Toronto Maple Leafs: Why They Need to Re-Sign Restricted Free Agent Cody Franson

Jon Reid@@JonReidCSMCorrespondent IIMay 23, 2012

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 13: Cody Franson #4 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates prior to the game against the Florida Panthers on March 13, 2012 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

In the offseason of 2011, the Toronto Maple Leafs made a deal that, at the time, seemed like it was an "addition-by-subtraction" type of move. They shipped Brett Lebda to the Nashville Predators for Matthew Lombardi (who was a salary dump) and young defenseman Cody Franson.

Franson was Nashville's third-round selection in the 2005 NHL entry draft (No. 79 overall) and had spent the previous two seasons with the club.

When the opportunity to dump Matthew Lombardi's $3 million salary presented itself, the Predators thought Franson was a small price to pay to get that done.

Now, many people who enjoy talking about the Leafs feel that Franson is a valuable trading piece for Toronto and is expendable because of the depth the Leafs possess on the blue line.

I'm here to explain why Franson should stay in Toronto and why he should be higher up on the depth chart than most people think.


Offensive Prowess

This may not seem like a huge selling point to most when it comes to Cody Franson because most people look to John-Michael Liles, Jake Gardiner or Dion Phaneuf.

While those three guys are all skilled offensive defensemen, many people don't realize Franson can fire a puck harder than all three.

Having a power-play combination of Dion Phaneuf and John-Michael Liles for the first unit is solid. Having a Franson and Gardiner combination for the second unit is also a great pairing.

You always need one point-man to quarterback the power play, while the other defenseman should be capable of shooting the puck so the penalty killers cannot cheat down low on the forwards.

When tandems made up of Carl Gunnarsson, Gardiner or Liles are on the ice, this does not happen.

Franson also showed his value this year, as he contributed 21 points in just 57 games after earning himself a spot in the lineup (he was sat early on in the season after a few disagreements with former head coach Ron Wilson).



At 6'5'' and 213 pounds, Cody Franson is also one of the biggest bodies the Maple Leafs have (and we all know how much GM Brian Burke and head coach Randy Carlyle like size and toughness).

Even though he was benched later in the season to make room for fellow big man Mike Komisarek when Randy Carlyle took over head coaching duties, I think that Komisarek will soon be on his way out of Toronto (after all, he's an older, more expensive, one-dimensional version of Franson).

With the Leafs looking to clear salary-cap room this offseason, re-signing Cody Franson at a fairly cheap rate and moving Komisarek allows the Leafs to keep size and grit on the blue line, while becoming younger and clearing that much-needed cap space.



While Cody Franson may only be 24 years old, he has already put together an impressive resume of meaningful hockey.

While still a junior, Franson played a total of 41 WHL playoff games over three seasons with the Vancouver Giants, amassing 29 points, a player rating of plus-21 and 22 penalty minutes.

He also played 10 Memorial Cup games, racking up seven points in those contests.

Franson was also part of the Canadian National Junior Team that captured gold in 2007 in Leksand, Sweden. He was picked to play alongside players like Kris Letang and Marc Staal, as well as an incredible number of talented forwards (see Jonathan Toews, James Neal, Brad Marchand, among others).

He's also the youngest Leafs defenseman to experience the NHL playoffs. In his two seasons in Nashville, Franson suited up for a combined 16 games, tallying seven points and a plus-one player rating.