With NHL training camps opening in less than a month, the Toronto Maple Leafs appear no closer to re-signing Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson.
Leafs GM Dave Nonis remains confident he'll get Kadri and Franson under contract before training camp, telling Dan Rosen of NHL.com his club has enough cap space to re-sign the pair “and that's what we intend to do.”
Kadri, 22, is coming off his entry-level contract worth $1.7 million per season, while the 26-year-old Franson completed a one-year deal worth $1.2 million.
Both were among the Leafs leading scorers last season (Kadri was second with 44 points while Franson was fourth with 29) and are believed to be seeking significant pay raises.
The problem, however, is the Leafs have less than $4.9 million in cap space.
If re-signing the duo pushes the Leafs over the $64.3 million ceiling, Nonis has other means at his disposal (including trades, waivers or demoting a lower-salaried player) to free up room.
His recent comments, however, indicate the priority is re-signing the pair to contracts that fit within their cap space.
Franson's asking price isn't publicly known, but there was talk last month the Leafs could shop the blueliner if he proved too expensive to re-sign.
As for Kadri, David Shoalts of The Globe & Mail recently reported the young forward seeks “a big raise and a long-term contract.”
Shoalts speculates Nonis could offer a short-term deal worth $2 million per season, while Kadri could be looking at Winnipeg's Evander Kane (six-years, $5.3 million per) as a comparable.
Kadri entered this summer with no arbitration rights, while Franson decided not to go the arbitration route. They could hold out during training camp and pre-season, but that tactic rarely works. The leverage rests with the Leafs.
Nonis could also shop one of them if they remain too expensive to re-sign, but that isn't the plan at this point.
Where Will Gabbo Go?
Former Maple Leafs center Mikhail Grabovski is among the few notable players in the free agent market.
It was believed Grabovski, 29, was taking some time throughout July to enjoy his honeymoon and recover from the shock of being bought out by the Leafs the day before his wedding.
His agent, Gary Greenstin, claimed three teams were “very interested” in Grabovski, but wasn't expecting a decision until August
Approaching late August, however, Grabovski remains available.
The main reason, according to an NHL GM who spoke with the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons, is Grabovski wanted “too much money and too much term in the early days of free agency.”
Grabovski may be forced to accept a short-term deal for less than half of the $5.5 million average annual salary he earned on his previous contract.
Theodore Mulling His Options
Free agent goaltender Jose Theodore would love to return with the Florida Panthers, but his agent said he's had no discussions with the club.
With the Panthers heading to training camp with Jacob Markstrom and Scott Clemmensen as their goaltending tandem, it's apparent Theodore no longer fits into their plans.
Theodore, 36, isn't considering retirement, claiming he's received interest from two NHL clubs. He noted he was in a similar situation in 2010 (eventually signing with the Minnesota Wild in early October) and will remain patient in his search for an NHL contract.
Possible destinations for Theodore could include the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders.
TVA Sports reported Sunday Theodore was on the verge of signing a one-year deal with the Boston Bruins, but his agent, Don Meehan, said there was “no truth” to the story.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.