The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who had concerns about their overall kicking game, have acquired Rob Pikula from the B.C. Lions, a move that has led to the release of punter Pat Fleming and has major ramifactions on the future of veteran Troy Westwood.
Pikula, a 25-year-old Brantford native who starred with the University of Western Ontario, is a punter/place kicker who converted six of seven field-goal attempts for the Lions last year in his rookie season and punted for a 48.2 average on six kicks. He was a backup to Paul McCallum.
The Lions were actively shopping Pikula, seeking a first-round selection, which was considered steep. Sportsnet.ca has learned the Bombers surrendered a third-round selection in next year's draft.
The Bombers clearly had concerns about their kicking game following a 39-39 tie in their season opener game against Edmonton on Thursday. Westwood made only one of four field-goal attempts, including missing a 42-yarder in the second series in overtime.
Edmonton's Sean Fleming missed a 47-yard attempt on the final play of the game to salvage the tie for Winnipeg. Sean Fleming converted only one of three attemps.
Westwood, 40, is in his 17th Canadian Football League season, all with the Bombers.
Pat Fleming joined the Bombers as a free-agent signing in training camp. He played in Hamilton last year.
Bombers general manager Brendan Taman told Sportsnet.ca the team originally tried to trade for Pikula on the CFL draft day in April. When the Bombers acquired Fleming earlier this month to do its punting, it figured it had its overall kicking game in place. But the game against Edmonton caused the organization to re-evaluate that situation and make the trade for Pikula.
"The more we thought about it, the more we had to make a change," Taman said. "He's the next guy up."
Taman preferred not to speculate on the future of Westwood. He said it be determined based on how well Pikula does in practice. He is slated to join the Bombers on Sunday.
"Obviously (Westwood's) performance didn't go over well with our people, and Troy know he didn't play well," Taman said. "It's a performance-driven business. I don't foresee us cutting Troy. Troy will still be on our team this week. We know (Pikula) can punt. We don't know how good of a place-kicker he is."
Lions general manger/head coach Wally Buono said in a media release. Pikula gave the team depth, but with Paul McCallum's experience and consistency the team felt it could strengthen itself making the trade.
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