If the recent moves made by the Rochester Knighthawks since the start of free agency are any indication of the team’s approach coming into the 2021-22 National Lacrosse League season, then buckle up, because what a season this is going to be.
The organization made a splash since Aug. 1 with some of its recent acquisitions, reeling in arguably two of the league’s coveted veteran players that will help shape the culture of the expansion-era Knighthawks. According to Twitter and those tracking NLL free agency, Rochester has added two of the top five free agents that were available to its roster heading into the 2021-22 season.
Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey is one of the many staff members involved in making these acquisitions happen and he discussed how these recent additions were all a part of the team’s original plan heading into free agency.
“For us to be able to sign free agents that are going to make an impact on our roster, and the players on our roster, it definitely was a part of our plan and the process of continuing to get better,” said Carey.
If we’re looking at the two most notable additions to the roster, it undoubtedly would be that of defenseman Dan Coates and goaltender Evan Kirk. Both Coates and Kirk have spent nine seasons in the league and bring the veteran impact that Carey and others were looking for as free agency opened.
“As far as our plan, I don’t know if we can say these players specifically were a part of it, but in general to sign free agents that are going to be impactful – absolutely that was a part of our plan.”
Impactful seems to be what Carey will get with these two signings as Kirk joins the Knighthawks having compiled a 58-48 career record with an 11.83 goals-against average and a .770 save percentage in 141 games over nine seasons with the Saskatchewan Rush, New England Black Wolves, Philadelphia Wings and Minnesota Swarm from 2011-2020. Additionally, he has posted a 5-4 record in nine playoff contests while posting a .748 save percentage.
“Whatever success that we have on the floor, it’s going to be part of the reason we have players like Kirk off the floor. To be able to use the experiences that he’s had, and to help our players and his teammates, to have success as well,” mentioned Carey when asked how Kirk will inevitably add to his veteran core this upcoming season.
Looking at Coates’s veteran resume, the defenseman previously spent nine seasons with the Colorado Mammoth, during which he compiled 75 points (15+60), 492 loose ball recoveries and 139 caused turnovers in 128 career games. Coates posted his best season during the 2014-15 campaign when he scored one goal and posted career-highs in assists (11) and points (12) in 18 games.
It’s not just the statistics behind Coates’s game that impresses Carey and the coaching staff in Rochester, it’s how he conducts himself as a professional and is always striving to be better.
“That was the biggest thing for us, we’ve got a lot of young players defensively. We’ve got Paul Dawson and a couple of other players they can learn from, but Dan is another player that, in the way he prepares outside of lacrosse and knowing everything that goes into being a professional, he’s dialed in.”
All in all, the Knighthawks are setting themselves up to be one of the most talked about and dangerous teams when they hit the floor come the 2021-22 campaign. A large part of that is due to the moves that Carey has been able to make over this offseason and the addition of last year’s draft class that we all have yet to see take the floor at The Blue Cross Arena.
At the end of the day Carey can’t help but feel that players of Coates and Kirk’s caliber want to come to the Flower City to make their team that much stronger.
“We feel so lucky that these players agreed to sign with us and believe in what we believe in.”
Carey then went on to add, “they’re not just fantastic players but they’re both great teammates and great people that are going to add to the culture in the locker room.”