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Maple Leafs trade Cody Franson to Predators for 1st-round pick in 4-player deal

Tom Szczerbowski / USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs have made their first big move before the trade deadline.

Toronto sent Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to the Predators in exchange for Nashville's first-round pick in 2015 and forwards Brendan Leipsic and Olli Jokinen, the club announced.

Related - Report: Maple Leafs likely to flip newly-acquired Jokinen

Predators general manager Dave Poile explained the trade from his team's point of view in the official release:

In preparation for the 2015 playoff run, our goal  was to add veteran defenseman who could play in all situations and a proven forward who could move up and down lineup based on the situation. 

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.

Both Cody and Mike were drafted, developed and began their NHL careers here. They know our organization and still have former teammates and friends on the roster. We are fully confident that they will seamlessly fit into our team.

Franson was considered one of the top defensive trade targets leading up to the deadline, while Santorelli is a versatile forward that can add depth to a contending team.

Clearly, the Predators, who have a five-point lead atop the NHL standings, are looking to cash in on a successful season with a long playoff run.

From the Maple Leafs' point of view, they'll save about $2.3 million in cap space, according to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet. Jokinen is a veteran, soon-to-be unrestricted free agent who isn't likely to remain with the team beyond this season.

Leipsic, a third-round pick from the 2012 NHL Draft, recorded seven goals and 28 assists in 47 games for the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals. The undersized forward is skilled and scrappy, registering 211 points and 214 penalty minutes over 128 games in his final two seasons in the Western Hockey League.

The trade represents a big step in the process of retooling Toronto's struggling squad, with more dominoes likely to fall prior to the deadline or in the offseason.

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