There’s talk in Toronto about the possibility of bringing back first-time unrestricted free agent Cody Franson.
But Sportsnet’s Doug MacLean believes the Maple Leafs should focus their attention on a different UFA: Anaheim Ducks forward Matt Beleskey.
“He’s a guy to pursue in the off-season,” MacLean told Sportsnet 590 The Fan’s Dean Blundell & Co. “He’s had a great year, he’s a battler, he’s a physical presence.”
The 26-year-old left winger and pending UFA’s 32 points this regular season (22 goals, 10 assists) has been followed by an explosive playoffs, no doubt adding to his value.
MacLean says a do-it-all forward like Beleskey could warrant a deal in the range of $3 to 5 million.
Beleskey’s eight points so far this spring include a five-game goal streak that saw him score in each game of the Ducks’ second-round series versus the Calgary Flames.
The Windsor, Ont., native has also scored the game-winning goal three times — including Monday’s overtime winner to lift the Ducks past the Blackhawks in Game 5 of the Western Conference final.
“If you’re going to rebuild, he’s a young guy… he’d be a good pickup for the Leafs.”
As for the idea of Franson making his return north, MacLean isn’t sure that’s such a good idea.
“I don’t believe in that — when you trade a guy and then bring him back,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s ever the same. I think you just move on.”
The Maple Leafs traded Franson back to his first NHL home, the Nashville Predators, on Feb. 15 in a deal that also included pending UFA Mike Santorelli in exchange for Olli Jokinen, Brendan Leipsic and a first-round pick.
Franson, 27, has expressed on a few occasions his interest in returning to Toronto. He also told a Vancouver radio station he’d be keen to play for the Canucks.
“I don’t know what happened to him when he went to Nashville, but he certainly wasn’t the same player,” MacLean said of Franson’s flat playoff performance. “Hopefully he gets a good deal.”