Pat Bernard – Wings Correspondent, All Lacrosse All The Time
The Philadelphia Wings front office had a busy day on Wednesday, making a summer splash with their first offseason signings. The moves are significant as the NLL’s Free Agency period doesn’t begin until August 1, so the Wings were able to build chemistry and championship potential with no competition or influence from other teams. Let’s a take a look at the transactions that went down for the Wings this week.
Wings sign Mitch Jones to 2-Year Deal
The Wings acquired dynamic forward Mitch Jones from the Vancouver Warriors on January 31 of this year. In exchange for Jones, Vancouver received defenseman Steph Charbonneau, a 2023 first-round draft pick, and a 2024 second-round draft pick. To say Jones made an impact upon arrival could be the understatement of the year. Prior to the trade, the Wings were 2-4, posting a paltry scoring average of 9.83 goals per game. That number jumped to 11.75 over the next 12 games, as the Wings went 7-5 and were in playoff contention until the next to last week of the regular season.
Jones himself had a career year, scoring 126 points (44g, 82a) in 19 games. That total ranked 3rd in the NLL, behind only Dhane Smith and Jeff Teat, both of whom were finalists for the league’s MVP award this season. The presence of Jones also buoyed the play of Joe Resetarits, arguably the biggest free agent signing of last offseason. Resetarits (41g, 69a) achieved the third 100+ point season of his career. He is the only American-born player in NLL history to have more than one such season. In speaking with assistant general manager Landon Miller on an elevator following a game, he made it clear to me that the front office’s top priority was to retain Jones’s services. That priority is now reality, as this two-year contract keeps both Jones and Resetarits in Philadelphia through the 2024-2025 season.
Wings retain Zach Higgins through 2026
The Philadelphia Wings re-signed goaltender Zach Higgins through the 2026 season. Zach Higgins ranked 5th in the NLL in minutes played and second in the league with 729 saves while winning 9 games. I’m not fully sold on the move, as I felt like he would look dominant in the first half of games, only to then appear to take his foot off the gas pedal in the second half. Of course, that can also partly be attributed to miscommunications on defense later in games that led to untimely goals.
The other reality is that the goaltending pool this offseason is rather thin. Goalies such as Nick Rose (Toronto), Dillon Ward (Colorado), and Matt Vinc (Buffalo) were highly unlikely to be on the move, for obvious reasons and despite being Unrestricted Free Agents. However, the Wings have a budding superstar in Deacan Knott, who they drafted in the second round last year. Knott played extremely well for the Oshawa Outlaws of the Arena Lacrosse League in Ontario this past winter. That performance could lead to him challenging for at least the backup role in training camp. If things go south with Higgins, we could see Knott trying to replicate the success recently seen by Rylan Hartley in Rochester or Chris Origlieri in San Diego.
Cattoni’s reunited in the City of Brotherly Love
The Wings also traded rookie lefty Hunter Lemieux, a 2023 fourth round pick, and their 2024 first round pick to Rochester. In return, they received lefty forward Holden Cattoni and a 6th round pick this year. The move reunites Holden with his brother Taite, who was acquired in the middle of last season. Holden put up a career-high 84 points (40g, 44a) to go with 70 loose balls in 2022-2023. Both brothers are also competing with the Peterborough Lakers of the MSL this summer, as they try to win an unprecedented fifth straight Mann Cup. It should be noted that even with the swap of lefty forwards, the Wings still have a surplus of forwards on the left side. In addition to Jones and both Cattoni’s, the roster has stalwarts Matt Rambo and Blaze Riorden, plus Kyle Jackson and 2022 first-round pick Taggart Clark.
Clark finished his career at Robert Morris University scoring 117 points over his final two seasons. He also tallied 100 points in his first 33 games over two seasons with the WLA’s Nanaimo Timbermen. Jackson was a protected practice player who was injured last NLL season. He recently returned to action playing for the Haudenosaunee Nationals at the World Championships in San Diego in late June. Two of these players likely will not make the roster. As a result, it’s entirely possible the Wings could look to move Rambo, Riorden or Jackson. This would allow them to reclaim some of the draft capital lost in the Jones and Cattoni trades, perhaps to use to strengthen the back end before the start of the 2023-2024 season. Either way, look for Philadelphia to be a contender for the 2024 NLL Cup!
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Pat Bernard has four years of podcasting. His first year with the Pattison Ave Phantics and four years running Devereaux Sports. Now currently, both Devereaux Sports and Edge of Sports. Pat is a for 6 Philly sports fan. Flyers, Phillies, Eagles, Sixers, Wings, and Union. The Gobbler is a former pro wrestler and ACPW Hall of Famer! He is originally out of Ambler from Northeast Philly (by the Tacony Bridge). Pat is a credentialed Philadelphia Wings Beat Reported under Edge of Philly Sports.