The 2022 NLL Free Agency period officially opens at 12:00am ET on August 15 after being delayed from August 1 due to the agreement of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. With dozens of free agents (restricted, unrestricted or franchiseable) still looking to find a home for next season, there are plenty of seismic signings that could shake up the NLL landscape over the next few days and weeks.
Players can become unrestricted free agents if their contract has expired, they reach age 30 by the end of the 2022 calendar year and have played at least six seasons in the NLL. Each team has one franchise they can apply to one of their free agents to keep them on their roster for one more year guaranteed. Players who reach age 34 by the end of the calendar year may reject the franchise tag if their team tries to use it on them.
Here are just a few of the big names that are still on the market.
Curtis Dickson – Calgary Roughnecks
The 2021-22 NLL Season was a unique one for the Calgary Roughneck’s Dickson. It was his first time playing without elite superstar Dane Dobbie since he entered the league in 2011. Over the past season, Dickson amassed 42 goals and 40 assists making it the fifth 40-40 season in his illustrious career. Those 42 goals were his most in a single season since 2018, which proves, at 33-years-old (he is now 34), he still has a lot to offer the Roughnecks on offense. The Roughnecks surged in the second half of the season winning 7 of 9 games and earning a playoff spot despite having a fairly young and inexperienced roster – Dickson played a significant role in that run.
Now, Dickson, could reject the franchise tag should the Roughnecks offer it to him and could sign for a new club. This is not to say that kind of massive change is imminent, but it is a possibility. Reasons Dickson might consider venturing to a new club could be to be closer to friends, family and home which is Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. Another could be to inject himself into a roster that has more pieces right now to make a championship run. The Roughnecks are currently retooling with a younger roster after their 2019 championship that is still trying to find the perfect formula for domination – they are not very far off -but it may be too much time for Dickson’s dogged winning spirit.
Brendan Bomberry – Georgia Swarm
A former 1st-round selection and 2019 All-Rookie team member, the Georgia Swarm’s, Brendan Bomberry had a breakout season last year. Bomberry had 26 goals, 36 assists for 62 points over 18 games in his 3rd year in the NLL. That is more than double his combined points total in his first 2 years in the league when he totaled 25 points when he played primarily out of the backdoor.
Over the course of the season, his coaches and teammates were quick to highlight Bomberry as one of the under-appreciated (by the general public) players on their roster. Bomberry not only set career-highs for goals points and assists, he also set a personal-best in loose balls with 65. Furthermore, it was often noted that Bomberry’s selfless, off-the-ball efforts helped the Swarm offense run more smoothly in their first season without the services of Zed Williams, Randy Staats, and Miles Thompson (Thompson for the majority of the season).
Bomberry is a restricted free agent, which means that if a team other than the Swarm offered him a deal, the Swarm could match and secure Bomberry’s talents for the next year or more. However, if they chose not to match, Bomberry could take any offer put in front of him. With Miles Thompson likely to be in the lineup for all of next NLL season – he missed 15 games this previous season – along with 2021 1st-round selection in Ryan Lanchbury, Bomberry may feel he can tally as many (or more points) on a team where he can play a more statistically impactful role on offense.
Kevin Crowley – Philadelphia Wings
A Philadelphia Wings long time offensive staple, Crowley set a career-high in assists last season with 64. Crowley also tallied 89 points, which was one point shy of tying his career-high. That’s significant production for a guy who was playing in his 10th season in the NLL, but it is also not entirely surprising as he was the 1st overall pick in the NLL Draft back in 2011.
Crowley is one of a handful of veterans over 30-years-old on a Wings team that has an incredibly talented younger core that they’ve been building around the last few years. Head Coach and General Manager Paul Day understands the impact veterans can have on the roster – a handful of his guys have won championships in this league and know what it takes to win. Crowley, who has totaled less than 70 points in only one season, knows how to produce at the highest-level, giving his team a better chance to win.
Crowley is another player who can reject the franchise tag, but the Wings have yet to place the tag on Crowley or any other players on their roster. The only player who is an unrestricted free agent on the Wings who could not reject the tag would be team captain, Kiel Matisz who is sure to be a priority for the Wings to keep. There have often been whispers of the idea that Crowley could one day play for his hometown team. Crowley who lives and works in the Metro Vancouver and the greater British Columbia area, also plays for the Western Lacrosse Association’s New Westminster Salmonbellies during the summer.
Kyle Rubisch – Saskatchewan
The former four-time Defensive Player of the Year seems to be on the move this offseason after he rejected the franchise tag from the Rush, along with team captain Chris Corbeil. The 11-year veteran still has plenty of game left as he was named to Second Team All-NLL this past season after amassing 148 loose balls and 36 caused turnovers.
Almost any team across the league would welcome Rubisch with open arms to secure their backend. Since caused turnovers became an official stat in 2011, he has accrued 398 in his career, over 100 more than the second all-time leader. Add in his championship pedigree from the Rush dynasty, he will be a highly sought out player.
