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Blockbuster Friday in NLL

Talk about your blockbuster trade.

The Philadelphia Wings are sending Trevor Baptiste to the San Diego Seals as part of a three-team trade also involving the New York Riptide.

There’s a lot to unpack here, but these are the details of the big trade, that amounts to a 10-player swap:

The Wings have traded Baptiste and the playing rights of Kyle Jackson to the Seals. The Wings have also traded Kiel Matisz and Matt Anderson to the Riptide.

The Riptide traded Scott Dominey to the Wings and the Riptide have also traded their 22nd overall selection in the 2023 Entry Draft to the San Diego Seals.

The Seals have traded Mike McCannell and their 18th overall selection in the 2023 Entry Draft to the Wings and have traded their 32nd overall selection in the 2023 Entry Draft and their third round selection in the 2025 Entry Draft to the Riptide.

Let’s a take a moment to absorb all of that.

The Seals picking up a face-off specialist like Baptiste will go a long way to giving their potent and deep offense more opportunities with the ball in their sticks. In each of the four seasons that the Seals have existed, they’ve only had one player with a face-off win percentage over 50% (minimum 50 face-offs taken) – Brendan Cleveland won 51.3% of his 261 faceoffs with the Seals in the 2019-2020 COVID-shortened season. In contrast, Baptiste not only won 70.2% of his 436 faceoffs last year, he has won more than 65% of his faceoffs in each of his four seasons in the NLL.

Baptiste was originally drafted 14th overall by the Wings in the 2018 NLL Entry Draft. He spent all four years of his NLL career with the Wings before this trade and became a fan favorite in Philadelphia not only for his play on the floor, but for his charisma and openness off the floor. He is one of the league’s leading face-off men and has been honing his skills on defense and in transition each year he’s been in the league.

This is a trade that not many on the outside saw coming, but Baptiste knew that the travel from his new hometown of Denver to Philadelphia all fall, winter, and spring was going to be too much of a burden. Baptiste is traveling year-round all over the United States for lacrosse. It was necessary for him to find a way to play lacrosse closer to home, at least for some of the year.

“With all the travel – you’ve got to take into account that I’m not only playing in the NLL but also in the PLL, as well, and international play (outdoor and indoor), it’s been a lot over these years,” Baptiste said. “I could feel myself struggling mentally and physically through that. So, I was fortunate to be able to be part of this trade that was worked out with San Diego.”

Seeing Baptiste and Logan reunite will be something special, having played with each other for so many years in so many different leagues, the duo are reunited yet again. These two have played together at the University of Denver, in the PLL, and for Team USA. I think it’s fair to say these two know each other pretty well, so it’s no surprise to hear that Baptitse is very excited to play with one of his good friends.

“Danny Logan is a beast, man,” Baptiste said. “I’m so excited that I get to play with him even more. We’ve played together at the University of Denver, we play together on Atlas LC [PLL] and Team USA. He’s a great guy on the floor and an amazing friend and teammate off the floor. We have so much chemistry, and we both share – we both play extremely hard, and we respect each other for that. Us playing together is going to bring a lot to each other’s games – we’re going to complement each other.”

Seals’ general manager/head coach Patrick Merrill and the rest of the team’s coaching staff have tried to find the right person for the job at the face-off dot over the years, but nobody has panned out. With Baptiste in the mix, they know that they are making a significant upgrade at an important position on the floor.

“Faceoffs have been an area of concern for us – an area that we’ve tried to address over the last couple of years, but it’s come back to bite us a little bit,” Merrill said. “Obviously, Trevor is the best in the business at [winning faceoffs] in our opinion. He’s also a west coast guy and someone our fans are going to be very familiar with. He’s been on our radar for a long time.”

Last season Logan, one of last season’s rookie stars, was taking most of the team’s faceoffs. He proved that he could be a jack of all trades for the Seals, but with Baptiste coming in, he will now be able to unlock his potential moving into more of a primary role on the back end.

“Adding Trevor will really unlock a lot of other things that we think Danny can do now not being burdened by having to take every faceoff for us,” Merrill said. “We can play him in a lot more defensive positions that we just couldn’t play him in last year because of how much we needed him at the face-off [position].”

Over this offseason, the Seals have made other significant moves to bolster their defense – they acquired the playing rights to Kyle Rubisch (although he is yet to sign with the team). There is potential that other notable defensemen might join him in the near future, but much is still be determined on many fronts.

Last season, the Seals averaged 10.7 goals against (tied for the 4th-fewest against in the NLL). With significant changes being made on the back end and in between the pipes since the offseason began, the Seals will be looking to bring that number down even further.

As for the Wings side of the deal, losing Baptiste is a big blow at faceoff, but it is a decision that needed to be made. Baptiste has moved to Denver, Colorado and was looking to be closer to home and join a team that was based on the West Coast.

Wings’ GM/head coach Paul Day understands the gravity of this move, but stressed that the team is looking forward during their pivotal transition period. The team is excited to have added pieces like Mike McCannell, Taggart Clark and Holden Cattoni over the offseason, and emphasized that McCannell was a big get in this deal.

“Mike McCannell is a Minto Cup champion, and is a big, strong, smart D-guy,” Day said. “As a player we needed to help get young and more physical and we wanted to get back into the first round [of the NLL Entry Draft].”

The Riptide are very happy with this deal, stressing that they’ve not only gained important pieces on offense and with the leadership group, but were also able to get younger and bring in a guy with local ties. The idea of surrounding Jeff Teat with players like Matisz who have won at the NLL level – Matisz won the 2017 NLL Cup with the Georgia Swarm – should be impactful to the young superstar.

“We identified over the offseason that we needed help on the offensive side,” GM Lisk said. “We’re a young team, so leadership was a big deal for me. To add someone like Kiel Matisz is a huge piece for us. Kiel is a captain, he’s won championships – he’s going to add a big piece up front. To add a product like Matt Anderson, who is young guy who has played well in junior lacrosse, and has Long Island ties with Stony Brook, it was a win-win for us.”

Lisk noted that this was a complex deal that, as we see, has a lot of moving parts, and that the deal could not have gotten done without the cooperative and collaborative efforts of Merrill and Day.

This is a trade that has many current and future implications, especially considering how many draft picks are involved in the deal and how many players are on the move. Each team feels like they got what they needed out of this deal and feel excited about their new pieces.

This trade is just another example of how unpredictable and wild this offseason has been. There’s a feeling that this is only one of many shocking moves still to be made this offseason.

Stay tuned.