Playoff-bubble Roughnecks listening with NLL trade deadline day just hours away

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Hello, caller. You’re on the air with Calgary Roughnecks GM Mike Board.

He’s listening. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s buying — or selling — at this 2023-24 National Lacrosse League trade deadline.

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“Yeah … we’ll listen,” said Board, whose Roughnecks (5-6) play one more game — Friday night against the host Georgia Swarm (7-6) in Duluth, Ga. (5:30 p.m., TSN+) — ahead of the NLL deadline day.

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“We’ll see what things look like after the weekend,” continued Board. “Every team is going to be re-evaluating on Saturday and Sunday. And we’ll figure it out.”

That could just as easily mean standing pat — the modus operandi at this time of season for the Roughnecks roster-shaper — even with the pressure of his team on the NLL playoff bubble.

Because their standing in the post-season race — currently tied for sixth with the Panther City Lacrosse Club and the defending champion Buffalo Bandits — isn’t the only aspect determining his d-day actions.

Salaries, the feel of the lineup and team chemistry also come into play.

“I think you always have the conversations, and if there’s a chance to improve your team and it makes sense financially and roster-wise and it doesn’t set upset the apple cart, then you obviously take a look at it and consider it,” Board said. “There’s lots of things that pop up that you might not even have thought of. You look at if it helps your team now and if it helps your team in the future. So you take each proposal or trade request and review it and put it up against your roster and see if it actually does make sense.

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“But as far as being active at the deadline, we haven’t really been that over the last couple of years.”

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Indeed, Board tends to make most of his major moves at the NLL Draft ahead of the season.

This year’s draft-day deal saw him pry sniper Thomas Hoggarth from the Rochester Knighthawks to try and up the team’s production up-front.

And for various reasons, the NLL is not a highly active in the trade market anyway, especially during the season and at the deadline.

“There hasn’t been a tremendous amount of movement over the last couple of years, because the playoff races are tight,” Board said. “There’s not a lot of supposed sellers and buyers. There might be more buyers than sellers or more sellers than buyers, so it’s kind of an interesting dynamic — and I don’t know that this year’s going to be any different.”

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That’s especially true in 2023-24 due to the new standings format this season.

It’s unified, meaning all 15 teams are lumped together — rather than in two conferences — in the chase for eight playoff spots.

So one decision makes for a lot of movement up and down the NLL ladder.

For instance, a victory over the Swarm on Friday bumps the Roughnecks to within one win of the fifth-place Swarm with two games in hand. 

Such a decision would also put them within striking distance of the fourth-spot Halifax Thunderbirds (7-5) — with whom they own the head-to-head tiebreaker after defeating them earlier this season — and even the NLL’s top-three clubs. The Riggers have split the season series with the top-notch Toronto Rock (10-2) and have games remaining against the second-slotted Albany FireWolves (9-2) and the third-place San Diego Seals (8-4).

“Every win and every loss has an impact on where everyone sits in the standings, right?” Board said. “It’s just that tight. I look at the standings right now and there’s three of us at 5-6, including the reigning champions. So that kind of shows you what’s going on, and then you look up at the top three and the rest of us kind of just kind of packed in there. Toronto and Albany and New York are up near the top, and the rest of us are in the dogfight for the other playoff spots.

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“I mean … you want to be free and clear and looking ahead, but the league’s tight right now. There’s a lot of parity out there. I was talking to another GM the other day, and he’s like, ‘Everyone’s good, right?’ Anybody can win on any given night, it feels like. 

“We’re in the mix, and that’s the best part.”

And they feel like they’re playing better than their record suggests, a big reason to stay pat in the next few days.

“We like our team,” added Board. “We’ve shown that we can play with top teams in the league, like the Torontos and the Halifaxes and the San Diegos, and we’ve got another test this weekend playing a top team.

“Right now, I would look at it and say we like our team, but it’s not like we’re not going to pick up the phone or not take any calls or not make calls. That’s the same as a lot of GMs around the league the next couple of days.”


Roughnecks assistant captain and defender Eli Salama (lower body) is questionable for Friday’s game … Roughnecks transition Josh Inacio (lower body) was knocked out of last week’s loss in Philly and is out … Veteran forward Logan Schuss (MCL/ACL) remains out for the Riggers.

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