February 15, 2012

Stealth, Rush Players Stunned by Rabil-Iannucci Trade

Both teams believe swap will benefit them long-term

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

The Washington Stealth sent Paul Rabil to the Edmonton Rush as part of a deal for Athan Iannucci, who was in a contract holdout and didn't play a game for Edmonton this season.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

We didn't see this coming: Washington trades Paul Rabil and a first-round 2012 entry draft pick to Edmonton for the rights to Athan Iannucci and a second-round 2012 pick.

Players on both teams were taken aback.

''I was shocked,'' says Rush defenseman Brett Mydske, who played summer ball with Iannucci in Langley, British Columbia, last year. ''I was hoping things with him and the Rush would work out, however, they didn't.

''In return, we just got an elite player who has the ability to be a game changer whenever he has the ball. An example of this was when he ended my rookie season in overtime in the NLL West Division final.''

Iannucci never played a game for the Rush so general manager-coach Derek Keenan has relinquished nothing off his current roster while inserting a heart-and-soul transition stud and also pocketing a first-rounder.

Iannucci holds the single-season NLL goals record -- 71 in 2008, when he was league MVP -- but has anybody checked out his playoff stats? In his five years with Philadelphia, the Wings got into a grand total of one playoff game (2008) and they lost it.

Meanwhile, the Stealth made the playoffs all three years they had Rabil, who has played in eight playoff games including the three in 2010 it took to earn a Champion's Cup ring. Teams on which he plays succeed: Johns Hopkins, 2005 and 2007 NCAA titles; U.S. field team, 2010 FIL World Championship; and the Boston Cannons, 2011 Major League Lacrosse field champions.

The guy is a winner. Only three players in lacrosse history have won the NCAA, NLL, MLL and world championships -- Rabil and NLL Hall of Famers Gary Gait and Tom Marechek.

''I think he is going to fit in nicely with the group of players we have right now and with the high-tempo style of lacrosse we play,'' Mydske said. ''Rabil was won championships at all levels of lacrosse he has played so he brings a lot of championship experience. I'm excited to see how this plays out."

Go back to the Iannucci-Brodie Merrill trade between Philadelphia and Edmonton last year, throw out the traded players who did not make it onto this season's active rosters, throw out draft picks beyond the first round, update with Iannucci-for-Rabil and add up what the Rush have gained: Rabil, backup goalie Brodie MacDonald, Philadelphia's first-round draft picks in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and Washington's 2012 first-rounder.

Keenan can look forward to going to the entry draft in September and take three of the best nine players available.

As for the Stealth, haven't the goals that Brett Bucktooth has been scoring helped ease the loss of injured forward Jeff Zywicki? Yes.

The insertion of Iannucci into the offense will mean, unless he drastically alters the way he plays, that the ball is going to spend a lot of time in his stick. That might result in Lewis Ratcliff and Rhys Duch getting fewer shots on goal while they watch Iannucci trying to beat two or three checkers. Like Iannucci's former Wings teammates, they are not going to enjoy being spectators. Yes, Iannucci might score a lot of goals for the Stealth but, like we suggested earlier, check out his career playoff stats.

At 1-4, Stealth brass figured they had to do something.

''Our offense has been struggling,'' said head coach Chris Hall. ''We felt we had to have another goal scorer and Athan Iannucci fills that role 100 times over. He's an unbelievable goal scorer. We just couldn't pass up the opportunity to get him.''

Losing Rabil is tough, he adds.

''He's a great kid and a great player. It's been a labor of love working with Paul over the years.''

Hall sees Iannucci's presence taking some of the pressure off Duch to produce.

Back to the Rush, Rabil's arrival is going to be a breath of fresh air for a team with a lot of potential.

''Paul is a tremendous athlete who has the ability to contribute in nearly all facets of a game,'' says Rush defenseman Chris Corbeil. ''He has the capability of playing shutdown defense, he moves the ball intelligently and quickly in transition, and he has a knack for scoring timely goals.

''Hopefully, this trade will serve as the catalyst we need to get things back on track this season.''

On Saturday, Edmonton (1-3) is at Calgary (3-2) while Washington is at Rochester (2-4) and Rabil and Iannucci will both play.

Keenan said a trade to send Iannucci to the Stealth had been in the works for quite a while and debating over who the Rush would get dragged out the talks. He's delighted he held out long enough to snag Rabil.

''I think he's really going to give us a boost down the stretch,'' Keenan said.

Both teams needed a boost and both believe they got it. We'll see who makes the playoffs.

Neil Stevens has covered pro and Canadian lacrosse since 1971. He and the late Tom Borrelli -- a longtime Lacrosse Magazine contributor -- are the only media members recognized by the NLL Hall of Fame.


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