Minutes before they were to square off in front of an arbitrator, the Maple Leafs and Cody Franson came to terms on a one-year contract worth $3.3 million.
That's a solid raise for the 26-year-old defenseman, who made $2 million last season. The deal lands squarely in the middle ground between the $4.2 million he sought and the $2 million offered by Toronto. That seems about right ... and it probably spared both sides a lot of hurt feelings.
While Franson's camp could point to the fact that he led all Leafs blueliners with 33 points, including 18 on the power play, and ranks 20th among all defensemen in scoring over the past two seasons, Toronto could counter with a vicious (and on-the-nose) assessment of his defensive play, pointing out his tendency for turnovers, glaring misreads and poor positioning.
Yeah, it could have gotten really ugly.
Instead, both sides come away reasonably happy. Franson gets a raise commensurate with his point production, and the Maple Leafs have one less contract hassle on their plate.
The question now is: Will Franson skate for Toronto again? If he does, it's unlikely that he will finish the season with the Leafs. Even without the strain of arbitration, the relationship between the two sides is sufficiently strained to justify a deal. And Franson, although he's a useful player, is still nothing more than a placeholder for someone (Stuart Percy? Petter Granberg?) who can step in soon and be part of the team's core moving forward. Toronto would rather move Franson than keep him, and now that a deal is in place it might be easier for GM Dave Nonis to get one of his counterparts to bite.