45 loose balls per game and had 15 caused turnovers last season. 

The move makes the Rush younger and begins a re-tooling of the offence.

Keenan said in Manns the Rush gain a strong, young, athletic lefty forward with Jay as a solid, athletic defender Keenan said the Rush have liked for some time.

The 12th pick in this year's draft is a valuable asset to help continue to build the team going forward."  

The Rush stayed active in the trade market, acquiring Patrick Dodds and Cam Wengreniuk from Panther City Lacrosse Club in exchange for a 2023 first-round pick and the rights to UFA Matt Beers.

Keenan said it hadn’t exactly been a plan to move Beers, but Panther City was adamant the unrestricted free agent be part of the deal.

In the end, Keenan said as a UFA with only two years with the Rush, had Beers signed elsewhere, there would have been no compensation, so with the trade, they get some value. And, if Panther City doesn’t sign Beers by Aug. 1, the Rush is free to make a pitch for his services.

Keenan said the Rush want to get younger, bigger, and more athletic and Dodds fits that description well.

“We went into this off-season with a number of objectives to help the Rush climb back toward the top. We wanted to get younger, bigger and more athletic, particularly on the offensive end of the floor," said GM Derek Keenan.  

Dodds was the rookie of the year in the NLL in 2022, is big, and is 22 years old.

Dodds was selected in the second round of the 2020 NLL Draft before being scooped up by PCLC in the expansion draft. The former Shamrock, who started with Austin Madronic in Junior A, had 300 points in 72 total games, before making the jump to the NLL in 2022, where he tallied 134 points in 35 contests.

Wengreniuk, made his NLL debut last season, scoring four goals and adding two assists in six games. During his college career, the former Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League star had 158 goals and 50 assists in 55 games.

Asked if the moves were part of a ‘teardown’, Keenan initially questioned if that was the proper term, then agreed with the move “of the best player we’ve ever had” it is likely a term many would use.

“We just really felt we had a need to make changes,” he said.

And, the dealing might not be done yet.

Keenan said while they sent the number-five overall pick out in the recent moves, they still have picks and draft assets they might use in a deal, and there is free agency too.

“We could do something before then, too,” he said. “. . . We’d still like to do more, to be quite honest.”