By Justin Prince
Note: This story was originally published on NBLCentral.
Last year's National Basketball League of Canada Rookie of the Year could be on the move.
Stephen Maxwell has signed an offer sheet with the Niagara River Lions.
"Stephen Maxwell's a game-changing player," said Richard Petko, owner of the River Lions. "He broke into the league with a bang last year and obviously had a huge effect ... We think he's one of the top five players in the league, if not a top three player."
Maxwell, 23, was one of the Lightning's top players last season, averaging 17 points per game and 10.8 rebounds per game during the team's NBLC Finals run. The Cal State Northridge product would be joining former teammate Tyshawn Patterson with the move.
"It's not done yet," said Maxwell when asked about the deal.
Petko said the team contacted Maxwell six days ago about the possible interest in joining the team. By 2 p.m. today, they received a signed offer sheet from him.
Petko is not sure if the Lightning will end up matching the offer.
"If he had been on our team and we had protected him, he would have already had a contract by now," said Petko. "That's how much we value the skills he has."
Maxwell's signing would be one of many high-profile signings by Niagara this offseason, including former Windsor Express starters Chris Commons and Kirk Williams Jr. as well as league veteran point guard Tyler Murray.
Petko explained his contract offer to Maxwell is lucrative for the NBLC's standards. While he would not give an exact figure - the league has an unwritten rule about releasing contract details publicly - he said it was a high-level deal.
"Five-thousand dollars (a month) was considered a pretty decent salary a year or two ago for some of the top players. Right now, this offer is higher than that," said Petko.
The River Lions plan to bring in 21 players for their training camp this December including Maxwell, according to Petko. He said even without Maxwell, this year's camp will be very competitive.
"Even without Maxwell, we're looking at a very impressive and aggressive competitive training camp," said Petko. "There is going to be a big name or two in our camp who is probably not going to make the team due to the salary cap and salary structure. We can't have that many higher-level guys with that many salaries.
"We look forward to seeing what happens. We'd love to get Maxwell and we'd love to have all these dogs fight for their bones."
The Lightning have less than 48 hours to match the River Lions' offer.