Matthew Lombardi and Cody Franson Join Toronto Maple Leafs Via Trade
Saturday, Brian Burke and the Maple Leafs signed free agent centre Tim Connolly to a two-year, $9.5 million deal, Today, Burke and Company acquired centre Matthew Lombardi and defenseman Cody Franson from the Nashville Predators in return for defenseman Brett Lebda and forward/prospect Robert Slaney.
The deal also calls for the Maple Leafs to give up a fourth round draft choice contingent upon Lombardi playing 60 or more games over the next two seasons. The Predators will give the Maple Leafs a fourth rounder should Lombardi fail to play 60 or more games.
Signed as a free agent by the Nashville Predators last summer, Lombardi suffered an early season concussion, limiting him to just two games.
Lombardi posted a career high 53 points (19 goals, 34 assists) as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes in 2009-10. His ability to play a 200 foot game should serve him well in Toronto— that is if his concussion issues are behind him, which there is no guarantee they are.
There are hopes that Lombardi will be well enough to attend training camp, that said, with few expecting Lombardi to be fully recovered come September the Leafs would be smart preparing for the worst, which may include Lombardi not suiting up for the 2011-12 season.
Acquiring Lombardi is a low-risk/high reward venture for the Maple Leafs. If Lombardi does find his way back into the lineup he should emerge as an effective two-way centre that can help the Maple Leafs on the penalty kill and notch 15-20 goals on the second or third line.
If not, the Maple Leafs could put Lombardi on the Long Term Injury list where his $3.5 million salary will not count against the salary cap.
Originally drafted in the third round (79th overall) by the Predators in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Franson notched six goals and 21 points (+15) in his rookie season (2009-10), followed by an eight goal, 29 point (+10) sophomore season and a very good showing in the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Playoffs in which he posted one goal and five assists in 12 games.
Often criticised for his lack of speed, Franson has the ability to be a top-four defenseman. It will be interesting to see where Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson slots him; one thing is for sure, Franson will help the power play, a skill the Maple Leafs badly need.
The additions of Franson and Lombardi leaves Burke with approximately $10.6 million in cap space. Restricted free agents Luke Schenn, Clarke MacArthur and Tyler Bozak are all still looking for new contracts with the Maple Leafs, which, if Burke signs all three, should eat up a good portion of that $10.6 million in cap space.
Signed as a free agent last summer, Brett Lebda never really fit into the Maple Leafs plans. Lebda often made huge mental gaffs, never asserted himself as a physical player and failed to bring much offense to the table.
Lebda carried a $1,450,000 cap hit, which, given his output, was viewed by many to be a bad contract.
Signed by Toronto in 2009, 6’2”, 203 pound Robert Slaney spent nine games with the Maple Leafs last season notching one assist. In 61 games with the Reading of the ECHL Slaney scored seven goals and added 17 assists for a total of 24 points.
At this point Slaney looks to be nothing more than a throw-in player, but you never know?
On the surface the Maple Leafs look to have won this deal. Young puck-moving defensemen are hard to come by these days, and if Lombardi works out the Maple Leafs will finally have a measure of depth down the middle.
Who says Burke needs to be in Toronto to make things happen?
Until next time,