Franson dons Leafs sweater
Cody Franson’s first hockey jersey wasn’t for a Sicamous squad.
It was a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater put on him when he was a two-month-old baby.
Now the 23-year-old, 6-foot-5 defenceman will wear the storied Leafs jersey for real as the Toronto club acquired him in a trade with the Nashville Predators that was announced Sunday.
Franson told the Toronto Star his Uncle Chris was an absolute Leafs die-hard, who purchased the Wendel Clark jersey for his baby nephew.
“I’ve been a Leafs fan from Day One.”
He said he called his uncle with the news of the trade before putting in the call to his parents. Franson says the surprising news of the trade has delighted both him and his family members, although he will be leaving behind his close friend and fellow Sicamous product Shea Weber, who stars on the Preds blueline.
Hockey pundits are calling Franson the most coveted commodity in the four-player trade, which brings him and Matthew Lombardi to Toronto for Brett Lebda and minor-league forward Robert Slaney.
Franson has one year left on a contract that pays him $800,000. The third-round pick in 2005 will be a restricted free agent next summer.
The Predators expressed regret at losing Franson, but the Nashville squad did not have room in the salary cap to carry the $3.5 million contract of Lombardi, who has been sidelined with concussion problems since slamming into the boards in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 13. The move frees up roster space and money for the club.
“We never like to give up young homegrown talent like Cody Franson, but we have to give up something in order to put ourselves in a position to do other things to improve our team,” said Nashville GM David Poile in a statement.
Franson’s role was limited in Nashville where he played behind stud blueliners Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, so a move to the Leafs may give him a better chance to shine.
Franson had eight goals and 21 assists last season, his second year in the NHL, averaging just over 15 minutes a game.