The Maple Leafs have pulled the trigger on a few expiring contracts, sending Mike Santorelli and Cody Franson to Nashville for Olli Jokinen, Nashville’s 2015 first round pick and prospect Brendan Leipsic.

The first round pick is obviously the centerpiece and the must have in this deal as the Leafs begin their rebuild and commit to the draft. Right now it’s the 30th overall pick, and add in a mid-level prospect and a salary dump in Olli Jokinen for Franson plus Santorelli and the knee jerk reaction might see this return as underwhelming. What might have been underestimated, amid the talk of Franson’s big value as a right-handed point producer on the backend and so on, is that these are expiring contracts we’re dealing with and both players are looking for significant raises and term this summer. Franson in particular is almost certainly testing UFA waters looking to cash in having been very patient waiting for his first long-term deal.

(Note: Here’s how the entry draft order is determined; Leafs are likely looking at a best case of a mid-20s pick given Nashville will likely win their Division. In addition to cheering for the Leafs draft pick to improve, cheer against the Predators down the stretch and into the playoffs).

Brendan Leipsic led the CHL in scoring in his +1 season playing on Nic Petan’s wing for Portland in 2012-13, and carries the reputation of a super pest; he has some interesting potential as an agitating grinder with some offensive upside, but he’s a former third round pick so expectations can’t be huge. He looks to be the modern version of the agitator and the Leafs could use some proper dirtbags in their lineup right now, to be sure, and he’s fourth in rookie scoring in the AHL this season. The Leafs have to become a team that’s harder to play against and if Leipsic keeps developing as he has since getting drafted, he could become a part of that solution.

Interesting that the Leafs didn’t push these sweepstakes to the final hour, but they must be big on Leipsic and fans of the tank will be pleased the Leafs have made themselves significantly worse well in advance of the deadline. Without Franson on the backend and Phaneuf still hurt, that defence will be paper thin.

Most would have been hoping for a first round pick for Franson, and were angling for a 2nd round pick for Mike Santorelli. In the end, the Leafs traded a pair of expiring contracts, got their first for Franson along with a prospect who is more of a known commodity than a pick — and is tracking along better than his third-round-pick status — for Santorelli. Hard to complain too much.

Brendan Leipsic

With 302 points in 261 regular season games, it’s obvious that Brendan Leipsic can play. He’s also scored 73 points in 76 playoff games so he’s a guy you can depend on when it counts. And with a total of 468 career penalty minutes on his WHL resumé, the 5’10, 177 lb forward has a proven track record of “getting involved”.

Everyone has an opinion on Leipsic; those that dislike him are mostly opposing players. I can tell you from speaking with them that there are a number of non-players around the league who aren’t fans either – executives, coaches, support staff, media. They say he’s cocky and arrogant, a dirty player who cheap shots guys then “gets tough once a linesman has stepped in to save him”.

Personally, and I’ve said this many, many times on The Pipeline Show, Brendan Leipsic can play on my team any day. He’s tenacious, he’s talented and he not only “knows the role” but he thrives doing it. That’s not always easy to find.
– The Pipeline Show 

May 2013 – Predators’ prospect Brendan Leipsic is the co-recipient of the CHL Top Scorer award with linemate Nic Petan (2013 NHL Draft eligible). The teammates each recorded 120 points to lead all three CHL leagues and Leipsic’s 49 goals fell one shy of crossing the 50-goal plateau. Leipsic possesses one of the best shots in the CHL and projects as a true sniper at the next level.
– Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungBlood)

March 2013 – Brendan Leipsic and Winterhawks’ teammate Nic Petan finished in a tie for first place in Western Hockey League scoring with 120 points. Leipsic’s 49 goals led the league in scoring and his 100+ penalty minute season bodes well for his fantasy value.
– Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungBlood)

December 2012 – Portland Winterhawks forward Brendan Leipsic has been named WHL Player of the Week (ending November 25) after posting three goals, nine points and a plus-5 rating.  Leipsic sits second in team scoring with 15 goals for 38 points through 22 WHL games.
– Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungBlood)

June 2012 – After an impressive WHL season, Brendan Liepsic was taken by the Nashville Predators in the third round of the NHL Entry Draft. Leipsic is a small, energetic forward with very good vision and stickhandling abilities. His skill set can be used in a variety of ways, including the power play, or even playing on a checking line. His mixture of smarts and skill make him a very enticing prospect. He will need to bulk up to make up for his lack of size. Leipsic also needs to work on his discipline and avoid taking bad penalties.
– Zenon Herasymiuk (@ZenonHerasymiuk)

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