When the Hockey World woke up today, there was some good news if you are a Leaf fan.
James van Riemsdyk summed it up best:
— James van Riemsdyk (@JVReemer21) September 26, 2013
David Nonis took care of his last contract problem by signing defenceman Cody Franson, 26, to a one-year contract for $2-million. Franson reported to Maple Leafs training camp Thursday morning and played with Mark Fraser.
Franson was looking for a longer, multi-year deal in excess of $4-million per year to reflect the fact he played his way to the top of the Leafs’ defence corps last season. He led the defencemen in points with 29 in 45 games and added six in seven playoff games. He finished 7th in points production for all NHL Defenseman.
However, Nonis was cash strapped after big signings of: Bozak ($4.2m), Clarkson ($5.2m), Kadri ($2.9M) and other smaller signings (Orr, Colborne, Fraser).
Kadri also wanted a big-money deal but finally accepted what is known as a “bridge contract” for two years at $2.9-million per year. Franson initially would not budge, then later said he would take a one-year deal for about $3-million.
Nonis’ preference was to not to give Franson a one-year contract, because this would have left him with five defencemen becoming either unrestricted or restricted free agents next July 1: Franson, Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner, Mark Fraser and Paul Ranger.
After Kadri signed and then forward Mason Raymond agreed to a one-year deal for $1-million, Nonis was left with just under $1-million to spend to reach this season’s salary cap of $64.3-million, according to capgeek.com.
Nonis also wanted Franson to sign for at least two years so he could avoid going to arbitration with him next summer as a restricted free agent. This would have compounded his contract woes with the defencemen.
The general manager came around to a one-year deal by Wednesday, according to Darren Dreger of TSN, but only if Franson would sign for $2-million or less. Franson decided to take the deal, which is less than market-value for a player of his status, but another good season means he can cash in on a rich new contract when the cap is expected to rise to at least $70-million.
The Leafs are now a little more than $1-million over the cap, so Nonis will have to do some trimming before the season starts Oct. 1. One solution, which became more difficult after winger David Clarkson was suspended for the first 10 games of the season for his part in an on-ice brawl, is to carry one or two players less than the 23-man roster limit.
The Maple Leafs will have some manoeuvring to do to wiggle under the cap and there are a few players that will be demoted or, perhaps, traded in order to get under the Salary Cap. John-Michael Liles is a frequent name brought up in either trades, or demotion scenarios. The Leafs would shave $925,000 off the cap if JML were to be sent to the Marlies.
Cody Franson re-signing is excellent for the Leafs for this season; they have lacked a quality right handed defenseman in this season’s training camp. Franson signing also could very well mean the end of Morgan Rielly staying with the Leafs, which will give some fans a sigh of relief—there is less of a chance that the young player is rushed into the lineup that way.
Whether or not the team winds up regretting not getting Franson locked down for something longer term remains to be seen, but it relieves some of the cap concerns in the short run and ensures Franson is ready for the start of the regular season.
Dave Nonis says Morgan Rielly is ready to take a spot
If Nonis was using Rielly as spin to help the Franson talks along, that’s understandable and happens with negotiations. If he believes that Rielly will take a spot on this team, this gives the Leafs more cap stress to deal with.
Update: Franson speaks to the media about signing his new 1 year, $2million dollar contract.