Mike Santorelli had a heck of game again on Sunday night against the Avalanche. The 27 year old Burnaby boy was named the first star (more importantly, he was given the Haida Gwaii hat) after scoring two goals and an assist, leading the Canucks to a 3-1 win over the Avs. Santorelli’s strong game is just the latest reason why the Canucks need to think about re-signing him as soon as possible.
Santorelli signed a one year, two-way contract worth only $550,000 to play in Vancouver. He was expected to be a replacement for Andrew Ebbett (and Jeff Tambellini before him) as the team’s 13th forward or even start in the AHL if outplayed by Bo Horvat or Brendan Gaunce. Before the season started, Jordan Schroeder and Brad Richardson were ahead of him on the depth chart.
Nobody wanted Santorelli in the summer of 2013, but I don’t think that will be the case in 2014. Santorelli now has 21 points in 32 games and is fourth in scoring on the team, just one point behind Ryan Kesler. He leads the team in even strength points, plus-minus and faceoff percentage.
For most of this season I have been wondering if Santorelli was for real. After all, he is almost 28 years old and only had one good season (2010-11 with Florida) prior to this year. After 32 games, I feel confident in his ability.
Santorelli has been one of the most dependable players at John Tortorella’s disposal. He has played on the power play and penalty kill. He is their top faceoff man and their top shootout performer. He has played on multiple lines, at wing and at centre, and has succeeded. His latest accomplishment is turning the Canucks second line into a success. He appears to be the missing link to play with Ryan Kesler, giving Kesler a smart playmaker with a goal scoring touch. Kesler hasn’t had someone with those attributes on his line since Mikael Samuelsson left (coincidentally, Kesler’s best two seasons were playing primarily with Samuelsson).
If I am Mike Gillis, I sign Santorelli now before the price goes up. Santorelli is likely still humbled by being nearly out of the league and probably wants nothing more than to re-sign with the Canucks. After playing for his fourth organization in the NHL, he should know the importance of being in the right situation. Because of this, I think they might be able to re-sign Santorelli for a two-year deal worth $1-1.5 million per season.