Toronto brings back veteran UFA defender, adds two prospects
The Toronto Rock have announced the team has signed unrestricted free agent defenseman Jeff Gilbert to a two-year agreement along with the signing of free agents Mark White and Mike Burke to one-year deals, all pending league approval.
The 31-year old Gilbert played the last three seasons in Minnesota after being dealt to the Swarm by the Rock following the 2011 season. The veteran defender was a member of the 2011 Toronto Rock championship team and he played his first three NLL seasons in Toronto.
“We are pleased to add a player of Jeff’s caliber to our defensive group,” said Rock general manager Terry Sanderson. “We targeted improving our defensive depth in the off-season and this is just the first step in addressing our needs. Trading away Jeff was one of the toughest moves I’ve made as a General Manager in this league, I’m happy we could bring Jeff home to Toronto to be a piece of the future with the Rock.”
The 6’4” defender saw his production go up in Minnesota with a career-high 3 goals and 12 assists for 15 points in 2013 with the Swarm. Gilbert scored just 16 points in total in three seasons in Toronto while he scored 36 points over that same period in Minnesota. He also eclipsed the 100 loose ball plateau for the first time in his 6-year NLL career with 105 in 2014. His 23 forced turnovers were 6 more than any member of the 2014 Toronto Rock.
Toronto also dipped into the free agent pool by signing a pair of players who finished the 2014 season on other NLL team practice rosters.
Transition player Mark White was signed to a one-year agreement after spending the 2014 season on the practice roster of the NLL Champion Rochester Knighthawks. White is a transition player who brings a tremendous amount of speed to the table. The Oakville, ON native played collegiately at the University of Southern Maine and finished his Jr A career with the Burlington Chiefs.
The other Rock free agent signing helps address some potential depth issues on the right side of the offence with the addition of Mike Burke, who spent most of the last two seasons on the practice roster of the Edmonton Rush.
Burke is a highly-skilled offensive righty who led the Ontario Junior A league in scoring in 2011 and also captured the league’s Most Valuable Player and Most Outstanding Player Awards during that season. He was also the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2009, all while a member of the Brampton Jr A Excelsiors. Burke began his junior lacrosse career with the Halton Hills Jr B Bulldogs playing his first two seasons of junior eligibility in 2007 and 2008 with the Bulldogs.
The Edmonton Rush selected him in the third round of the 2012 NLL Draft with the 28th overall pick after Burke elected to leave school in the US early and attend Canadian University at Guelph. 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 and become eligible for the 2012 NLL Draft.
The 24-year-old got into two games of action in the 2013 season with the Rush, scoring one goal, but did not see any game action in 2014.