A Warm Welcome: Preds Reacquire Franson, Santorelli
Less than a year has passed since many questioned if David Poile’s time as GM of the Nashville Predators was done. Things have changed rather quickly. Yesterday, Poile traded away Olli Jokinen, prospect Brendan Leipsic, and this year’s 1st round draft pick, to reacquire the services of Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to make a run for a Stanley Cup.
It was no secret that Nashville was searching for a top 9 forward to help balance out the scoring lines up front and acquire some depth on the blue line. Surely you’d think the Preds would need to give up a number of assets to get two players that immediately help the franchise’s quest for a championship.
Franson is on pace to have his best season as a pro and is chewing up 20-21 minutes on the ice. The pending free agent can potentially be an asset on the power play as he’s registered 4 goals and 11 assists with the man advantage. He’s also a big body that can help on the penalty kill if Anton Volchenkov finds himself out of the line-up. Santorelli has accumulated 11 goals and 18 assists, good for his second best year as a pro. What is perhaps most impressive about the acquisitions is that Poile gave up nobody who was contributing on the main roster.
Jokinen has been a healthy scratch for two weeks and even while in the line-up, had tallied just 6 points in 48 games. There’s no question that Leipsic is a great talent at just 20 years old, but he’s also a bit undersized (5’10”, 177lbs) and was not going to help the team this season. Ideally, you don’t want to lose your 1st round pick in one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, but sometimes you sacrifice future assets in order to make a deep playoff run.
Soon after news of the trade circulated, many on social media began speculating as to the future of Ryan Ellis in one of two ways. A: Ellis is the next trade bait. Or B: this is a sign that Ellis isn’t close to coming back. I barely contained my laughter upon reading this. First off, Poile later confirmed Ellis would be back within the next 2 weeks. Secondly, Ellis was JUST signed to a very cap-friendly 5-year contract so the thought that he is now on the trading block was asinine. These people didn’t notice our depth at defense suddenly became the biggest question mark on an otherwise solid team after just two injuries. Anthony Bitetto showed that he clearly isn’t ready, and although Volchenkov sacrifices his body to block shots, he’s often left in the dust by many forwards around the league and is exposed in the transition game.
When Ellis returns, look for the defensive pairings to be: Weber/Josi, Ellis/Ekholm, and Jones/Franson. This blue line will clearly be the best and deepest of any team in the NHL, and few can argue. With the recent changes to the lines up front, it’s anybody’s guess as to where coach Laviolette places Santorelli, but I expect him to jump in on the 3rd line.
As history has shown with Peter Forsberg, Steve Sullivan and even Alexander Radulov, Poile is never one to shy away from making a big move to solidify his roster for a Cup push. The first place Preds just became stronger, and Poile hopes this is finally the team in gold to bring home that elusive silver.