Continuing GM Dave Nonis’s negotiating approach – “Hey, I’d really love to pay you, but you know, salary cap plummeting and all …” – the Toronto Maple Leafs signed defenseman Cody Franson to a 1-year deal worth a paltry $2 million on Monday.
At face, this would appear to be a win for Nonis, as Franson makes over $1 million less than Carl Gunnarsson this season. He wanted $4 million per season over a multi-year deal from the Leafs, and then wanted $3 million on a 1-year deal. He didn’t get either.
Ah, but did he actually get what he really wanted from the Leafs?
Franson told TSN earlier this month that a “1-year deal would suit the team best” but that it was also in his best interests to go one year. That’s obviously because the cap will rise next season, and Franson should only continue improving this season. He takes less to make more, as so many young players facing the “bridge contract” are being forced to do.
However, as David Shoalts points out, this may not have actually been what best suits the Leafs:
Nonis did not want to give Franson a one-year contract because this would have left him with five defencemen becoming either unrestricted or restricted free agents next July 1: Franson, Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner, Mark Fraser and Paul Ranger.
… Nonis also wanted Franson to sign for at least two years so he could avoid going to arbitration with him next summer as a restricted free agent. This would have compounded his contract woes with the defencemen.
So, hat in hand, Nonis asked Franson to fit his number under the salary cap and he’d agree to go only one year with him, prepared to do this dance against next summer with the added pressure point of arbitration.
Barring anything unforeseen, this would be a big win for Franson.