The first tree has burned to the ground in the scorched earth rebuild, with news that the Toronto Maple Leafs have traded Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to the Nashville Predators for Brendan Leipsic, Olli Jokinen, and Nashville’s 2015 1st round draft pick.
Cody Franson has had a coming out party this year, picking up 32 points in 55 games, putting him just one point away from his career high in 24 fewer games. Franson’s 1.14 points per sixty minutes rank him fifteenth among defencemen. Franson was third on the Leafs in CF% despite being put in less favourable situations than the two ahead of players ahead of him (Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly).
Franson gets a lot of crap for his occasional defensive gaffes, but the reality is, he makes up for them by rarely having to be in the defensive zone to begin with. He’s one of the league’s most gifted defencemen when it comes to controlling the offensive flow of the game, and he’s heading to a place where he’s been before. Franson was originally acquired from the predators in a trade that saw the Leafs ship Brett Lebda to Nashville for Franson and Matt Lombardi.
Mike Santorelli also started his career as a Predator, though these are far from the only two cities he’s played in his career. It’s been years since he’s had a season like this, acting as one of Toronto’s best two way forwards and putting up 29 points in 57 points in a “put up or shut up” season. Santorelli won the hearts of many Leafs fans with his fearless play and effort in all three zones of the ice; he makes a very effective third line forward that can play centre or right wing.
Brendan Leipsic was drafted 89th overall by the Predators in the 2012 Entry Draft, and has been a late bloomer for the Nashville organization. In his draft+1 year, Leipsic scored 120 points in 68 games with Portland of the WHL, and was on a 100 point pace in his draft+2.
Now twenty years old, Leipsic has spent this season with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. He’s had a solid year too, scoring seven goals and adding twenty assists in 47 games, good for second in team scoring despite being the second-youngest regular skater on the roster.
Leipsic, who hails from Winnipeg, is a a bit small at 5’10, but he’s very energetic and loves throwing the body almost as much as he loves contributing offensively. He plays a style that should guarantee him NHL playing time, whether it’s as a second liner or a grinder. The Leafs now have some time to attempt to maximize his potential moving forward.
Olli Jokinen is a name that everyone is familiar with. Once on the fringe of the league’s elite, the thirty six year old and two time 85-point score is seeing his career begin to taper off. In forty eight games this year, Jokinen has just six points; good for 0.65 points per 60 minutes, a lower rate of production than Trevor Smith or Korbinian Holzer. If I had to guess, Jokinen comes in to balance out the cap hits and possibly be a warm body if the Leafs continue to sell.
Last, we have Nashville’s first round pick from this year. Nashville are currently atop the NHL standings, meaning that they’re probably due for a lengthy playoff run. In the event that they get upset early, however, there’s a chance of this pick becoming a mid-first. I guess Leafs fans how have two teams to cheer against moving forward.
Losing Franson is a particular shame; if you remove last year, he’s been one of the league’s top offensive defencemen since making his debut in 2009. But the Leafs simply don’t have a ton of cap room, and if scorched earth is to believe, they really want to start picking up some prospects. Getting rid of a couple of pending UFA’s for a first round pick and a decent winger prospect who can help their AHL team now seems like a good start, and also means that other teams they negotiate with will be less inclined to say “you have no choice but to do this” as a negotiation tactic.
It also alerts those other teams that the Leafs are officially open for business. Let the games begin?