Make it a blockbuster day

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:04 AM ET

In a effort to shake up their inconsistent offence, the Calgary Roughnecks have dealt their leading scorer.

It sounds like a foolish notion, jettisoning high-scoring lefty Lewis Ratcliff, but the Riggers replace him with one of the National Lacrosse League's greatest playmakers in Josh Sanderson, another southpaw.

The deal with the Toronto Rock was made just before the NLL trade deadline yesterday, with Calgary also receiving a first-round draft pick in 2008 and sending a conditional 2009 second-round pick back to Hogtown.

"It was tough to pull the trigger on this one," said Riggers GM Kurt Silcott after the biggest deal in team history outside the Kaleb Toth trade.

"Lewis is a great player and great guy and he's been a big part of this team for long time. The offence just wasn't producing.

"We weren't getting the goal production we were looking for. I'm not saying it was Lewis' fault, but we needed a shakeup. There's no sense shaking up the bottom guys."

Ratcliff, who was a fourth-round pick by Calgary in 2001, led the Riggers in scoring the past three seasons and had 29 goals in 12 games this year.

But to get a player with the credentials of Sanderson -- six-time all-star, single-season record for assists -- the Roughnecks had to give up a quality player.

The offence ran through Ratcliff the past few years, and now it will go through Sanderson, ragraded as the best passer in the NLL.

Everyone involved in the deal is interested in seeing how this changes the Riggers offence, including coach Troy Cordingley, although he isn't excited to see Ratcliff leave.

"But Josh is one of those special players," said Cordingley, who coached Sanderson the past three summers for Brampton in the Ontario league.

"He scores those key goals or makes huge plays to help the scoring. He's a money-baller, getting big ones at big times. We need that.

"We had to make a move. We have struggled, been real good at times and real awful at times."

Sanderson, who is the son of Roughnecks assistant coach Terry Sanderson, spent the past three seasons with the Rock after being traded from the San Jose Stealth.

"I'm a little shocked but very excited about trying to help Calgary out," said the 30-year-old. "This is a group that is underachieving a bit, so I hope to help get them on a roll and do some damage in the playoffs.

"I will try to get these guys some open shots. They have some good scorers ... I want to get them some looks and obviously bury my chances when they come."

Ratcliff leaves the Roughnecks as the all-time leader in goals (210) and points (461) in 90 games. He was taken 42nd overall in the 2001 draft, and that's the number he wore since joining the team.

"It's weird. I've never been traded before," said the Victoria native. "This is going to be strange because it was six years with Calgary.

"But the Roughnecks were 4-8 and were struggling on offence. Something had to give. To get a player like Josh, you have to give up something. If it helps the offence, then they had to do it. It will be weird to put on a different jersey."

And he won't have to wait long until getting a homecoming. The Riggers host the Rock April 19 in their final home game of the regular season.

"I hope it's a good welcome and the fans don't boo me," Ratcliff said. "I have nothing bad to say about Calgary.

"It was a great place to play and the fans are awesome. It's a good organization, so I'm looking forward to coming back and playing them."


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