The Trade: Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli in Hindsight

Looking back on a trade with so much potential that didn't pan out the way anyone hoped.

When Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli were brought back to Nashville on February 15th, it was hailed around the league as a great move by David Poile, but met with mixed reactions to Predators fans.

On one hand, the Predators were strengthening an already impressive blue line, and one that was without Ryan Ellis. Franson had been playing well as a top defenseman on an awful Toronto Maple Leafs team, and being able to slot him into the bottom three was an embarrassment of riches. Santorelli was going to help bolster the bottom six, an area that had struggled to score goals for Nashville all season.

On the other hand, losing a first-round pick (even if it wasn't going to be high) and a prospect like Brendan Leipsic was a tough pill to swallow. It's also when the "Curse of Jokinen" started. There was also no guarantee that either player was going to stick around, which would essentially mean losing assets for nothing.

This was addressed on this very blog, but the conclusion was one of hope and positivity.

Even though both players could potentially be gone by this summer, giving up an unused player, a prospect that won't be ready for a few more years, and a late 1st round pick is a very fair price to pay. Nashville got better, all while keeping the main pieces of the team (and farm system) intact. That's a win in every sense of the word. Now we just wait to see what tomorrow brings...

Well, it's tomorrow now and the trade looks as bad as it ever did. All the "would be's" and "could be's" and "possibly's" are over and done with, and we're left looking at what transpired after the trade.

Mike Santorelli
The hope was Santorelli would kick-start whatever was ailing third- and fourth-line scoring. Instead, he became a victim of that black hole, pointing to a bigger problem Nashville has and one they need to address soon.

In 22 games with the Predators, Santorelli scored just a single goal and added three assists. He did pot one against Corey Crawford in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinal; but if you were in attendance for that game, chances are you did too.

Frankly, there's not much else to go on. There were a few games where it looked like he might break out for a string of goals, but many more where he was near invisible. No one ever expected him to carry the offense, but chipping in with a few goals here or there would have been tremendous.

Instead, his entire second stint was spent waiting for him to get going, and it never happened.

Cody Franson
Franson was a victim of being a good defenseman in the wrong situation. All of his underlying numbers were phenomenal: When adjusting for score, he saw 56% of all total shot attempts go towards the opposing goaltender, more than any other Preds defenseman. He also was only on the ice for 23.85 shots per 60 minutes, the fewest of any blue liner since joining the team.

Remember all those times he made a mistake to cost the team a goal? Well, you probably remember way more of them than there actually are. He was only out for nine 5v5 goals against, also the fewest of any regular blue liner.

Still, the mistakes he made were glaring and they added up, which was reflected in his ice time. Peter Laviolette seemingly did not trust Franson at all, sometimes playing him 10 minutes a game or less. Look no further than Game 4 of the series against the Blackhawks. While Seth Jones, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis all played north of 40 minutes, Franson skated just 13 minutes through five periods of hockey. Oof.

He never meshed with Jones, and he never really looked comfortable when he was skating. He was always a step behind and hesitant, which puts a damper on any of the good underlying numbers he had. At the end of the day, with his limited role and lack of production, he wasn't a help to the team, nor was he a detriment. But that's pretty damning of a trade when a player(s) comes in and has no real effect.

So why didn't it work, when the player seemed like a great fit on paper? David Poile had some ideas. From The Tennessean:

"I think to be very honest, the fact that Franson was a right-handed shot — and the lefty-righty (defense pairs) all year (were) working really good for us — the righty-righty thing was, not making an excuse, but it wasn't the perfect situation for Franson or for us," Poile said.

This raises more questions than answers? If Franson wasn't going to be put in a situation to succeed, why go out and get him? Did they think Ellis was going to be out for longer than he was? Did they not foresee a problem whenever he was going to come back? That's something you have to be aware of, especially when giving up the assets they did.

That's not the first time this situation has caused problems either, as Jim Diamond mentioned last week:

The righty/lefty thing was the reason Poile gave for making the January 2014 trade that sent right-handed shooting Kevin Klein and his fairly magnificent contract to the New York Rangers for Michael Del Zotto, a left shot. That trade proved to be an unmitigated disaster for Nashville as Del Zotto played his way out of Barry Trotz’s lineup while Klein helped the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Clearly, for all the talent Nashville has for drafting and developing defensive talent, they are awful at trading for them. Whether that's bad communication, bad planning, bad talent evaluation, or just pure bull by Poile, none of it looks good in hindsight.

At least we'll always have this:


There's no getting around it: the trade didn't work. In exchange for parts of the future, two players were brought in who had almost no effect on the team. It'll be several years before any of us really see the ramifications for the trade and, who knows, maybe Leipsic and whoever Toronto drafts will end up being busts, making it a wash. For now, though, it's a hard pill to swallow.

However, Poile showed that he isn't afraid to seize an opportunity to make his team better. Poile recognized his playoff-bound team could use some defensive and scoring depth and he made it happen. Better to make a mistake trying to do the right thing than fail by doing nothing.