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Preds begin to unclog logjam; send Santorelli to Florida…

He’s a point-per-game player on the American Hockey League level but unproven in the NHL.

After today, he’ll finally have a chance to prove himself.

Former Nashville Predators prospect Mike Santorelli was dealt to the Florida Panthers today in exchange for a conditional fifth round pick in 2011.

The 24-year old center is an unsigned restricted free agent but was buried in the Preds system behind full-timers Colin Wilson, Matthew Lombardi, David Legwand, Marcel Goc and Jerred Smithson as well as part-timers Cal O’Reilly and Nick Spaling. Now that he’s in Miami, he’ll have a legitimate shot at cracking an NHL lineup.

In 32 career NHL games, Santorelli has tallied just three points. What makes him desirable, however, is the fact that he’s led the Milwaukee Admirals in scoring in each of the past two seasons.

It’s no secret that Nashville needs to move some forwards in order to make room for all the valuable pieces to their puzzle. Players like Legwand, Martin Erat and now Lombardi aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and Jonas Andersson and Linus Klasen are newly signed promising players so some decisions had to be made. Santorelli is probably just the first to go. Don’t be surprised if O’Reilly and a moveable veteran are also shipped out before camp.

Trading Santorelli gives General Manager David Poile nine picks in the 2011 draft. He has all seven picks as well as the second rounder that came back in the Jason Arnott trade and now this conditional choice. Considering Poile and company only had five selections (read: no second or fourth rounder) in this past draft, you know Nashville is thrilled to have that many assets headed into June 2011.

Next season, if Santorelli doesn’t don a Panthers jersey, he’ll don a Rochester Americans one.

PHOTO CREDIT: Louis DeLuca // Dallas Morning News