Bandits snatch Hopcroft, put pressure on Wiles
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • December 05, 2012 @ 9:39am
Buffalo Bandits management may be mum on star Luke Wiles’ contract status, but their roster moves are speaking volumes.
While the Bandits’ second-leading scorer and National Lacrosse League All-Star last year, teammate Billy Dee Smith and agent Chaka Bainbridge seem reluctant to budge on contract negotiations with new GM Steve Dietrich, yet another talented righty forward has joined Buffalo’s offensive corps.
IL Indoor’s Steve Bermel announced that the Colorado Mammoth traded forward Derek Hopcroft to the Bandits in exchange for a conditional sixth round pick in 2014. The deal seems like a fleecing on the surface, even though Hopcroft struggled to maintain a spot in a deep Mammoth right side last year.
Just like Kevin Buchanan, who was attractive to then-GM Darris Kilgour because of his exceptional performance against Buffalo the year prior, Hopcroft had his best game of the 2012 campaign at the First Niagara Center, humming four goals past the combo of Mike Thompson and Anthony Cosmo in Colorado’s 16-13 win.
NLL legend John Grant Jr. said this after Hopcroft’s performance on March 4, which speaks to the diminutive forward’s greatest talent:
“[Hopcroft]’s got a laser,” said Grant. “He’s finding his spots, and I had a feeling that when a guy has a hot hand, you give him the ball. It was my pleasure to set him a pick and he did what he does—fired 100 miles per hour into the net.”
Hopcroft joins Aaron Wilson as off-the-ball scorers acquired by the Bandits since Wiles’ holdout, and both have familiarity with new Buffalo star Shawn Williams. Wilson was a teammate with Williams last season in Edmonton, while Hopcroft played with the 37-year-old with the MSL’s Brooklin Redmen.
Because the Bandits’ administration is tight-lipped about the contract negotiations, it’s unclear if this second move represents another hint that Wiles won’t return, or merely is another bargaining chip for Dietrich in his discussions with Bainbridge. Although Wilson remains unsigned (Update via Scott Loffler: Wilson IS signed; the Bandits acquired Edmonton’s franchise tag as per the Jeremy Thompson trade), according to NLL.com’s transactions page, his Twitter avatar suggests that he’s interested in coming.