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Your Call: Should the Leafs claim Cody Franson?

The former Leafs blue liner will clear waivers today if not picked up by noon… is he worth a claim?

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Yesterday morning former Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Cody Franson was waived by his current team the Chicago Blackhawks and is now available to any team in the entire NHL willing to take on his one-year, $1 million contract.

With the Leafs in desperate need of another offensive blue liner, should they make a claim on Franson? The 30-year-old, right-shooting giant has a BOMB of a shot and is a smart puck mover. His downfall throughout his ten year pro career however has been his unwillingness to play a physical game despite possessing a 6’5”, 225 lb frame. Franson looks like a beast on the ice, but he rarely plays like one…

With Nikita Zaitsev still out of the team’s lineup, a spot has opened up for youngster Travis Dermott on the blue line. The 21-year-old Dermott has acquitted himself nicely during his first two NHL games, earning an assist on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks. Still, does he have the trust of head coach Mike Babcock in the same way that a veteran like Franson might?

Franson has one goal and seven points in 23 games with the Blackhawks this season, but his underlying numbers suggest that he has an even bigger impact on the ice aside from his point production. Franson leads the Hawks in shot-rate, ahead of superstar players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Bottom line: when Franson is on the ice, shots get through to the opposition’s net. That’s something that could be very valuable in Toronto.

The cost of acquisition is almost nil, as the Leafs would only have to give up a roster spot to acquire Franson. But then again… that may be the biggest sticking point. Dermott has impressed during his two game stint and Connor Carrick already has a difficult time getting minutes over veteran Roman Polak. Throw Franson into the mix and it’s likely that both players would be headed back to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Keep in mind the Leafs also have Calle Rosen and Timothy Liljegren all in the pipeline, as well. Anyone who watched Liljegren at the World Junior Championships this past month knows that he’ll be ready for the NHL sooner rather than later.

As for now, Franson represents an cheap opportunity for the Leafs. It’s no secret that GM Lou Lamoriello would like to acquire some help on the blue line, but up until now the discussion has surrounded around a true top pairing defenseman like Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Drew Doughty. Franson isn’t in the same conversation as those two superstars, but can he help the Leafs down the stretch and into the playoffs? 

Evidently teams are interested in Franson, so it’s likely he gets claimed before today’s noon deadline. In all probability, he’s done as a Chicago Blackhawk, but could he be back in the plans for the Leafs? 

Babcock not happy

In other Leafs news, the team dropped a 3-2 OT decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets yesterday evening and head coach Mike Babcock was not happy with his team giving up a 2-0 lead late in the third period.

Babcock was quick to defend one of his star players though. It was Morgan Rielly's brutal turnover that led to a goal again, but Babcock wasn't about to throw his young blue liner under the bus.