NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Nashville Predators already sit atop the NHL standings, and now they have a made a big move well before the trade deadline trying to boost their roster for the playoffs.
The Predators announced a trade Sunday with Toronto that brings back defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli. In return, the struggling Maple Leafs receive Nashville's first-round pick in June's draft along with forwards Brendan Leipsic and Olli Jokinen, who has been a healthy scratch in recent games for the Predators.
General manager David Poile said in a statement that they wanted a veteran defenseman who could play in all situations and a forward they could put anywhere in the lineup.
''We were fortunate to do this in the same transaction with players who are in the prime of their careers more than two weeks before the trade deadline in order to give them more time to contribute and gel with their teammates,'' Poile said.
The Predators missed the playoffs the last two seasons, which prompted Poile not to bring back coach Barry Trotz last spring. He hired Peter Laviolette with the mission of taking Nashville back to the postseason. Now Nashville has won five straight games and has 82 points, five ahead of Anaheim.
The NHL trade deadline is March 2, but the Predators, who drafted both Franson and Santorelli, wanted to ease their return to Nashville by making the trade now.
''They know our organization and still have former teammates and friends on the roster,'' Poile said. ''We are fully confident that they will seamlessly fit into our team.''
Nashville drafted Franson in the third round of the 2005 draft at No. 78 overall, and the defenseman was with the Predators in 2011 when they won this franchise's first playoff series and reached the Western Conference semifinals. He has played 141 of his 377 career NHL games with the Predators, including 16 playoff games. Now 27, Franson has 32 points in 55 games for Toronto this season and 165 in his career.
From the same hometown as Predators captain Shea Weber, Franson also brings plenty of size at 6-foot-5 and 214 pounds.
''He is the perfect component to round out our defensive corps and give us eight proven NHL defensemen,'' Poile said.
Nashville drafted Santorelli in the sixth round of the 2004 draft, the same year they drafted goaltender Pekka Rinne. The forward played 32 games with Nashville between 2008 and 2010, and the 6-foot, 190-pound Santorelli also has played with Florida. He has 29 points in 57 games with Toronto this season.
Poile said the Predators love Santorelli's speed and skills in the face-off circle.
Jokinen has six points in 48 games this season, but his last game for Nashville was Feb. 8 against Florida. Leipsic was a third-round pick in the 2012 draft, and the 5-foot-9 left wing has been playing for the Predators' AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. The Predators reassigned defenseman Anthony Bitetto to the AHL.