Cue up some Diddy and Skylar Grey. Two former Preds are coming home.
Sunday morning, the Nashville Predators acquired defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli in exchange for top prospect Brendan Leipsic, veteran Olli Jokinen and their first round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Franson and Santorelli were both originally drafted and developed by the Predators.
Both pending free agents, General Manager David Poile essentially spent a first round pick for Franson (the asking price according to Pierre LeBrun) and a top prospect in Leipsic for Santorelli. Jokinen has had a hard time finding the lineup recently and was probably a throw in just to clear NHL roster space for the new additions.
Already one of the best — if not the best — in the NHL, the Predators blueline now boasts three-time Norris Trophy finalist Shea Weber, rising stars Roman Josi, Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis (currently injured), Mattias Ekholm and Franson as well as veteran stay-at-home man Anton Volchenkov and seventh (but certainly capable) defenseman Victor Bartley. It also gives them one more right handed shot, which is highly coveted around the league.
The former Vancouver Giant seems to be in the prime of his career, numbers wise. In the lockout-shortened year, he compiled 29 points and then followed that up with a career high 33 last season. This year — on a pretty bad Toronto club — he’s tallied 32 points while serving as alternate captain.
Where Santorelli fits in with the forwards is a question mark. He can play both wing and center but has just one good season on his resume. In 2010-11, the 2004 sixth round pick of the Predators finally got a chance at a full time NHL roster spot with the Florida Panthers. He responded with 20 goals and 41 points. He followed it up with 11 points in 60 games and then three in 24 before being waived and picked up by the Winnipeg Jets where he mustered just a single point in his 10 games with them.
While with the Vancouver Canucks in 2013-14, Santorelli amassed a respectable 28 points in 49 games. This past summer, he signed a one-year deal with Toronto and leaves their struggling hockey club as sixth best scorer with 29 points.
But on the top team in the NHL, is Santorelli a third liner? A fourth liner? With the maturation of rookie Filip Forsberg, the emergence of Mike Ribeiro, the resurgence of Mike Fisher, the breakout year of Colin Wilson and the goal scoring prowess of both James Neal and Craig Smith, there’s hardly room on the top two lines. So where does he fit? Does he fit at all?
Which leads to the question of “was it worth it to give up a blue chip prospect like Leipsic for him?” After a slow start to his pro season, the former Portland Winterhawk led the team in assists and was second in scoring at the time of his departure. He looked to be a key cog in the future of the organization but, instead, ends up being sacrificed to reacquire Santorelli, a rental player.
Poile will speak to the media immediately prior to the GnashVegas event at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday night.
UPDATE (11:20am Central): Viktor Stalberg has been put back on waivers and Anthony Bitetto has been reassigned to the Milwaukee Admirals.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Fuqua (used with permission)