Redblacks gamble in moving Patrick Lavoie

Aside from being peak CFL (seriously, a pair of French Canadian fullbacks swapping teams in bilingual markets?), the trading of FB Patrick Lavoie to the Montreal Alouettes for FB J.C. Beaulieu has some interesting implications for the Ottawa Redblacks.

First off, before examining what the Redblacks are getting in the trade, it’s worth looking at what they’re losing.

Even if Lavoie wasn’t the fastest or most productive player on the team, there’s no doubt he carved out a valuable role for himself within the Ottawa organization.

An original Redblack, Lavoie made 86 receptions during his four-year stint with Ottawa, good for 796 yards and three touchdowns. It’s worth noting that Lavoie seemed to bring his best efforts when the games mattered most, catching a touchdown in both of the Redblacks’ Grey Cup appearances.

Lavoie featured heavily on Ottawa’s special teams, being named a captain the past three seasons and was extremely durable during his time in the nation’s capital, missing only three games in four seasons.

He was also, by all accounts, an extremely popular guy in the locker room, and the elder statesman of the “French Mafia”; the self-given moniker of a group of Québécois Redblacks players.

So why did the Redblacks decide to trade Lavoie? There’s likely a few seasons.

To start, they’re getting a heck of a football player in return. Despite limited opportunities, J.C. Beaulieu has proven himself to be explosive with the ball in his hands. In the ten games he was a part of in 2017, Beaulieu carried the ball seven times for 91 yards and a touchdown, and caught six passes for 50 yards. And just like Lavoie, Beaulieu is also capable of playing special teams.

In addition to being fleeter of foot than Lavoie, the 6-foot-3, 220 pound Beaulieu is also a full three years younger than him. That not only means he has less wear and tear his body, but also that his contract is likely smaller and thus carries a lesser cap hit.

That’s a significant factor to account for given that Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins is still trying to lock up pending free agents such as Diontae Spencer, Nolan MacMillan, Zach Evans, Jerrell Gavins and Taylor Reed.

Even if the Redblacks only save a few thousand dollars by swapping Lavoie for Beaulieu, in a league where every dollar counts (to both the front office and the players themselves) it could well mean the retaining of a key player.

Another thing that may have played into Desjardins’ decision is the depth Ottawa current has at the fullback position. Canadian Brendan Gillanders had limited touches in 2017, but averaged 6.3 yards per carry and 7.8 yards per catch.

Furthermore, after cutting his teeth on special teams, perhaps the Redblacks feel 2018 2nd round pick Anthony Gosselin is ready for an expanded role. The 6-foot-1, 250 pound Sherbrooke product runs a 4.7 in the 40 yard dash and boasts soft hands.

Then there’s Ed Ilnicki, who the Desjardins signed two weeks ago. Although his natural position is at running back, the Hec Crighton Trophy winner in 2017 could line up at fullback.

Between Beaulieu, Gillanders, Gosselin and Ilnicki, offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo won’t lack for versatile options at the fullback position.

While some in R-Nation might be not keen on the trade today, if moving Lavoie to Montreal means that Ottawa can hang to another pending free agent and see more explosive plays from whoever lines up at fullback, Desjardins’ gamble will have paid off.

Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).