Despite agreeing to terms less than a week before the team's regular season opener, newly signed defenceman Cody Franson feels like he'll have no issues being thrust into the starting lineup Oct. 1 in Montreal.
“Being able to get the reps back in practice before the season starts and get a couple exhibition games under my belt, I think I should be just fine,” Franson said on TSN 1050 Thursday afternoon.
Practicing daily with the Ryerson Rams at Maple Leaf Gardens in addition to his own personal workouts has Franson optimistic he will need only the team's remaining two exhibition contests to get back into game shape.
The time spent with Ryerson provided a sort of “silver lining” to the holdout for the 26-year-old, who grew up a Leafs fan and was excited to practice at an arena where some of his childhood heroes played in.
Agreeing to a one-year, $2 million contract was something both he and his agent were more comfortable with, as opposed to the tw0-year deal initially proposed by the club.
“With the cap situation it was obviously kind of tough for us to get a two-year deal, which is what they wanted and we were a little far apart on numbers.
“A one-year term for us was where we were able to be most flexible to make everything work and it just made the most sense to us.”
The decision to hold out was one Franson and his agent felt comfortable with, feeling the alternative of an arbitration case would not have been the best course of action at this point in his career.
“As good as last season was for myself individually, my ‘arb' case just wasn't that great. Me and my agent talked a lot about whether we should file and we came to the conclusion that we would want to try for a one-year (deal) with all the moves they've been making.
“Me and my agent just felt that the ‘arb' case that we had in front of us just wasn't strong enough. If we had elected to go to ‘arb' then we don't have the option to choose the term.”
After enjoying a breakout, lockout shortened 2012-13 season in which he tied his career high with 29 points despite playing 35 fewer games, Franson is confident that with another solid season, the two sides will be in a better position to negotiate a longer term deal.
“With the cap crunch, it just seemed like the one year was just going to be the most flexible for us to get something done,” he said.
“I would've loved to get a longer deal -- I mean I love playing here in Toronto and this is where I want to be -- but given the circumstances with the cap, it just wasn't in the cards this year, and me and my agent felt like the best way to move forward and keep things going in the right direction was to do a one-year deal.”
Bouncing back after an up-and-down initial season under Ron Wilson, Franson attributed his success to getting a “second chance” under Randy Carlyle, who immediately paired him with Mark Fraser and from then on the pair “just kind of clicked and developed a good relationship.”
Franson said the combination of Carlyle and Fraser allowed him to gain confidence and most importantly, improve the defensive side of his game.
“I've always been criticized for the defensive aspect of my game and that's something I've really tried to work on kind of and silenced those critics and playing with ‘Frase' has helped me do that.”
Heading into 2013-14, Franson said he's “very excited” about the new additions Dave Nonis brought in during the off-season and is also impressed with all the young talent the team has had in camp, including 19-year-old Morgan Rielly.
But, at the end of the day, he pointed out he was just relieved that he was able to rejoin his teammates and concentrate on the upcoming season.
“I'm glad it's over. It was a long, grueling process and unfortunately it went as long as it did, but I'm happy both sides were able to find a common ground.
“We were fortunate to get the one year and the price works for the team, so it all worked out.”