The Benesch trade: could both teams lose?

As you’ve heard by now, the Buffalo Bandits have acquired sniper Ryan Benesch and transition man Andrew Watt from the Swarm for two first round draft picks (2015, 2016) and a third round pick in 2017. This looks to be a great deal for the Bandits, who lose nobody from their roster while picking up two solid players including Benesch, a former rookie of the year and league scoring leader. It could also be great for the Swarm, who just love their first round draft picks. But it could also be a disaster for both.

The Swarm had four first round draft picks in 2012, and they have four more in 2013, including one of Buffalo’s (from the Cosmo deal). Now they have Buffalo’s first round picks for 2014 (Cosmo again), 2015, and 2016 as well as their own. This, plus Philadelphia’s 2015 pick from the Kevin Ross trade, gives them at least eleven first round picks over the next four drafts.

This is a bit of a strange deal for the Swarm, on the assumption that Benesch didn’t ask for a trade. As I said, they certainly love acquiring first round picks, but I’m not sure it makes sense to give up someone who’s a star now for draft picks. I get that first round picks are important and can change a franchise entirely (right Edmonton Rush and Pittsburgh Penguins? Or the 2013 Swarm for that matter), but the best-case scenario for the Swarm is that they are able to draft someone as good as Benesch. If Benny was 34 and one of those “still pretty good but on the downside of his career” players, it might make sense, but he’s only 28 and could easily be at or near the top of the league in scoring for the next five years or more. Even if the first of the draft picks they got results in the next Mark Matthews, they still have 2 full seasons of no Benesch and no Watt before then.

Ryan BeneschThey do have four first-round picks this year, and if they want to get them all on the roster, then four players from last year have to go. They’ll likely want Andrew Suitor back in the lineup, so that’s one more. But I don’t think Benesch and Watt were at the top of John Arlotta’s “list of players who can be dumped in favour of rookies”. In addition, this trade has made the Bandits better, so it’s unlikely that the Bandits’ first round picks will be all that high anyway.

Meanwhile the Bandits have no first round picks for the next four years. It’s now safe to say that the Cosmo deal was a bust, in that Cosmo has only shown glimpses of the former Goaltender of the Year the Bandits hoped they were getting. Indeed, 2012 and 2013 were the worst seasons of Cosmo’s career in terms of both GAA and save percentage. The Bandits have not yet given up anything for Cosmo – this year’s draft will be the first of the two first-round picks they gave up. But unless Cosmo recovers in a big way next season, the next two drafts might be tough to swallow for Bandits fans.

If the Benesch deal doesn’t work out for whatever reason, the two drafts after those might be just as tough. There would be nothing worse for Bandits fans to head into a draft knowing you have no first round pick this year or next because of a trade for a player that hasn’t played for you for two years, but if Benesch is traded again, that could be the case. But Steve Dietrich knows this. With this trade, the Bandits are going all in with Benesch as their offensive leader for the next half-decade. Obviously losing John Tavares will hurt, whether he retires now or after another season, but with Benesch as the new offensive go-to guy, the Bandits can handle it. That’s something they’ve never really been able to say before. Not saying Benesch is on a par with Tavares, arguably the best NLL player ever, but if you’re looking to replace a strong lefty scoring threat, you could do far worse.

I have no reason to believe that Benesch won’t be successful in Buffalo. If he does take over John Tavares’ spot as the offensive leader of the team, the trade may work out very well for the Bandits. And if the Swarm’s 2013 draft picks work out as well as their 2012 ones did (Matisz, Jackson, Sorensen, Crepinsek), they may be able to survive the loss of Benesch and Watt pretty well.

All trades take time to determine who the real winners were, in some cases a few years. If it takes that long to decide the winner of this deal, it’s likely the Bandits came out on top. But if Dietrich’s bet on Benesch doesn’t work out, things could be pretty bleak in Buffalo for a long time.


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