Leafs General Manager Dave Nonis spoke with the media on Sunday following the announcement that the club had acquired a 2015 first round pick, Brendan Leipsic and Olli Jokinen from the Nashville Predators for Cody Franson
and Mike Santorelli
Here's what he had to say...
On acquiring a first round pick from Nashville:
It was a big part of it. We were looking at a bunch of different options with David (Poile) for probably two or three weeks as we got closer to the deadline. It was our goal to get as high a pick as possible and what we feel is a very good prospect along with it. The further you go down the draft list the harder it is but there have been some pretty good players picked in the 20s the last couple of years and it's our goal to do that this year with that pick.
The only downside right now for Brendan with things he has to overcome is his lack of size but as we've seen in this game - particularly over the last year or so - smaller players are finding a way to play. He's a very tenacious young man, he's very hard on the puck, he works tremendously hard. His ability to put up points is well documented and even in his first year in the American Hockey League he's in the top five in rookie scoring. He is a gifted young man that's going to take some time. We've got time with him. He's only on his entry-level contract and we'll try to bring him along slowly but we like his upside in terms of his offensive ability and the way he competes. He's a very competitive guy.
On the return for Franson and Santorelli:
You never know if you wait longer if it's going to get better or drop off. They're both good players and you do run the risk of the market changing and you run the risk of injury. We feel the pieces we got are good, quality pieces. David Poile stepped up and made the deal that I think was difficult for him to make. We felt it was the right deal to make. Both of these guys will go there and help them and they have a chance to win the Cup. They put some assets on the table to try and do it.
On if there are more trades to come:
We're going to make moves whenever they come about if we think they will help us. Whether there are a lot more between now and the deadline I really couldn't tell you. We're not trying to move out our whole roster - that's not the case. If there are deals that will help us move the team forward we would look to do them. In this situation you are talking about two players who are due to be unrestricted and we felt that we couldn't risk not getting something for them in the event we couldn't re-sign them. It was important we got assets back.
Olli hasn't played a lot, he has been in and out of the lineup there. Our plan with Olli would be to get him playing, get his game to the highest possible level and I wouldn't be surprised if there are playoff teams that would be calling us to see if we would move him. He's a quality veteran that would provide a team that has a chance to win some depth. Our immediate goal is to get him up and get him playing.
On if they were close to re-signing Franson or Santorelli:
I'm not going to talk about the contract negotiations but what I would say is both players weren't unreasonable in what they're looking for and they're both quality guys that I would have on any team I was associated with again. These are guys you bring in and you hope they'll be a big part of your team. I think they have been, I think they've both performed very well and I would definitely have them both back. It was just a situation where we weren't close on signing them and we felt that if there was a chance that we wouldn't sign them, which I believe there was a pretty good chance that we wouldn't get them done before July 1, that we needed to move them and get some pieces. Again, I would say that both players looked at staying here, they talked about numbers that worked that weren't outrageous given the market but it just didn't fit for us at this point.
On if there are any untouchables on the roster:
Well, you never say never but if we're trying to put together a young group that can grow together and have a chance to win, you have a harder time moving younger players. For us to move Morgan Rielly right now, unless it was something that made so much sense in terms of rebuilding a team, you just wouldn't do it. I wouldn't say anybody is really untouchable but obviously there are some players that would be very difficult for us to move.
On smaller players (Brown, Kozun, Leipsic, Nylander, Gallagher) succeeding at the highest levels:
There's no question you see more and more, there's Johnson in Tampa, a lot of them have that element to their game. They need something that separates themselves and I think all the guys that you mentioned do and Brendan as well. I spent a fair amount of time talking to Mike Johnston about him who coached him in Portland. He spoke very highly about his character. If you look at what he has done at every level he has played in, including the American League right now which is a very hard league for a rookie to play in, he has done very well. He has done it because he has a lot of ability, has great sense around the net, he's a good passer but, more than that, he's a very competitive guy. Some of the smaller statured guys need to have that edge and he has it. He has a chance and now it's up to us to develop him and him to put the work in and we'll see where he ends up. We're very pleased to have him.