Only one month into his career as a Toronto Maple Leaf and already the trade rumors for Cody Franson are circling like wildfire. The 6'5", 215-pound native of Sicamous, British Columbia has struggled to find his game with the Leafs, often finding his rear end firmly planted on a press-box chair up in the nosebleeds.
Blessed with a great point shot, Franson was thought to be brought in to help an ailing Leafs power play and try his hand at some penalty killing.
However, after a poor training camp and an even slower start with the Leafs, Franson has become expendable with the recent quick start of rookie defender Jake Gardiner, who has wowed the Leafs' staff with his skill, skating ability and composure with the puck on his stick for a 21-year-old.
This may come as a surprise to Leafs fans, as many expected the first right-handed defenceman to be shipped to be either Mike Komisarek or Luke Schenn, whose quality of play this season has bordered on terrible, meaning Schenn could actually find himself out of the Leafs' lineup for good.
The Rangers boast a ton of decent centers from Brad Richards and Brandon Dubinsky, on down to Brian Boyle and Artem Anisimov. However, the Leafs may be asking for a defenceman or a high draft pick—at least a high second-rounder if possible.
In the grand scheme of things, I truly believe the Leafs would be after one of the Rangers' three top prospects. Chris Kreider, a large, speedy college forward who has 11 points in eight games this year with Boston College, is definitely on the Leafs' radar.Another player who could be close to the Leafs' hearts could be Christian Thomas, son of former Maple Leaf Steve Thomas. Last season with the Oshawa Generals, Thomas set the OHL ablaze with 54 goals in 66 games, and he could be called for a tryout with the Canadian Junior Team. At 5'9", 165 pounds, his lack of size could be a real sticking point for Brian Burke and company.
Recently sent down defenceman Tim Erixon rounds out the possible options for the Leafs. A good all-around defenceman with some offensive upside, Erixon's game compares favorably to fellow Toronto Maple Leaf Swede Carl Gunnarsson, who hasn't really made any glaring errors and has played an all-around solid game this season, both defensively and offensively.
With defencemen Keith Aulie and Matt Lashoff nearly ready for the big time, and others like Stuart Percy, Jesse Blacker, Korbinian Holzer and Simon Gysbers continuing to make progress, the Leafs' defensive depth is only going to get stronger as the years go on.
It may be time for a move or two for the Leafs to clear some roster space.