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Trading Frenzy Highlights Start to Offseason

Over the last 48 hours, teams have made early June feel more like mid-March, the way trades were going down.

On Thursday afternoon, it was announced that the Albany FireWolves had traded Nathan Grenon to the Ottawa Black Bears in exchange for the Black Bears’ second-round selection in the 2027 Entry Draft. A few hours later, it was announced that the Calgary Roughnecks had traded Shane Simpson and their third-round selection in the 2027 Entry Draft to the Las Vegas Desert Dogs in exchange for the Desert Dogs’ Griffin Hall, a first-round selection in the 2024 Entry Draft (14th overall) and their sixth-round selection in the 2025 Entry Draft.

Then, on Friday afternoon, the Desert Dogs made another big offseason splash as they acquired Kyle Killen from the Vancouver Warriors in exchange for their second-round selection in the 2025 Entry Draft and a conditional third-round selection in the 2027 Entry Draft.

The Black Bears trade for Grenon, a local product who grew up not too far from the Canadian Tire Centre (the new home of the Black Bears), is the first acquisition in Black Bears history. Grenon, who can literally see the arena from his current residence, couldn’t be happy to be coming home to where his lacrosse career started.

“I’m very excited to be back here [Ottawa], wear the colors, and get to play in an arena where I used to watch Sens (Ottawa Senators) games and play minor hockey,” Grenon said. “Being around the people and the coaches that made me who I am – the ability to play in front of them and have them see me in the light that they always knew I could get to. It’s great to be able to play for the community and for the city that helped me to get to where I am today.”

At just 25 years old, Grenon has already made a name for himself as a spark plug who is never afraid to back down from a fight and get under the other team’s skin. Last year, Grenon posted 12 goals and 19 assists over 15 games with the FireWolves. But the numbers don’t do his season justice. Outside of being from Ottawa, it was his never-give-up attitude and big team play that caught Black Bears’ GM Rich Lisk’s eye.

“We needed some grittiness,” GM Lisk said. “We wanted some feistiness, we wanted someone who brought what he brings to the table, and then, ‘Oh my god, he’s from Ottawa – it all fits together. Let’s got make this deal happen.”

Grenon now joins Jeff Teat and Larson Sundown on the Black Bears’ left side. It should be noted, though, that Sundown is a free agent this offseason – his three-year deal which he signed with the New York Riptide (now Black Bears) has expired. Last season Teat continued to post out of this world numbers, while Sundown had a career year himself. Grenon hopes his toughness, and improving two-man game, can help create more chances for his new teammates.

Now, while it is on GM Lisk’s checklist to try and find guys with Ottawa connections, that is not going to be a determining factor on whether a player gets brought in to play for the Black Bears, although it will help. At the end of the day, the Black Bears are trying to become the best team in the league, no matter where the guys are from.

Having said that, when it comes to building this team in a market that hasn’t had an NLL team in over 20 years, finding assets like Grenon is valuable to building a fan base. Since the Ottawa Rebels last played in the league in 2003, the amount of NLL talent that has come out of the 6-1-3 has grown tremendously.

Are there other guys from the Ottawa area that GM Lisk might want to target this offseason? Maybe an NLL champion, league veteran, and solid character guy like Kyle Buchanan, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer? Buchanan has already played for one of Lisk’s teams. When Lisk was the GM of the New England Black Wolves (now Albany FireWolves), there was a time when Buchanan was the captain of the team.

“My first thing when I go after players is that I want guys that have good character, not that are characters,” Lisk said. “You have to fill that void first. I have the utmost respect for him [Buchanan] as a person. I have the utmost respect for his character and his leadership. That fact that he’s done what he’s done in this league and won two championships – and he’s from Ottawa. That could be a nice homecoming for somebody. I would welcome that.”

As for the Desert Dogs, the two moves they made in such quick succession showcase their urgency to want to improve sooner rather than later. These moves are just two of the four offseason transactions that the Desert Dogs have already made in the early days of the 2024 NLL Offseason.

Last week, they traded their first-round selection in the 2027 Entry Draft and their fourth-round selection in the 2026 Entry Draft for the Albany FireWolves Justin Geddie, and the FireWolves first-round selection in the 2025 Entry Draft. And, a few weeks before that, as the NLL playoffs were in full swing, they resigned Jacob Ruest to a one-year deal.

The Desert Dogs completed their second season with a 5-13 record, tying their regular season record from their inaugural year. The way that this season ended prompted G.M./Head Coach Shawn Williams and his staff to assess how they can improve their team in the years to come.

“After some reflection and all of the exit interviews, we knew our next steps — what our needs were,” GM Williams said. “We were ready to attack some of those pieces. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it takes a little longer. A couple of things presented themselves to us, and we were ready to jump on it.”

GM Williams and the Desert Dogs have tried to prioritize speed and an up-tempo offense as a main piece of their identity since the team’s inception a couple of years ago. They have added young, athletic pieces that have shown they can live up to that expectation. The addition of Shane Simpson through their latest trade and the re-signing of Ruest indicates that the Desert Dogs are trying to be more of a run-and-gun team.

Heading into their third year as a franchise, the Desert Dogs will have plenty of young, speedy, athletic forwards for Ruest and new piece Simpson to pass the ball off to. Hannah is one of the best up-and-coming goal scorers in this league. Sean Westley and Dylan Watson (both rookies last season) emerged as offensive threats. Adam Poitras, the second overall pick in the 2023 NLL Entry Draft, and Luke Pilcher from R.I.T., one of the great NCAA DIII goal scorers in recent years, are both coming to the desert next season to play pro box. This team has many weapons that can grow together and become more powerful as the years roll along.

This early offseason activity has put the Desert Dogs in a good position to sort things out internally. There are many players on both sides of the ball that have expiring contracts that need to be dealt with. GM Williams is getting ready to take some time and figure everything out.

“There might be a couple of things on the go, but I think we’re getting to a space where we’re getting fit,” GM Williams said. “We’ve got to sign all of our guys back that need to be signed. It’ll definitely be busy – I don’t know how much more busy we’ll be with other teams, but I’m always open to listening, that’s for sure.”

It is not every offseason that you see this much activity within three weeks of the NLL Finals coming to a close. Is this the start of a hectic summer of teams making significant changes, or are the teams that feel they need to make big changes just getting ahead of the game and taking care of business now?

We’ll have to wait and see what unfolds over the next few summer months, but this flurry of movement sure was a nice little bang to kick off the offseason.