Defenseman Cody Franson and the Toronto Maple Leafs avoided arbitration with a last-minute agreement. The Leafs extended Franson a one-year deal at $3.3 million, thus rendering Monday's scheduled arbitration hearing needless according to Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun.
This is the third consecutive one-year deal Franson has signed as a restricted free agent. He will now become an unrestricted free agent upon the completion of this deal and could be rather attractive trade bait on an affordable short-term deal.
Franson, 26, was reportedly seeking $4.2 million from the Maple Leafs, while the Leafs were coming into the negotiation at around $2 million according to Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada. Toronto ended up settling a tad high compared to their reported initial offer, but it's not a bad compromise with a solid top-four defenseman.
The veteran rearguard will be making more next season than he did on his last two one-year deals combined, so it's quite the raise from the club.
The Maple Leafs still have to reach deals with restricted free agents Jake Gardiner and James Reimer, but the new contract for Franson shouldn't hinder anything in those negotiations with around $7.7 million left to spend against the salary cap. Reimer is scheduled for an arbitration hearing on July 28, but his situation with Toronto is rather unique considering he doesn't appear to be content with being the No. 2 goaltender.
For Franson, $3.3 million makes him the second highest paid defenseman on the Maple Leafs, but that's an extremely reasonable cap hit considering what veteran defensemen have been going for on the open market of late.
He has been with the club the last three seasons after coming over in a trade from the Nashville Predators in 2011.
Last year, Franson put up five goals and 28 assists in 79 games played while logging nearly 21 minutes per game. Like most players on the Leafs, Franson was a negative possession player, but had a positive relative Corsi of 2.6 percent, meaning the team wasn't getting out-possessed as badly with Franson on the ice. Franson finished the season with a minus-20 rating, but had 282 hits and 111 blocked shots. Those stats may not mean much, but they are admissable in arbitration hearings and thus were likely relevant to the negotiation for both sides.
Toronto may have ended up paying more than they wanted to with Franson, but by getting the deal done ahead of the arbitration hearing, the club has a few solid options on what to do next with Franson.
There's a chance Franson ends up getting traded, but the one-year deal allows the Leafs to take Franson into next season and see what happens. If the market opens up a bit and Toronto stumbles out of the gate, he would definitely be a solid trade chip. Either way, one would have to think that it is unlikely he'd be remaining with the team if he were to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent after this season.