The Toronto Rock have acquired Brodie Merrill in exchange for Mike Burke, Craig England and draft picks. (Photo: Todd Bauders)
The Toronto Rock and the recently-relocated New England-based franchise have announced a blockbuster deal pending league approval. The trade involves Toronto acquiring transition player Brodie Merrill and a second-round selection in the 2015 NLL Draft in exchange for forward Mike Burke, defenseman Craig England, Toronto's second-round selection (17th overall) in the upcoming 2014 NLL Draft, first-round pick in the 2015 NLL Draft and second-round pick in the 2016 NLL Draft.
The Wings franchise relocated to Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut earlier this month. An official unveiling of the new name and logo is expected soon.
“I’m very excited but it’s bittersweet leaving behind some great teammates and great people in the Wings organization,” said Merrill. “It was an honor to play for the last three years for the Wings. However, it’s always been a dream of mine to play for the Rock. It’s all a bit surreal right now and I can’t wait to get started.”
Merrill was originally selected first overall in the 2005 NLL Draft and was named the NLL’s Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in 2006. Brodie’s brother Patrick was also a first overall pick (2002 by Toronto), making them the only two siblings in NLL history to each be selected with the top pick in the NLL Draft.
Along with his individual honours in his rookie season, the 6’4” native of Orangeville, ON also won the NLL’s transition player of the year award in 2009 and 2010.
Following his first four years in the league, Merrill spent two years in Edmonton with the Rush and played the last three seasons of his nine-year NLL career with the Philadelphia Wings. He had captained the Wings for each of those three campaigns.
The loose ball legend sits 4th all-time in league history with 1683 loose balls. He trails Jim Veltman, John Tavares and Geoff Snider on the all-time loose ball leaders list.
“You don’t get an opportunity to get an elite player like Brodie everyday,” said Sanderson. “This is another trade in which we had to give up some significant assets, but when you have a player like Brodie in play, you have to take advantage of the opportunity.”
It was clear that Sanderson wanted to address the defence in the off-season and with the free agent signing of Jeff Gilbert and the trades for Brock Sorensen and now Merrill, he has definitely given the back-end a new look. But, is this the end of the re-tooling?
“Even though we feel we have made significant upgrades, if another opportunity comes up to make us a better team, we will make the trade.”
“There’s a high standard in Toronto with an expectation to win and the recent moves reflect that,” explained Merrill. “I look forward to being a part of the group that works towards bringing another championship to Toronto.”
The 32-year old Merrill is also coming off of last month’s FIL World Championship with Team Canada. It was his second world title as he also won the gold medal in 2006 breaking a 28-year drought between championships for Canadian lacrosse.
In the outdoor game, Merrill is regarded as one of, if not the greatest defender ever to play the game. He played NCAA lacrosse at Georgetown University and was a Tewaaraton Award finalist, given to the top player in the country, in each of his last two seasons. In his senior year at Georgetown in 2005, he was named the NCAA’s defensive player of the year.
Merrill joins a long list of Toronto Rock players who graduated from the Orangeville Junior A Northmen program. He made one Minto Cup appearance in 2000 as the Northmen won the Ontario championship but fell just short in the Canadian Junior A final.
The younger of the two Merrill brothers will now have a chance to play with his older sibling Patrick for the first time in the NLL.
“The chance to play with Patrick is extra special to me,” said Merrill. “Playing together has been something we hoped would happen. It’s going to mean a lot to us.”
Burke, who was signed by Toronto earlier this offseason, was drafted by the Edmonton Rush in the third round of the 2012 NLL Draft with the 28th overall pick. Burke had begun his NCAA career at Hofstra, transferred to Marquette and then elected to return home to Canada to finish his post-secondary education. The forward appeared in two games during the 2013 season, registering one goal and two loose balls.
England played four games with Toronto this past season where he recorded an assist, 21 penalty minutes and 13 loose balls. The defender was Colorado's fourth-round (30th overall) selection in the 2012 NLL Draft.
The 2014 NLL Draft will take place on Monday, Sept. 22 at Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, Ont.