Cody Franson is going to wait until the market settles.
The 24-year-old restricted free agent wants to return to the Leafs next fall, but made clear in conversation with TSN.ca early Monday evening that he has no interest in enduring another season like his first in Toronto. A native of Sicamous, British Columbia, Franson played in only 57 games last year amid inconsistent ice-time under both Ron Wilson and Randy Carlyle, totaling five goals and 21 points.
A third-round pick of the Predators in 2005, Franson joined the organization with high hopes last summer – following a trade from Nashville – sensing greater opportunity with the Leafs. Any optimism he had quickly faded. The six-foot-five defender landed in the press box on the first day of the regular season, one of 25 frustrating stints as a healthy scratch. Shown a regular opportunity from December until February – he played in 38 of 39 games – Franson produced a respectable 16 points and plus-3 rating.
The Leafs extended a qualifying offer to Franson earlier this month (he made $800,000 last year), but he stressed to TSN.ca that he's in no rush to sign it. With several significant free agent dominoes yet to fall – notably Ryan Suter and Matt Carle – the blueline market has yet to settle, making the needs of other franchises unclear at this early point in the renovation season. Leafs General Manager Brian Burke said Sunday that upgrading the Toronto defence was a “lower priority”, meaning internal contenders such as Franson (Korbinian Holzer, Jesse Blacker among them with the Marlies) will be in line to vie for available opportunity. Luke Schenn's departure in the James Van Riemsdyk swap opened up one such spot. Even with Burke's assertions, Franson is likely to wait until the dust settles with salary arbitration his only point of leverage down the line.
Ultimately, his future in Toronto has less to do with dollars and cents than a desire to contribute. Franson wants to play and is willing to compete to earn that job, but understandably, has zero interest in returning to the press box again next season.