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Leafs leave little room for Franson

Cody Franson appears willing to sign a one-year deal with Toronto to take him to unrestricted free agency, even though he just finished a one-year contract with them. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Cody Franson appears willing to sign a one-year deal with Toronto to take him to unrestricted free agency, even though he just finished a one-year contract with them. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Cody Franson's contract talks with the Toronto Maple Leafs remain stalled.

Franson released a statement expressing optimism for a resolution in the near future. He's reportedly open to a one-year, $3-million contract, but with the Leafs carrying less than $2 million in cap space, that's not a fit yet.

The 26-year-old defenseman could receive an offer sheet, but the reduction of the salary cap for this season dampens that possibility.

Another factor is the presence of free agent winger Mason Raymond in training camp on a professional tryout. If Raymond makes the lineup, signing him won't be expensive - one rumor suggested a one-year, $925,000 contract should do it - but it would leave even less money for Franson than there already is.

Speculation is growing over who the Leafs will move to create cap space for both players. Winger Nikolai Kulemin's name has surfaced as a trade candidate.

Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons wondered if the Calgary Flames would have interest in defenseman John-Michael Liles. Simmons noted former Leafs GM Brian Burke is now the Flames president of hockey operations and signed Liles to his current contract.

Dumping Liles’ $3.875-million cap hit would resolve the Leafs salary issues while providing the rebuilding Flames with an experienced puck-moving defenseman.

But is Liles a fit in Calgary? Injuries have hampered him in recent years and despite Burke's presence, Flames GM Jay Feaster could balk at taking on the 32-year-old blueliner's salary for the next three seasons. Liles' limited no-trade clause could also be a stumbling block.

Unless Franson accepts a lesser deal, the Leafs must either shed salary to re-sign him or put him on the trade block.

REALLY? A RANGERS GOALIE CONTROVERSY?

A goaltending controversy could be brewing with the New York Rangers, who invited former New Jersey Devil Johan Hedberg to a training camp tryout.

The Rangers already have Martin Biron ($1.3 million) under contract as their backup this season, though he missed the opening two days of camp to deal with a personal issue.

If Hedberg wins the backup role, the NY Post's Larry Brooks suggests the Rangers would benefit from trading Biron to avoid the $375,000 cap hit they’d get from demoting him.

It would also free up cap space for the Rangers efforts to re-sign center Derek Stepan, as Hedberg could be signed to the more affordable league minimum ($550,000).

PIETRANGELO SIGNING DULLS WHITNEY’S PROSPECTS WITH BLUES

The St. Louis Blues’ re-signing of defenseman Alex Pietrangelo doesn't necessarily have to be the end of Ryan Whitney's tryout with the club.

Whitney was reportedly invited to camp to add depth to the blueline, not just as insurance in case Pietrangelo's holdout dragged on.

GM Doug Armstrong cited Whitney's size, skill and experience as positive factors and suggested the former Edmonton Oiler would be more suited to the Blues system than he was with his former club.

Whitney, 30, has his work cut out for him. The Blues already have seven defensemen under one-way contracts and signed Ian Cole earlier this summer to a one-year deal. Whitney would also prefer a one-way contract.

If a strong pre-season fails to land Whitney a contract with the Blues, it could at least attract the attention of other clubs in need of veteran blueline depth.

GAGNE NOT HAPPY WITH HOLMGREN, FLYERS

Simon Gagne is reportedly angry with Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, as he claimed he was misled about a contract offer. Holmgren denied making the veteran winger an offer.

Gagne's agent, Robert Sauve, is talking with several teams, including the Montreal Canadiens, trying to find a new home for his client. The Canadiens signed Daniel Briere (Gagne's former Flyers teammate) in July.

Sportsnet's Chris Johnston, however, doubted the Habs had interest in Gagne.

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.

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