Will John-Michael Liles be the odd man out in Toronto now that Cody Franson has signed? (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Cody Franson finally ended his contract standoff with the Toronto Maple Leafs, signing a one-year, $2- million deal on Thursday.
Franson's contract pushed the Leafs payroll to $64.8 million, slightly above the league's $64.3 million salary cap. Sportsnet's Chris Johnston noted they're carrying 10 defensemen, but could be down to only six for their season opener on Oct. 1 in Montreal.
Not only does Franson's return affect prospect Morgan Rielly's hopes of cracking the lineup, but Johnston also believes it spells trouble for struggling veteran John-Michael Liles.
The Leafs could shop Liles, but his cap hit ($3.875 million per season) and limited no-trade clause will make him difficult to move. ESPN's Pierre LeBrun believes they would have to sweeten the pot by either picking up part of his salary or adding another asset in the deal.
LeBrun suggested the Calgary Flames as a possible trade partner, citing their cap space and the fact former Leafs GM Brian Burke is now the Flames president of hockey operations. However, LeBrun doubted the rebuilding Flames would be interested unless the Leafs tossed in a young player such as Joe Colborne.
If Liles is demoted, the bulk of his salary ($2.95 million) would still count against their cap, but his demotion would put the Leafs under the cap ceiling by $708,000.
FLYERS FEELING CAP CRUNCH ON THE BLUELINE
The Philadelphia Flyers are another club that must also become cap compliant before Oct. 1.
They have nine blueliners under one-way contracts (including Chris Pronger, who'll be on long-term injured reserve this season) plus another defenseman (Hal Gill) in camp on a tryout basis.
Marc-Andre Bourdon ($612,000) cleared waivers, but he's expected to start the season on LTIR, while veteran Bruno Gervais ($825,000) could be demoted.
CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio doubted the Flyers would keep promising Erik Gustafsson as their seventh defenseman, because they know he needs NHL playing time.
Panaccio speculated the Flyers could be showcasing veteran Andrej Meszaros to prove he's healthy in hopes of generating trade interest.
The Flyers are $1.4 million over the cap, so moving Meszaros' $4-million cap hit would address that problem. Even if he's healthy, it won’t be easy to find a club that is willing to pick up his contract.
Braydon Coburn was the subject of intense trade speculation this past June, but that talk has since died away.
Coburn was among the Flyers’ most reliable players during pre-season and is no longer considered a trade candidate.
FLORIDA’S CROWDED CREASE
The Florida Panthers signed goaltender Tim Thomas on Thursday to a one-year, bonus-laden contract that also contains a no-movement clause.
The move created a potential logjam in goal, as the Panthers also have promising Jacob Markstrom and veteran backup Scott Clemmensen under contract this season.
Clemmensen underwent arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this month, but is expected back soon.
Markstrom is waiver exempt and could be demoted, but it's believed the Panthers see Thomas as a tutor for the young netminder. That would make Clemmensen the odd man out.
THEODORE STILL LOOKING FOR WORK
Former Panthers starter Jose Theodore continues to evaluate his options.
RDS.ca's Francois Gagnon reported the free agent goalie has an offer from KHL club Avangard Omsk, but he's still in talks with three NHL clubs.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were in touch with the Theodore camp, but they're awaiting word on Tomas Vokoun's recovery time from blood clot surgery before resuming discussions. The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks also apparently have interest in Theodore as a possible backup.
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.).
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