Befitting their nickname, the Western Conference-leading Nashville Predators became aggressive in the trade market and pounced weeks before the Mar. 2 trade deadline.
On Sunday, the Preds boosted their chances of making a deep playoff run by acquiring center Mike Santorelli and defenseman Cody Franson from the Toronto Maple Leafs – sending veteran center Olli Jokinen, prospect Brendan Leipsic and a 2015 first-round pick to Toronto.
“In preparation for the 2015 playoff run, our goal was to add a veteran defenseman who could play in all situations and a proven forward who could move up and down the lineup based on the situation,” general manager David Poile said in a statement. “We were fortunate to do this in the same transaction with players who are in the prime of their careers more than two weeks before the trade deadline in order to give them more time to contribute and gel with their teammates.”
Santorelli’s versatility is a major boost to the Preds. He has shown throughout his career that he’s capable of playing all three forward positions. The 6-foot, 189-pound forward seems to have a knack of fitting onto any line and raising the play of teammates around him. Come playoff time, Santorelli is going to be a handy player that can move up and down the lineup. The 29-year-old’s game is brimming with creativity and he goes after the puck in hard areas.
Franson’s heavy shot, ability to run the point on the power play, and his 6-foot-5, 213-pound size will strengthen an already formidable collection of blue liners. Through 55 games, Franson has recorded six goals and 26 assists for 32 points – including 15 power play points. It’s possible that he could be paired with blossoming, all-around 20-year-old Seth Jones to form a dangerous second defensive pairing.
Santorelli and Franson both began their careers in the Predators organization. Poile believes that the duo’s familiarity with former teammates will allow them to integrate into head coach Peter Laviolette‘s uptempo system.
“Both Cody and Mike were drafted, developed and began their NHL careers here,” Poile said. “They know our organization and still have former teammates and friends on the roster. We are fully confident that they will seamlessly fit into our system.”
Laviolette has tasted Stanley Cup success and knows how to push teams over that last hurdle to advance to a Stanley Cup Final. He guided the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes to a Cup-winning campaign. His 2010 Philadelphia Flyers came very close to extending the 2010 Final to a seventh game, having lost the series on a memorable Patrick Kane series-winning overtime goal that sneaked underneath the pad of goaltender Michael Leighton.
The Central Divison-leading Preds possess plenty of star quality in elite netminder Pekka Rinne, dominant all-around defenseman Shea Weber and sensational rookie Filip Forsberg. Nashville has a couple of criminally-underrated point producers in clutch winger Colin Wilson and puck-moving defenseman Roman Josi. Now, they’re even deeper. Laviolette’s Preds are armed for a serious run at Lord Stanley.