The Toronto Maple Leafs have come to terms on a one-year contract with restricted free agent defenseman Cody Franson, according to Darren Dreger of TSN on Thursday morning. The deal will pay Franson $2 million for the 2013-14 season.
Dreger has extensively reported on Franson's desire to negotiate a one-year contract and Toronto's interest in a two-year deal. The Maple Leafs were hoping to avoid a one-year deal because Franson will remain a restricted free agent next summer and will have the benefit of arbitration rights. That means a third-party could determine Franson's value, which depending on his performance in 2013-14, could result in a substantial raise on another one-year contract. This, of course, is why Franson wanted a one-year deal.
In addition, Toronto was pushing for a multi-year deal because four defensemen are up for new contracts after this season. That includes captain Dion Phaneuf, first-round draft selection Jake Gardiner (a restricted free agent), Mark Fraser and Paul Ranger. Now, Franson is added to that group, as well.
The decision to settle for a one-year deal left money on the table, as Dreger reported on Thursday that Toronto potentially would have been willing to pay as much as $5.2 million over the span of a two-year deal, which would have led Franson right to unrestricted free agency. However, the 26-year-old defenseman is confident that he can build upon his performance from last season to cash-in on a larger sum of money in future contracts.
With Franson out of the way, the Maple Leafs turn their attention to becoming salary cap compliant. The cap was already going to be an issue this season, but the suspension of David Clarkson for his role in Sunday night's line brawl only further exacerbates the situation. The Maple Leafs exceed the maximum allotment of the salary cap by $1 million, according to CapGeek.com. That means the team is going to need to make a move(s), whether through trade or waivers, to clear the necessary space to become compliant. Many have pointed to defenseman John-Michael Liles as a potential candidate to be waived to the American Hockey League, which would create $900,000 in space.