For Brett Lebda (it’s not April fools) and prospect Robert Slaney. Deals are rarely done as stand alones nowadays, and Nashville has their reasons (cost cutting of Lombardi’s contract for a new Weber deal), but this seems like a really good move from the Leafs perspective.

Cody Franson is a 24-year-old, 6’5 defenceman with two-way ability and was likely the price Nashville had to pay to move out Lombardi and open up a couple million dollars. Matthew Lombardi had his full year wiped out by a concussion and carries a $3.5 mill cap hit for the next two seasons. In his last full season Lombardi put up 53 points in 78 games. If relatively healthy the Leafs have a very offensively capable checking line center. Lack of offensive production from the bottom six was a major problem last season and would be well worth sacrificing the conditional fourth round pick to get a relatively full season out of Lombardi. The big question will be if he can rebound from a very serious concussion; Nashville clearly has their concerns. Worse case Lombardi ends up on LTIR until he’s ready to attempt a return, and the Leafs incur an off-the-cap expense in order to get Franson, one a budget team like Nashville can’t swallow as easily, especially when they couldn’t get Lombardi’s salary covered by insurance.

Franson has one year left on an $800,000 deal before he becomes an RFA. He’s not really the player his frame suggests as he’s far more of an offensive talent from the blueline than a stay-at-home, physical defenceman. The Leafs now have seven defencemen I’d consider regulars and four centermen competing for the top three spots down the middle but that depth is nothing but a good thing, especially considering the injury histories of Connolly and Lombardi.

From Nashville Predators blog On The Forecheck:

Using the data from NHLNumbers, it looks like the Preds currently stand at just over $36 million in payroll (not including bonuses), with 8 forwards, 6 defense, and 2 goalies under contract. If you expect the Predators to open the 2011-12 season about $2-4 million below the salary cap midpoint (leaving maneuvering room during the season), that leaves them with $16-18 million to go out and sign 6-7 more players (including their own RFA’s like Sergei Kostitsyn, Nick Spaling, and Cal O`Reilly).

The hockey value coming back here is pretty negligible. Slaney spent most of last season in the ECHL, and Lebda is a bottom-pairing defenseman. The value here, I suppose, is trimming $4.3 million from this season’s payroll (although Lebda makes $1.45M this season), and opening a spot on defense for one of the young guns like Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, or Mattias Ekholm.

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-13 Maple Leafs Annual magazines. You can contact him at [email protected]

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