It would seem that Darren Dreger will have to update his big board, and bump up the likelihood of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mike Santorelli being dealt before the March 2nd NHL trade deadline.
There was reportedly some interest among Maple Leafs brass in re-signing Santorelli, a pending unrestricted free agent, to a contract extension. Efforts to reach a deal have reportedly hit a snag though, and Santorelli can expected to be shopped over the next few weeks, according to a report from Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
There’s two sides of this coin for Toronto – one positive and one negative.
Let’s start with the bad. The bad is that the Maple Leafs will be trading away a very good player who was been extremely useful on a bargain basement contract.
Of the 11 skaters with whom Santorelli has skated for at least 100 5-on-5 minutes over the past two years, seven have done better by shot attempt differential with him than without him. He’s also managed to generate even-strength offense at a comparable rate to what Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk have accomplished over a similar time frame.
If the Maple Leafs could’ve come to an agreement with Santorelli on a reasonably priced two- or three-year deal, that would’ve probably been more valuable than netting a third-round pick, or a B grade prospect on the trade market.
Now for the good news: there’s pretty much no better rental asset than Santorelli.
He’s not paid at tonne (just $1.5 million), so nearly every contender can fit him under the salary cap. He’s versatile enough to play centre or either wing position, so the Maple Leafs can try to see if opposing club’s will value him as a pivot – a premium position – on the market. At least some will. He’s also, as previously mentioned, really good.
There will be significant interest in Santorelli, with the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Rangers reportedly among those teams likely to bid on him. That should help the Maple Leafs net a pretty nice return for the skilled forward.
Turning Santorelli into a decent future, whether it’s a top-90 pick or a somewhat intriguing prospect, will be an excellent spot of asset management for the Maple Leafs. Signed on the cheap to a one-year deal this summer, anything the Maple Leafs get back for Santorelli is basically just gravy.
And they’re likely to get a lot of gravy. Like, enough to offend Rob Ford. Maybe even enough to fill the crater in the mashed potato volcano that pretty much everyone I know creates at thanksgiving dinner.
If the Maple Leafs can make some shrewd moves here involving the likes of Santorelli, Cody Franson, Daniel Winnik, and maybe even Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak; they could give what could be a long rebuilding process a solid jump start. It’ll be fascinating to see what Brendan Shanahan and company can pull off.