While it was a day off for the Maple Leafs on Sunday, management was busy making a trade. A rather large one, with one message that should ring loud and clear to all involved. The rebuild is officially underway.
Defenceman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli found themselves to be the likely trade candidates on a team that has struggled in 2015. With the playoffs a virtual impossibility, and being on one-year deals with impending unrestricted free agency, getting a maximum yield for both players became the top priority. For GM Dave Nonis, the yield was too good to pass up.
“You never know if you wait longer if it's going to get better or if it's going to drop off. They're both good players. You do run the risk of the market changing and you run the risk of injury. We feel that the pieces we got are good, they're quality pieces,” said Nonis. “(Predators GM) David Poile stepped up and made the deal that I think was difficult for him to make. We just felt it was the right time to act on it. Both these guys I think will go there and help them. They have a chance to win the Cup. They've put some assets on the table to try and do it.”
Coming to the Maple Leafs is the Predators’ first round pick in 2015, forwards Brendan Leipsic and Olli Jokinen.
The draft pick is an excellent yield for a team looking to get deeper going forward. In Leipsic, the Leafs get a speedy forward who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. He goes into the difficult areas and finishes his checks.
For Jokinen, this will be his ninth NHL franchise. With over 1200 games in his career, the 36-year old has struggled to generate offence in Nashville. He’s played 48 games, registering six points.
“Our plan with Olli is to get him in the lineup, get him playing to the highest possible level,” said Nonis. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there are playoff teams that will be calling us to see if we can move him. He’s a quality veteran who would provide a team with a chance to win with some depth. Or immediate goal is to get him playing.”
The first ball has dropped and between now and March 2nd, it is likely more moves will be made. Players like Daniel Winnik and David Booth fill a similar candidacy to Franson and Santorelli and can help other teams looking to add at the deadline.
Going forward, moving other players will depend on the asking price. The younger and more secure the player is contract wise, the greater the cost.
“If we’re trying to put together a young group that can grow together, you have a harder time moving the younger players. For us to move, Morgan Rielly right now, unless it made so much sense in terms of rebuilding a team, you just wouldn’t do it. Nobody is untouchable, it’s really anybody but obviously it would be much harder for some players for us to move.”
And so, the Leafs move on. Getting a first rounder and a young prospect is an excellent return for a couple of rental players. The price has been sent, and the market is only going to heat up.