Free agency arrived in the National Lacrosse League on August 1, and the Buffalo Bandits have taken a couple of hits already.
On Thursday, faceoff specialist Jay Thorimbert jumped to the New England Black Wolves. A day later, Chad Culp also signed with New England. In put that in perspective, only three players have signed with other teams so far - and the Bandits lost two of them. Goalie Mike Poulin jumped to Georgia to start the free agent season.
Both ex-Bandits were around Buffalo for quite some time. Thorimbert developed into the league's best faceoff man in recent years. Culp always was willing to do the dirty work to allow the Bandits' top scorers to get enough space to score. And for what it's worth, Thorimbert and Culp were always friendly and helpful to deal with. They'll be missed as people as well as players. I can only guess they were offered more money and/or more playing time to jump to New England, since the commute from Ontario to Connecticut isn't exactly an easy one.
General manager Steve Dietrich hasn't been available for comment on the losses, but he obviously has two routes to go for replacements. He can look into the free agent pool to see if there are players available, or he can count on young players to fill in those gaps. Remember, the Bandits do have three second-round picks in next months' draft. Maybe Dietrich could be creative to trade up to the first round.
Meanwhile, Inside Lacrosse is reporting that the NLL will allow teams to dress 17 runners and two goalies at games next season. That's up one player from last season, when the limits were 16 and 2. It's a good move for the league, in the sense that teams were paying two players not to play each week. Now, one player will be scratched for each game instead of two. The new rule should help the quality of play as well, since an injury or ejection left teams very short-handed for portions of a game last season.
-- Budd Bailey