Mar 29, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson (4) celebrates his goal against the Detroit Red Wings at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Time for Toronto Maple Leafs to Reward Cody Franson


They could very easily be confused for feuding lovers: the Toronto Maple Leafs won’t commit long-term or financially to Cody Franson while Franson has taken the team to salary arbitration, but it’s hard to imagine the two sides ever parting ways.

There’s some talk, of course, that the Leafs intend to trade Franson after adding two other right-handed shots to the blue line this off-season, i.e. Stephane Robidas and Roman Polak. However, I’m not convinced the team can afford to replace his production on the backend. At the very least, they can’t expect Robidas or Polak to replace it.

Whereas captain Dion Phaneuf‘s offensive numbers have steadily declined or plateaued over the years depending on your perspective, Franson’s numbers have constantly improved since joining the Leafs. Franson set a new career-high in points this season, recording 33 points (5 goals, 28 assists) in 79 games, but it’s really his numbers from the shortened 2012-2013 season that draw attention: he recorded 29 points (4 goals, 25 assists) in 45 games. On both occasions, he led the Leafs’ defence in overall points.

Franson has emerged as a power play specialist, too, netting 13 power play points (3 goals, 10 assists) in 2012-2013 and 18 power play points (1 goal, 17 assists) in 2013-2014.

Ultimately, it might be the team’s plan for young defencemen Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly to replace Franson’s production on the blue line. Both players have the potential to do this and they’re more skilled than Franson, but there’s another problem.

Since joining Toronto, Franson’s also increased his physical presence. He finished second in the league for hits last season, playing the type of tough defensive hockey game that head coach Randy Carlyle (rightly or wrongly) loves. In many respects, Franson remains a defensive liability – he’s not the best skater and he can be caught out of position at times – but we know what it means for a guy to gain Carlyle’s favour.

(If you’re not sure, ask Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur or James Reimer - I know they’ll have something interesting to say.)

In the end, Franson will almost certainly earn a raise over the $2 million he got last year. I can’t see the Leafs refusing to pay him, but will they finally commit long-term to him?

It really comes down to whether they trust their other internal options, but at this relatively low level of commitment, they’re unlikely to find anyone better through free agency next year. I say lock him up.

(Editor’s Note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Franson took the Leafs to arbitration last season. This isn’t the case. The two sides reached a late deal after Franson declined to file for arbitration. Thank you to those readers who identified this inaccuracy.)

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Tags: Clarke MacArthur Cody Franson Dion Phaneuf Jake Gardiner James Reimer Mikhail Grabovski Morgan Rielly Randy Carlyle Roman Polak Stephane Robidas Toronto Maple Leafs

  • Andrew

    Definitely sign him. Keep him around long-term….it depends. If you can get a nice return for him (or him as part of a package), it’s worth considering. The Leafs do have a lot of young defenders that are quite promising including Reilly, Gardiner, Loov, Finn, Johnsson, Granberg, Percy et al., so I think moving Franson could be an option (he’d be the obvious guy to move if any of the returning Leaf starters from last year were to be moved). It might hurt for a year or two – depending on the return – but, it’s unlikely the Leafs are going to take a run at a up anytime soon, so forget about the very short term. Although, as we saw this year, once Boston is knocked out, the East is up for grabs (nobody else in the East is beating any Western team though).

    • Since67

      Please don’t resign him..he is not what we need. His play last yr was brutal in his own end and looks like he doesn’t know where he should be during the play far to often. Our young guys (Rielly,Gardiner) will replace his points and are an upgrade. We need to improve the D from last yr, status quo not good enough. These guys had there chance and failed miserably. Culture change is coming so let’s continue to mold the young D you mention and improve the forwards and have accountability.

      • Andrew

        So let him walk away and get no return? Even if you don’t like him, you need to recognize that other teams will pay a price for him. You don’t just throw assets away. That’s like investing money in stocks and when one begins to decline, not selling your shares (which may or may not be reasonable per se) but given them away. I assume you’re not a businessman and am glad you’re not running the Leafs.

        • Jason Uller

          if they were willing to pay a price he would have been gone, the Leafs were obviously trying to move him. walk away and let him hand cuff another team, the guy is a give away monster. give other D-men his PP time and their numbers will go up, very very simple solution.

          • Andrew

            I don’t disagree with you about his play, but there d-men are in high demand and he should be able to fetch you at least a 2nd or 3rd rd pick. A team like Edmonton – a team who is desperate – might be willing to overpay because they’re so weak at that position. You don’t build good teams letting assets walk away. Determine market value and get the best return you can. If you think he’s that much of a detriment to the team, sit him in the press box until you can move him. He will get you a return.

  • Alex

    I assume you’re just trying to bait comments, but I’ll bite. Firstly, Leafs already made a deal to give him away this summer to Montreal, but got Gorges got it scurried. Secondly, Leafs do not need to reward poor and uninspired play on a team that had far too much of it last year. Franson was part of the problem and moving him for another asset is best move for the team.

    • http://www.tipofthetower.com William Wilson

      Gorges, I would argue, is an upgrade over Franson. If the Leafs can find another upgrade, they should go for it.

      • Alex

        most NHL d-men would be.