NASHVILLE – The Nashville Predators sent a message Sunday to the rest of the NHL when they acquired defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli from the Toronto Maples Leafs. They are all-in to make a push for the Stanley Cup this season.
Nashville general manager David Poile said if things go according to plan, he doesn’t anticipate making any more moves before the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2 at 3 p.m. ET. He seems confident that Nashville’s roster has enough to do some damage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"That seems to be the trend around the League with teams that feel that they are going for it, which we certainly feel like we have a good chance to try to bolster our lineup and add depth," Predators forward Eric Nystrom said. "I definitely think we did that with this trade, so that was good. We’re a confident team regardless but any time you can improve your team, that’s the idea."
COVERAGE OF PREDATORS-LEAFS TRADE
Franson was playing top minutes in Toronto alongside Dion Phaneuf for the majority of the season. He’ll most likely be placed on Nashville’s second defense pairing, which will add to the depth. Nashville has eight defensemen on its roster with the trade.
"I think Cody helps solidify our defense and gives us some size back there," Predators captain Shea Weber said. "I think we all know what he can do offensively and we know the grit and physicality on the other side, which will be able to help us as well."
Santorelli will likely fit in on the third line in Nashville’s group of forwards. He had 11 goals and 18 assists this season with Toronto and gives Nashville more options on the wing and at the center position. Santorelli has the potential to play in almost any situation, which Nashville sees as a big plus.
"Honestly I don’t know too much about him as a player, but I know that he’s put up pretty good numbers on not a great team this year," Nystrom said. "We know that’s always nice to have a little skill, and I know that he’s got to play in all different sorts of situations. That’s just another player with versatility that can step in and play well for us. That’s the goal."
Nashville made its move a little more than two weeks before the deadline, which will give Franson and Santorelli added time to get used to their new surroundings. Franson and Santorelli were drafted by Nashville and know some of the players in the locker room already.
"It gives more time for us to come together and build that chemistry," Weber said. "These guys have been here, they’re familiar with the organization a little bit, but it’s a lot different from when they were here. Even this year is different from last year, so it’s going to take them a little time to get in and mesh with us in our system and get used to playing with us. Earlier is probably better than later."
Nashville leads the Central Division with 82 points and is first in the League standings. With teams like the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks in the division, Nashville’s goal is to win the Central Division heading into the playoffs. However, that doesn’t mean they are afraid of playing St. Louis or Chicago.
"We don’t want to avoid anybody honestly, but winning the division is the goal of every team," Nystrom said. "That’s an accomplishment. You want to be in first place, and those teams are strong and they’re deep. We’re a really strong team as well. We think we have so much depth, and adding these guys is only going to make us better."
Franson and Santorelli have not yet arrived in Nashville because of immigration procedures. It is unclear whether or not they will play Tuesday as the Predators play host to the San Jose Sharks at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators are 24-3-1 at home this season.
"This building is just a unique building," Nystrom said. "The energy in here and the atmosphere is amazing, and our fans are so awesome. They get behind us so much that we can’t wait to come out and play in front of them. It’s really important to have a strong home record in this League. Every team should be good in front of their own fans, but there’s just something about this building and the energy in here that gives us that boost. We know when we play here we can win every single night."