So the Ryan Benesch saga in Colorado lasted less than two full seasons, as the Mammoth shipped the thirteen-year veteran to Rochester for fellow lefty Cory Vitarelli on Wednesday afternoon. Benesch is no stranger to being traded, with Rochester now being his sixth team, but he joins a Knighthawks squad that is firmly on the outside looking in when it comes to playoffs in the East. While on the other hand, Cory Vitarelli, who had spent his entire nine-year career with Rochester up to this point, is joining a Mammoth team trying their best to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Neither guy is exactly a young gun anymore, as Ryan Benesch is thirty-four and Vitarelli thirty-three, so the fact that they went one-for-one on this deal makes sense in that department. But if you’re looking at the numbers alone, Rochester definitely comes out on top in this one. In 198 games so far in his career, Benesch has 415 G and 977 PTS. Vitarelli has spent less time in the league, with 116 GP under his belt, but has 184 G and 313 PTS. Benesch has hit the fifty-point mark eleven times; Vitarelli has yet to do that once. This is the kind of deal that makes you wonder what both teams were thinking, and it seems like they were thinking short term. No draft picks were exchanged, and if I were Colorado I would have at least asked for a mid-round NLL Draft pick or two.
Rochester knows that Benesch can score, and score often, so what it comes down to then is what exactly the Mammoth are expecting of Vitarelli. With Joe Resartarits being sent to New England (it looks as if the Knighthawks are cleaning house a bit before their move to Halifax this summer), Ryan Benesch’s arrival in Rochester means he’s immediately the second-leading scorer, with 47 points. Vitarelli’s 26 points lands him at fourth on the Mammoth roster, but his 15 goals are second only to Eli McLaughlin’s 25. By no means are the Mammoth looking for Vitarelli to replace Benesch, but they should look at him to add some grit to their play on the floor. Instead of being “the guy” – as that title has been most likely been bestowed upon McLaughlin following Benesch’s departure – Cory Vitarelli will probably fill a niche role: creating space for his teammates, getting physical, going hard to the cage. He’s a big body (5’10”, 220 lbs.), and he knows how to use it. It’s something the Mammoth have been lacking, and if I were them, that’s what I would ask of him. But what do I know?
The other interesting piece in all of this is how will the Mammoth power play look after the dust settles. They don’t have much time to prepare, as they face the Seals this Saturday night at home, and it looks like Vitarelli will figure into the equation for sure (he has 3 PPG so far this year, which isn’t great, but then again Ryan Benesch only has four). McLaughlin, heir apparent, will most likely run the PP offense, with Chris Wardle and Vitarelli on that left side, and Kyle Killen and Ryan Lee their counterparts on the right. They’ll need this new look unit to run smoothly, though, as the PP has been a big asset for them this year (despite, ironically, being tied with Rochester at fifth with a 47.62% conversion rate). They’re in desperate need of goals, and they have to make the most of any advantages that come their way down the road.
Although I’m not a big fan of the move, I’d say both teams got something positive out of it. They exchanged championship-caliber player for championship-caliber player, Colorado adds some sandpaper as Rochester adds some leadership and a scoring touch, and neither gave up any assets or young players in the deal. It was savvy for sure, but we’ll have to wait and see if it all pans out come playoff time.