Leafs, Franson agree to 1-year, $2-million deal

Cody Franson (L) and captain Dion Phaneuf both finished Top 10 in defencemen scoring last season. (CP/Nathan Denette)

TORONTO – Cody Franson’s contract standoff with the Toronto Maple Leafs is over. As first reported by Sportsnet 590 The Fan’s Andrew Walker, the RFA defenceman signed a one-year, $2-million with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Now the team has a full roster of players and some decisions to make heading into the regular season.

After months of tough negotiations, the contract Franson agreed to was less than the Leafs had been offering the defenceman annually over two years. However, he’ll hold arbitration rights next summer and will be sitting just one year away from unrestricted free agency.

It ended a difficult period for Franson, who told sportsnet.ca last week that it was “hard not to” take the Leafs’ firm stance in talks personally.

The contract he signed will be a bargain if he performs like he did last season and should help the team with its precarious salary cap situation. The Leafs now have 10 defencemen in training camp and might only carry six into Tuesday’s season opener at Montreal.

Franson’s return will potentially have ramifications for top prospect Morgan Rielly as he bids to make the team as a 19-year-old. It could also spell trouble for veteran John-Michael Liles, who appears to be on the bubble despite being the team’s second-highest paid blue-liner at $3.875-million per season.

No matter what happens, the depth is a good problem for Leafs coach Randy Carlyle to have, although what it will mean for GM Dave Nonis is complicated. Check back here for more on that today.

Franson was a big offensive contributor during the shortened 2013 campaign. His 29 points were fourth best on the team and placed him sixth overall among NHL defencemen. In fact, he was the only player inside the top-40 in scoring among blueliners who averaged fewer than 20 minutes per game.

For the last week or two, he skated with the men’s hockey team at Ryerson University rather than with his Leafs teammates at training camp. Even though he flirted with the idea of looking at playing options in Europe, he made it clear that his preference was to work something out with Toronto.

“This is my dream place to play,” said Franson. “I grew up a Leafs fan. We’ve got a lot of unfinished business as a team and I feel like we’re moving in the right direction. It’s obviously something I want to be a part of.”

The Leafs wrap up their pre-season schedule with a home-and-home series against Detroit on Friday and Saturday. The team must be cut down to a 23-man roster by Monday afternoon.

Note: Franson and Nonis are expected to speak at Maple Leafs practice today. Stay tuned to sportsnet.ca as the cap implications of this story develop.

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