The Stealth acquired high-scoring forward Athan Iannucci from the Edmonton Rush in exchange for all-star transition player Paul Rabil and a first-round pick in this year's entry draft. Washington also received a second-round pick in the 2012 draft.
Stealth general manager Doug Locker said the two teams began discussing a deal for Iannucci last Friday and talks heated up Saturday.
“We have been interested in Iannucci for a significant period, but haven't really been close to doing anything up until this point,” Locker said. “The Rabil piece of it really developed over the weekend.”
Stealth head coach Chris Hall said Iannucci could provide a much-needed spark for the team's struggling offense.
“It's no secret that our offense has been struggling so far this season,” Hall said in a statement released by the team. “We need some goals, and there was a record-setting goal-scorer sitting out there.”
The Stealth are 1-4 and rank last in the NLL in scoring with an average of 9.2 goals per game.
In 54 NLL games, Iannucci, 29, has scored 153 goals. He set the league record for goals in a season with 71 in 2008, the year he won the league's MVP award as a member of the Philadelphia Wings.
Iannucci played four seasons in Philadelphia (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011). He missed a portion of the 2009 season and all of the 2010 season with a knee injury. He returned in 2011 and tallied 61 points in 13 games (29 goals, 32 assists).
Iannucci was traded to Edmonton during the offseason, but opted not to report to training camp. The Rush placed him on the protected-player list. Iannucci said his decision not to report had nothing to do with the city, coaches or players, but with other aspects of higher management.
Hall and Stealth assistant coach Art Webster, who is running the team while Hall recovers from treatment for throat cancer, watched Iannucci play over the summer for the Langley Thunder of the Western Lacrosse Association.
“He made a believer out of us with some absolutely jaw-dropping plays,” Hall said. “He's big, strong and athletic with incredible hands. He's just a spectacular lacrosse player.”
A native of Port Moody, British Columbia, Iannucci said he was pleased with the trade.
“I am excited to be playing close to home and for a team with this much talent in the locker room,” he said in the press release. “I've played with and against most of the Stealth guys my whole life and I can't wait to get out there and battle with them this weekend.”
He's scheduled to make his Stealth debut Saturday when Washington plays at Rochester.
Iannucci said he is going to do whatever he can to help the Stealth improve from their rocky start. “I am just going to try and fill any hole that needs filling,” he said.
In order to acquire Iannucci the Stealth had to give up a fan favorite and arguably the most well-known lacrosse player in the world.
“I don't know that (Rabil) is the only face of the franchise,” Locker said. "I would say Paul is one of the faces of the franchise — more so on a national scale. At the end of the day, we have to put ourselves in a position to win lacrosse games.”
Rabil, in his fourth season with the franchise, helped the Stealth reach the NLL title game in each of the past two seasons. He had three goals and five assists this season and last week was named to the West Division all-star team.
“It is an expensive price to pay,” Hall said, “but we feel this trade gives us the best chance to win a title in 2012 and beyond.”
Locker said that the decision to deal Rabil wasn't easy.
“It was a difficult decision,” Locker said. “Paul has given a lot to the organization and has a ton of lacrosse experience. But we just had to make a move.”
Stealth captain Jason Bloom, who played lacrosse with Iannucci growing up in British Columbia, said it was difficult to see Rabil leave but the trade simply was too good to pass up.
“Athan is the best goal-scorer I've ever seen,” Bloom said in the press release. “When you have an opportunity to land one of the greatest goal-scorers of all time, you have to take it.”
The Stealth travel to Edmonton to face the Rush on March 24.
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