Free agent Franson eyes Maple Leafs, Canucks

The league-leading Nashville Predators made a high-impact trade weeks ago, bringing in Mike Santorelli and Cody Franson from Toronto. GM Dave Poile is pleased with the results, getting ahead of the chaos of trade deadline day.

Cody Franson’s most useful and impressive shifts have been in a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater.

So even though he was acquired as a trade deadline rental by his original NHL team, the Nashville Predators, the defenceman would still welcome a return to the club that traded him away — especially with Mike Babcock now running the bench.

“I definitely think it makes [Toronto] more interesting,” the 27-year-old native of Sicamous, B.C. told TSN radio Saturday. “Definitely, with Mr. Babcock going there, it’s an exciting time for people in that organization, and I think it makes it more intriguing to free agents for sure.”

Franson was traded by the Maple Leafs — along with fellow impending unrestricted free agent Mike Santorelli — in exchange for a first-round pick, Olli Jokinen and prospect Brendan Leipsic on Feb. 15.

The heavy-hitting Franson was enjoying a career offensive season in 2014-15 with the Leafs (six goals and 32 points in 55 games) before slumping in Nashville, where he registered just one goal and three assists in 23 games.

The rental player was even scratched from the Predators’ playoff opener.

“The fact that Franson was a right-handed shot… wasn’t the perfect situation for Franson or for us,” Predators general manager David Poile told reporters after the club’s first-round loss to Chicago.

Franson added he is “100 per cent” interested in returning to Toronto, reiterating comments he made to Sportsnet back in February immediately after the trade.

After three consecutive one-year deals, Franson will become a UFA for the first time on July 1 and will be looking for long-term deal with a raise from his $3.3-million salary in 2014-15.

“I’ve always said that I loved it in Toronto,” Franson said. “I’m hopeful that Toronto’s in the mix come July 1 and my phone will definitely be on and hoping that they’re one of the teams that calls.”

Such a move is far from unprecedented. Last summer, for example, the Buffalo Sabres locked up sniper Matt Moulson for five years after renting him mid-season to the playoff-bound Minnesota Wild.

UPDATE: Franson spoke to Vancouver’s News 1130 Sports Monday about the possibility of joining the Canucks.

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