Top 10 Free Agents of 2023
The Premier Lacrosse League’s first-ever free agency window opens on Monday, March 6th. Every expired contract, extension, and new signing is tracked here.
Here are the top 10 players eligible to hit the market this month:
10. Cade van Raaphorst, D, Atlas LC
Cade van Raaphorst can cover. He can slide. He can bury twos in transition.
Plug him into your defense, and you’re immediately improved off-ball. He hunts for opportunities to help. You can see his brain change gears from on- to off-ball. Not many cover guys flip the switch that quickly.
9. Ryan Aughavin, M, Archers LC
If a player is not on his club’s active roster for 30% or more of eligible games (i.e. games for which the player is not on the Injured List, Family or Medical Leave Lists), then that player becomes eligible for free agency.
Ryan Aughavin only dressed in two games last summer.
Aughavin is Max Seibald’s looper. From the hair to the #42 to the first-step explosion to the angry shot, Aughavin plays like the 2009 Tewaaraton winner.
The fourth round pick out of Brown buried 11 goals (including four 2-point goals) on 61% shooting in the Championship Series. Is he a full-time offensive midfielder? A full-time SSDM? A two-way midfielder? To be determined. But any general manager would be glad to answer those questions at training camp.
8. Jake Carraway, A, Atlas LC
Not since Gus Fring hired Gale Boetticher has someone been so abruptly supplanted as Jake Carraway was in 2022.
With the second overall pick in the 2022 College Draft, Atlas LC selected Chris Gray – who plays the same exact position as Carraway. Some mused that a Gray-Carraway-Jeff Teat attack line would work. Maybe. But that’d mean sitting or scratching Eric Law, whose presence at X is unique and core to Atlas’ offensive identity.
Carraway was the odd man out. He showed he can still sling it at the Championship Series, shooting 47% (and 55% from 2-point range). Can Atlas LC run him out of the box? Will the Waterdogs pursue in the wake of Ryan Brown’s retirement?
7. Jarrod Neumann, D, Chaos LC
Since his polarizing 2019 Dave Pietramala Defender of the Year Award season, Jarrod Neumann has played some of his best defense. He held Matt Rambo to 0-for-1 shooting, an assist, and two turnovers in Chaos LC’s 2021 Championship victory.
Part of his improvement has been a simplified defense. Instead of scrambling, Chaos LC now plays straight-up one-on-one. Only 45.1% of shots against them were assisted in ’22. They rarely slide. If you can beat your defender and Blaze Riorden, then you’ve earned your point(s).
To win with that style of defense, you need to be all-in. You need a goaltender who approves. Do any defenses want to adopt Chaos and Chrome’s slow-to-go strategy? If so – and if you’re looking to match mass with Rambo and Zed Williams – Neumann fits your philosophy.
6. Matt McMahon, D, Archers LC
Matt McMahon has been the backbone of some of the best defenses of the past decade. From the Faceless Men of Ohio to Archers LC.
McMahon can cover, left- or right-handed. His head is always on a swivel when he’s in help position. He’s the type of defenseman whose impact you appreciate more on a second or third watch of a game – like Eddy Glazener and Liam Byrnes.
Two defensive schemes are emerging across the league: Man-to-man defenses (i.e. Chrome, Chaos) and slide-and-recover defenses (i.e. Archers, Redwoods). McMahon fits best in the latter, where he already is. It’s unlikely he moves – but if Cannons LC want to create a defensive identity, they’d benefit from building it around McMahon.
5. Connor Farrell, FO, Chrome LC
Connor Farrell a.k.a. Thor a.k.a. The Milk Man has always been among the league’s top clampers. As a rookie out of LIU Post, Farrell’s first move had a 59.2% success rate. His hands are quick off the whistle.
But he had always struggled to turn clamp wins into faceoff wins. His exit rate dropped to 60.9% in ’21 – lowest among starting FO specialists and well below the league average (72.7%).
In his fourth season, Farrell addressed his Achilles’ heel: He exited at a 79.8% rate.
Farrell is the best FO specialist in this free agency class. Cannons LC (45.9% in ‘22), Chaos LC (42.5%), and Archers LC (38.3%) should extend offers. Whipsnakes LC – with Joe Nardella injured – should give him a call.
4. Myles Jones, M, Redwoods LC
The Redwoods’ offensive highs are high and their lows (i.e. against Chrome LC in Charlotte) are frustratingly low. They seemed ready to make major changes last June. Nothing precipitated.
What does first-year offensive coordinator John Grant Jr. want this offense to look like?
Expect more passing (Redwoods finished seventh with 194 passes per game) and more picks (Redwoods finished seventh with 7.4 shots off two-man games per game).
Grant Jr. has mentioned his excitement toward coaching Myles Jones – who, at his best, is one of the best passing midfielders in lacrosse. Jones’ most likely landing spot is a return to the Redwoods. We’ll see if new schemes can establish consistency in the ‘Woods.
3 and 2. Marcus Holman and Will Manny, A, Archers LC
The Bunk Bed Bros. appear to be a package deal. Marcus Holman and Will Manny – the sixth and eighth most prolific goal scorers of all-time, respectively – are free agents.
Cannons LC is the obvious landing spot. Newly named head coach and general manager Brian Holman is Marcus’ father. When Brian was the head coach at Utah, both Marcus and Will (and Adam Ghitelman) were on his staff. The Cannons have more defensive needs than offensive holes heading into free agency, but signing Holman and Manny will help the club develop an identity.
Darkhorse candidate to land the duo: Redwoods LC. Both are close with Rob Pannell; Holman from Team USA, Manny from the New York Lizards. Head coach and general manager Nat St. Laurent always adds big names – and usually finds a way to make the pieces work. With TD Ierlan at the stripe, Eddy Glazener barking defensive orders, and the second overall pick in May, the ‘Woods are closer to competing for a Championship than the Cannons.
1. Mac O’Keefe, A/M, Chaos LC
Mac O’Keefe scored more goals in his collegiate career than any player in history. Since joining Chaos LC, he has been severely underutilized.
O’Keefe averaged only 19.9 touches per game in ’22 according to Champion Data. Fewer than Adam Charalambides, Bryan Cole, and Kyle Jackson. He’s not a ball dominant player; but he deserves more touches and more shots (3.0 per game).
If O’Keefe slides into Manny’s role on Archers LC, he could see nearly double the touches (34.4) and shots (5.6). Being on the field for fast breaks and across from his college teammate Grant Ament (5.7 assist opportunities per game) will unleash the best version of O’Keefe.