Rush deal captain Merrill

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:57 AM ET

EDMONTON - It’s not often, in any league, that star players get traded for star players, but the Edmonton Rush managed to pull off a blockbuster Tuesday.

The Rush dealt captain Brodie Merrill, one of the best all around players in the game today, for Athan Iannucci, one of the best snipers in the game today, in a package deal with the Philadelphia Wings.

Moving a captain and a character player like Merrill wasn’t easy, but Rush owner Bruce Urban says there are only so many opportunities to land a player like Iannucci so they had to make their move.

“Brodie is an exceptional player — one of the world’s best — and it is not easy to see him leave the team,” said Urban. “But in return, we have acquired an incredibly talented scorer in Athan Ianucci who I believe the fans will instantly love for his skill.

“Our lineup has never featured a truly elite level scorer in his prime and I’m excited to see what Athan can achieve with the talent we have surrounded him with.”

Ianucci owns the NLL record for goals in a season, scoring 71 in 2008. He led the Wings in scoring with 29 goals and 32 assists for 61 points last year.

“Trading Brodie Merrill was the most difficult move I have ever made in my many, many years of involvement in lacrosse,” said head coach and GM Derek Keenan. “He is the consummate professional and a tremendous leader.

“However, on a personal level for Brodie, this is a good move for him. With his involvement (Lacrosse Program Director) with the Hill Academy, a family operated prep school in North Toronto, it was becoming more and more difficult for him to travel and play in the West Division.

“This is a good trade for the Rush, for Brodie and I think for the Philadelphia Wings as well.”

The rest of the deal sees Mike McLellan, Dean Hill and two mid-round draft picks go to Philadelphia for Brodie McDonald, Alex Turner, and first round draft picks in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Keenan considers it a major haul, which it had to be given who they gave up to get it.

“We received the single-season goal scoring record holder, one of the top 2 young goaltending prospects in lacrosse and a big, solid young left handed offensive player along with 3 first round draft picks,” he said. “These are all solid assets moving forward.”

Ianucci, a native of Port Moody, B.C., has 153 goals in just 54 regular-season games in the NLL.

A two-time winner of the league’s Transition Player of the Year, Merrill departs the Rush after a pair of seasons during which he twice earned the team’s MVP award.

“I have a little bit of mixed emotions because I’ll be leaving behind good friends, teammates and coaches in Edmonton,” said Merrill. “But I’m very excited to be moving closer to home, joining the Philadelphia Wings and helping the team return to the playoffs.”

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca

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