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Dwindling space for Cody Franson

Cody Franson made $1.2 million for the Leafs last season, but there's even less available for him under the cap now. (Getty Images)

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Cody Franson made $1.2 million for the Leafs last season, but there's even less available for him under the cap now. (Getty Images)

David Clarkson's 10-game suspension for leaving the bench during last Sunday's Maple Leafs-Sabres donnybrook could adversely affect the Leafs efforts to re-sign defenseman Cody Franson.

David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail claimed the Leafs intent was to sign Franson and create additional cap space to start the season by icing a 21-man roster. Instead, the Leafs must now find a temporary replacement for Clarkson, who's out until Oct. 25.

Complicating matters is that Clarkson's $5.25-million annual salary still counts against the Leafs cap during his suspension.

After signing Mason Raymond earlier this week to a one-year, $1-million contract, the Leafs have less than $1 million in unused cap space. That's less than the $1.2 million Franson earned last season and considerably less than the $3 million he's reportedly seeking.

Other teams could try to exploit the Leafs’ cap woes for their own gain. The Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson wondered if Calgary Flames president of hockey operations – and former Leafs GM – Brian Burke would have trade targets on his old team.

Franson mused about signing with a European team if his standoff with the Leafs drags on much longer.

CBC's Elliotte Friedman noted if Franson plays a single game in another league when the NHL season commences, he'd have to pass through waivers before rejoining the Leafs.

Once the season begins on Oct. 1, the Leafs have until Dec. 1 to get Franson under contract or he’ll become ineligible for the remainder of the season.

NO STEPS CLOSER TO A CONTRACT FOR DEREK

Derek Stepan's contract impasse with the New York Rangers continues to drag on, but Rangers GM Glen Sather doubts the center will hold out much longer.

“It's unfortunate that Derek has decided to listen to his agent (Matt Oates),” Sather told MSG Network on Monday. “I don't think Derek's going to let this linger too long. I don't think he's big enough of a fool to think that he will sit out the year and it will do any good.”

Stepan is reportedly willing to accept a two-year bridge contract, but wants $3.5 million per season, while the Rangers have countered with $2.9 million per.

This must be a bitter pill for Stepan (the Blueshirts best center over the past two years), especially after teammate Ryan McDonagh received a six-year deal this summer worth $4.7 million per season.

Sather has a recent history of playing hardball with his restricted free agents. Last year, he out-waited blueliner Michael Del Zotto, who accepted a two-year, $5.1-million deal.

Stepan might not appreciate Sather's harsh words, but unless a rival club pitches him an offer sheet, he'll have to accept the Rangers terms or consider playing in Europe this season.

MAKING ROOM FOR MORROW IN ST. LOUIS

The signing of left winger Brenden Morrow on Monday to a one-year, $1.5-million contract leaves the St. Louis Blues with roughly $849,000 of salary cap space.

ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun believes the Blues must trade a forward “sooner rather than later” to make room for Morrow.

Dan O'Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch observed the Blues already have a number of third and fourth line role players (Maxim Lapierre, Chris Porter, Vladimir Sobotka, Adam Cracknell and Ryan Reaves) in their lineup.

Lapierre (signed as a free agent this summer) and Sobotka could attract the most attention in the trade market, though their experience also makes them valuable to the Blues.

OILERS FEELING PAIN DOWN THE MIDDLE

With Sam Gagner (broken jaw) joining Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder surgery) on the sidelines until November, the Edmonton Oilers face a serious lack of depth at center.

For the time being, the club will try to address the problem from within. They've moved left winger Taylor Hall to center, while farmhands Mark Arcobello, Will Acton and Anton Lander will be given opportunities to prove themselves.

GM Craig MacTavish didn't rule out plucking someone off waivers or making a contract-for-contract trade.

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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