Are Cody Franson’s days with the Toronto Maple Leafs already numbered?
Franson, 24, was considered the centerpiece of a four-player swap between the Leafs and Nashville Predators this past summer and expected to become a key part of the Toronto defense corps.
But Franson has struggled to crack the Leafs blueline, appearing in only three regular season games thus far. He’s spent most of his time as a healthy scratch, including the past two games in which Toronto faced Montreal and Philadelphia.
Earlier this month, it was reported Leafs GM Brian Burke was shopping around for a top-six forward, willing to part with a couple of young depth players.
Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson was rumored to be one of those available, but unlike Franson, he has the confidence of Leafs coach Ron Wilson. Gunnarsson has appeared in every Leafs game this season, posting two points and a plus-3 rating in eight games.
ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun noted the Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers were in the market for a defenseman. He claimed Franson was available, but wasn’t sure if those teams had interest in the young Leaf.
LeBrun followed up via Twitter with a response to a Leafs blogger who asked if Franson was actively being shopped or if the Leafs were just listening to offers and affirmed the latter.
Burke was able to land Franson, who showed considerable promise the past two seasons in Nashville, because the Predators needed to shed salary to make room for Shea Weber’s expensive new deal.
That’s why the Leafs were able to acquire him, along with center Matthew Lombardi, for the low price of defenseman Brett Lebda (now a UFA) and minor league left winger Robert Slaney.
Perhaps Burke is patiently banking on a rival club becoming desperate enough to believe Franson will benefit from a fresh start and offer up a scoring forward.
BLUESHIRTS NEED BLUELINE BOOST
The New York Rangers may be coming off a Western Canadian road swing that saw them take three of four games, but with Marc Staal still out indefinitely due to post-concussion symptoms, they continue to seek blueline depth.
It was reported the Rangers sent a contract offer to free agent defenseman Anton Stralman last week. Stralman skated with the New Jersey Devils on a tryout basis, but has yet to receive a contract from them.
The puck-moving defenseman is currently in Sweden visiting his family and reportedly has a few options to play in Europe this season. The Rangers declined to acknowledge the reported offer, but didn’t refute it, either.
Stralman couldn’t replace Staal’s all-round skills, but his puck-moving ability would help improve the Blueshirts’ transition game and 27th-ranked power play.
DEVILS DIPPING INTO MINORS?
The New Jersey Devils find themselves thin at center with Travis Zajac still sidelined due to left Achilles surgery and Jacob Josefson now expected to miss three to four months with a broken right clavicle.
GM Lou Lamoriello acknowledged his need to address the lack of depth down the middle, which lead to speculation he’s considering a trade.
Mark Everson of the New York Post reported Tuesday that, while the Devils have nearly $4 million in cap space and could go beyond the cap ceiling by another $2 million because of players on the long-term injury reserve, it appears they’ll instead “beat the bushes for a diamond in the minors.”
Everson suggested this means the club has spent all it intends to for this season.
For now, the Devils will use Zach Parise and Patrik Elias to center their top two lines and hope the duo can hold the fort until Zajac and Josefson are ready to return.
JETS MOVE ON WITHOUT SCHEIFELE
The Winnipeg Jets’ decision to send prospect center Mark Scheifele back to the Ontario League’s Barrie Colts left some wondering if they’d add a veteran to replace him.
GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, however, told Kirk Penton of the Winnipeg Sun his club has enough players to fill 12 forward spots and still have insurance.
Penton also wrote the Jets “apparently like” Calgary Flames left winger Rene Bourque and, given Winnipeg’s offensive woes, hoped the team would at least look into Bourque’s availability. But Penton noted the Flames are likely seeking more than the Jets would be willing to part with at this time.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 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 Kukla’s Korner.