The Nashville Predators’ trade of center Mike Santorelli on Thursday can be classified as a minor transaction. Until the next time the Predators end up in a shootout, that is.
A productive scorer in the American Hockey League who failed to establish himself as a full-time NHL player over the last two seasons, Santorelli was dealt to the Florida Panthers for a conditional fifth-round pick in 2011 draft. If the 24-year-old plays a significant number of NHL games this season, the pick would move to an earlier round.
He played just 32 games for the Predators and had three points (two goals, one assist) since being drafted in the sixth round in 2004. However, he was a perfect 7-for-7 in shootout attempts last season – 3-for-3 for the Predators and 4-for-4 for the Milwaukee Admirals.
“Mike’s going to play,” Nashville assistant general manager Paul Fenton said. “Mike’s got a good chance to be a full-time NHL player. We just decided to go in a different direction. It shows our personnel people have been able to acquire depth and talent.”
With young forwards such as Cal O’Reilly and Nick Spaling on the Nashville roster at the end of last season and a group of young forwards led by first-year pro Blake Geoffrion and European transfers Jonas Andersson and Linus Klasen being added to the mix, franchise officials had a hard time figuring where Santorelli fit.
He entered the offseason as a restricted free agent and Nashville retained his rights when it made the necessary qualifying offer. He declined to sign the qualifying offer, though, and at the time he was dealt did not have a deal in place for 2010-11.
“It was just a numbers game,” Fenton said. “The contract was not going to be a problem. We just have a lot of young kids vying for spots.
“I called a number of different teams and got a lot of interest. Ultimately, we took what we felt was best in return for him.”
The Predators now have nine picks in the 2011 draft – their seven regular selections, the one for Santorelli and one in the second round, which it got from New Jersey in exchange for Jason Arnott.