Blockbuster trades don't come much bigger than this.
In a stunning move, the Toronto Rock shipped former National Lacrosse League scoring champion Josh Sanderson to the Calgary Roughnecks in exchange for sniper Lewis Ratcliff, third in league scoring and fourth in goals.
Sanderson was brought to Toronto in a 2004 trade for Anthony Cosmo and Steve Toll, and immediately established himself as the NLL's top playmaker, setting a league record with 71 assists in the 2005 season. Sanderson helped lead the team to the Champions Cup that season, but the club has struggled since and has been looking for a big, strong forward since the 2006 trade of Colin Doyle.
Enter Ratcliff, a 6-foot-1, 200 pounder, who at 26, is both younger and far more imposing than the 5-foot-7 Sanderson, who will soon be 31.
Rock director of lacrosse operations Mike Kloepfer said Calgary had been after Sanderson for a while, but were reluctant to surrender Ratcliff until today's trade deadline.
"Having a player like Lewis become available is very rare," Kloepfer said.
"He's going to help set the Rock's offence for many years to come."
Kloepfer admitted that replacing the burly Doyle, one of the catalysts of the Rock's early decade dynasty, has been difficult, but felt that Ratcliff could solve the team's scoring woes.
The Rock sits near the bottom in NLL scoring, but is third in the East thanks to strong work on defence and in goal.
Kloepfer said Ratcliff couldn't wait to join the club and would be able to easily commute to Toronto from Victoria, where he owns his own gym.
Kloepfer added that age was a factor as well -- Ratcliff is five years away from unrestricted free agency, while Sanderson is in his 10th season.
Sanderson will rejoin his father, Terry, Calgary's assistant coach. Terry Sanderson brought his son to Toronto in his role as coach and general manager.
Ratcliff's 50 goals last season were one behind leader and league MVP John Grant Jr. of the Rochester Knighthawks. Ratcliff scored 37 and 36 goals the previous two seasons and his point totals increased from 86 his rookie season to 104 in 2007.