For Franson, the one-year signing is ideal, as (if I understand his status correctly) he will soon be closer to the day he will be able to sell his services as a free-agent. (I believe the Leafs wanted to lock him up for two seasons, but agreed to a short-term deal because it meets their cap reality.) My related guess is that Franson signed for a fair bit less than he wanted, but hopes he will make it up on the next go-round. I applaud him for taking that approach. If he plays as well as he has shown he sometimes can in previous seasons here and in Nashville, he should score nicely down the road as a UFA.
In any event his signing will make for an interesting next few days at Leaf camp. The blue and white still have plenty of defensemen in camp, but as agitated as Carlyle may be that Franson has missed virtually all of training camp, let’s not kid ourselves: if Franson is in shape and healthy, he will play. It would be asinine to punish the guy for pursuing his contractual rights, even if it led to a holdout. He needs to play and play big minutes as soon as he is capable for this squad to be as sound as it should be.
Now, how this impacts (we know it won’t affect Phaneuf, Gunnarsson or Gardiner) the other Leaf defensemen, I don’t know. We have Franson’s old partner (Fraser) very much in the mix, of course. Then there is Liles, who everyone wants to trade, it seems. That does not even include Paul Ranger, who most Leaf observers have penned in as a significant addition on the blueline.
That’s seven guys—all eager to play. If all are healthy (never any guarantees there), it’s a “good” problem, but it still will lead to frustration for the guy in the press box on game days.
And all that does not take into account Morgan Rielly or any other Leaf hopefuls who were trying to slide into a spot on the back end.
But my bigger thought today is, let’s go the next step when it comes to signing key players. Those who visit here know I have said for some time that we need to get the Kessel extension done before the season starts, particularly since the player himself has claimed (not that he wouldn’t backtrack on those comments) that he has no interest in negotiating during the regular season. If that really is the case, that would mean Kessel, if un-signed by next Tuesday, would almost certainly test free-agency next July—not an outcome that would likely favour the Maple Leafs in their bid to retain the high-scoring first-line threat.
If the Leafs don’t want that possibility staring them in the face, they need to sign the explosive winger—now. (There were media reports on Thursday that the Leafs were engaging Kessel’s representatives to kick-start serious talks, so I assume there is some validity to those stories.)
You’ve heard it from before—I loathe monster contracts, especially those that carry on beyond four or five years. So much changes for most athletes as they age in terms of their productivity. But given Kessel’s age (25) this one has 8 years and, say, 70 million written all over it. Since that is the way of the world in professional sports, I won’t fight it any more. The guy is going to get his money somewhere. If the Leafs really believe he is a cornerstone guy, the essential building block for the future, they need to sign him. Did I say now?
But how about from your perspective—do you see signing Kessel in the next few days as essential, or can it wait? Are you prepared to see the Leafs let this linger and take on the related risk? And as importantly, how much is he "worth"?