Other Notable Free Agents to Keep an Eye On
Ryan Benesch (UFA) – Albany – Benesch is ninth all-time with 1,142 points and is still productive. While his tattoo collection has added multiple teams in the last few years (Buffalo, Colorado, Rochester, Halifax, Panther City, Albany), he amassed 81 points last season and is in win now mode. With a young family in Ontario, he will likely try to remain close to home. Whether that is with Albany or not remains to be seen as he tries to get his first NLL championship.
Chris Corbeil (UFA) – Saskatchewan – The Rush captain rejected the franchise tag from the team but could still sign there if he chooses. Similar to Rubisch, many teams would love to have the leadership and winning pedigree of a player like Corbeil.
Damon Edwards (UFA) – New York – Edwards is a veteran of the NLL and brought his talent to the second year Riptide franchise which saw many improvements this past year. Edwards is a reliable defenseman who has been on many successful teams over the years, primarily with the Rock.
Tim Edwards (RFA) – Colorado – Edwards may be one of the most underrated players on the championship squad from last season. While he is known primarily as their draw man, Edwards has become a reliable defender for the Mammoth. He was protected from Las Vegas in the Expansion Draft while General Manager Brad Self looks to secure his defenseman.
Shawn Evans (UFA) – Halifax – The sixth all-time leader in NLL history was part of a major trade last season to try and bring home a championship to Halifax. While he did total 18 points in six regular season games with the Thunderbirds, the team played inconsistently from the time he arrived.
Zach Herreweyers (RFA) – Calgary – Herreweyers has resurrected his career after being the ninth overall selection from the 2016 Entry Draft. In just one full season with Calgary last year, he doubled his career goals and points totals.
Connor Kearnan (RFA) – New York – Kearnan enjoyed a breakout year in his first season with the Riptide after two lower production years in San Diego. He doubled his career totals this past season, and totaled 34 goals on a team that featured Jeff Teat and Callum Crawford also scoring 30+ goals.
Kyle Killen (RFA) – Vancouver – A player who set the bar high in his rookie season and then saw his production diminish in the 2019-20 season. He got a fresh start in Vancouver and did not disappoint. He scored 43 goals (fifth in the NLL) for the Warriors, including 10 on the powerplay. A fierce competitor with a terrific outside shot, now only entering his fourth NLL season, he could make a push to join an elite club of scorers to amass 50 in a season.
Jeremy Noble (UFA) – San Diego – While expectations were high for Noble coming out of the University of Denver, he has seen a lot of success at the NLL level. After setting career highs in goals, assists, and points in 2018 with the Mammoth, he suffered a setback in the 2018-19 season, only totaling five goals and 31 points in 11 games, eventually leading him to be a healthy scratch for multiple games. He was resurrected with his move to San Diego at the beginning of the 2019-20 season. One of the smaller players in the league, he is also one of the smartest and one of the best passers. He recorded 54 assists last season on 74 total points last season.
Bryce Sweeting (RFA) – Buffalo – Sweeting is a pest on the backend, a player you love to have on your team but grinds your gears if you are facing off against him. The 6’2 defenseman is a six year veteran of the NLL and can be a big body to build around on defense.
Chris Wardle (UFA) – Colorado – Another player who may fly under the radar for the Mammoth who does it all. There is a reason why he was taken in multiple Expansion Drafts and why Colorado sought to bring him immediately back. While his numbers may not jump off the chart, fans can expect two to three points a game and a goal. He also helps lead the offensive ball movement and is a grinder who can create space and provide feeds to others.
Goalies – There is no doubt how important goaltending is in the NLL for a teams chance to win. While many teams have their franchise goalie, there are a few that could be on the move this offseason. Aaron Bold (UFA) was signed to the Thunderbirds last season and has championship experience. While high in age, he still has some game left in the tank but may want to try and be closer to his Victoria, British Columbia home. Gowah Abrams (RFA) saw time in net for the Riptide over the last two seasons but with the emergence of Steven Orleman in net, he could look elsewhere for a starting opportunity. Evan Kirk (UFA) only played in two games for the Knighthawks before being moved to the Holdout List for the remainder of the season due to work commitments. With two young goalies on their roster already in Rylan Hartley and Joel Watson, as well as the acquisition of Riley Hutchcraft, there will be lots of competition for the building Knighthawks if Kirk is available. Eric Penney (RFA) saw time in net for the Rush late last season but given their last seasons team performance, there could be a fierce competition for the starting role with Adam Shute if they bring him back. Alex Buque (UFA) and Steve Fryer (UFA) split time in net for the Warriors last season and saw varying success. Buque was great at the start of the season and saw his production slip whereas Fryer was solid in relief but did not capitalize on his starting opportunities enough to warrant the starting role.
Stay posted to all the offseason movement by monitoring the Transactions page on NLL.com and NLL social media starting in August 15th.