Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leaf management team has done it again, perhaps pulling off the best trade in their tenure at the helm of MLSE. Burke and his team successfully poached Cody Franson away from the Nashville Predators along with Matt Lombardi for Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney
With all due respect to Lebda and Slaney the Leafs gave up nothing in this deal! Lebda was arguably the worst player on the Leafs roster last season and Slaney will be lucky to ever see a game in the NHL.
Nashville was forced to make this deal for financial reasons. Lombardi suffered a severe concussion and earns $3.5M for two more seasons. The problem for Nashville was this contract was not insured so the team was on the hook for the cash, and while a player is on LTIR the salary does not count on the cap. Nashville is a budget team and struggled to pay out the cash and on top of that, needed that salary to meet the cap floor. A real double whammy. To solve their problem they had to include Franson. So what is the fantasy impact of this deal.
For Nashville the players they received back have no impact. So the loss of Franson will benefit their remaining blue liners who will inherit the ice time. Kevin Klein may benefit the most as he may see second unit power play time. If prospects Jonathon Blum or Ryan Ellis make the team they will certainly absorb the available minutes. Having two such prospects in the system ready to make a push to make the team, made this trade a little bit more palatable for Nashville.
For Toronto adding a player the caliber of Franson is significant. It is safe to assume that Franson will play in the top four of Torontoís defense along with Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn and John-Michael Liles. This will push Keith Aulie and Carl Gunnarsson into the bottom pair and that leaves Mike Komisarek as the odd man out. Undoubtedly the Leafs will look to trade Komisarek and his $4.5M cap hit.
Franson will continue to see second unit PP as he did in Nashville playing then behind Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Now in Toronto he should play behind Phaneuf and Aulie as the primary second unit option. This move significantly strengthens the Leafs defense and will have a profound impact on their goaltending. James Reimer may be the biggest beneficiary of the move for either team.
Toronto will have to eat Lombardiís salary, but that is no problem for Toronto. If Lombardi is able to return from his concussion injury he has been able to play at an elite level in the NHL and is a first or second line type player. That would just be a bonus for the Leafs.
This trade was clearly financially driven and it is hard to see the Leafs as anything but complete winners of this deal.
Pete Harling is and always has been passionate about hockey. He loves to watch it, play it but what he loves the most is fantasy hockey. Email Coach Harling at [email protected].