When Dave Nonis was still at the helm of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he made some solid signings leading up to this previous year. Daniel Winnik, the tough, grinding forward was signed to a short contract. He was traded to Pittsburgh at the deadline for draft picks, but was brought back over the summer with a new two-year deal.
Another excellent move was the addition of veteran centre Mike Santorelli. Nonis really got some bang for his buck after signing the former Canuck to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. Brought to the team as a depth centre, he surprised management and fans by working his way up the lines by playing hard and chipping in a surprising amount of offence.
Time With the Maple Leafs
Santorelli needed a season to bounce back and Toronto was the perfect place for him to do it. Fans could immediately tell that he was going to work hard, try every shift an could contribute to the overall teams success.
The former Canuck and Panther would play 57 games for Toronto before being dealt to the Nashville Predators. In his time with the Blue and White, he scored 11 goals and added 18 assists for 29 points. Santorelli was focused and determined to make an impact and that is exactly what happened.
Nashville to Anaheim
Santorelli was shipped to Nashville in order to bolster their playoff chances. Unfortunately, he never really panned out in the Music City and only put up four points in 22 games. He also didn’t receive the ice time he was getting in Toronto, which most likely had a big impact on his performance.
Coming into the summer, Santorelli was a free agent. The Maple Leafs were going through a rebuild and needed to plug holes for upcoming year. These players would act as buffers so that the teams young stars could safely develop without much interference. How come the Leafs didn’t attempt to bring back a player who could have perfectly fit the mold?
In Dec I was told Leafs made 3 yr offer to Santorelli. Last night another source said it was 2 yr offer. He signed for a lot less with Ducks
— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) August 18, 2015
One possible explanation is that he simply wants to win. The Anaheim Ducks, where he signed for one year and $850,000, would provide him an excellent opportunity. They have a quality team that is right on the edge of contending for the Cup again. Anaheim is a much different place than Toronto, a team that is now in the stages of a full rebuild.
Maple Leafs Found Other Players to Fit the Role
Not bringing back Santorelli isn’t the end of the world by any means for the Leafs. They signed a bevy of players to short term deals this summer. There are a couple who stand out as players that could fill and surpass the role that Santorelli played last year.
Shawn Matthias and P.A. Parenteau are both looking to make a good impression with the Maple Leafs next season. Parenteau was misused in the Montreal system and under Mike Babcock, might experience a revival.
Matthias had a good season for the Canucks by putting up 18 goals, which is a career high. Cap issues forced the Canucks to part with him, thus making the Toronto addition possible.
Both players are on short deals with little money involved. It is a low-risk, high-reward strategy that has paid off in the past for the Buds. The loss of Santorelli hurts. He worked hard and was a solid performer his short time in Toronto. But the Leafs brass went out and found other players who could fill the role. It’s smart management, which hopefully continues in the future for the Maple Leafs.