Cody Franson

Will Toronto be forced to trade Franson?

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On Friday, TSN’s Darren Dreger took time away from his summer vacation to suggest the Toronto Maple Leafs may be forced to deal defenseman Cody Franson.

Franson, 25, was one of the NHL’s better bargains last year. He led the Leafs in defenseman scoring (29 points) and tied for sixth-most in the league — only Keith Yandle, Andrei Markov, Ryan Suter, Kris Letang and Norris winner P.K. Subban scored more.

But Franson did it on a one-year, $1.2 million deal.

As such, he’s expected to get a significant raise — Dreger suggests Franson could net $4 million-plus annually — which could be problematic for Toronto.

Leafs GM Dave Nonis has spent aggressively this summer, shelling out $36.75 million to acquire David Clarkson and another $21 million to retain Tyler Bozak (also, nearly $10 million to keep Carl Gunnarson).

While he did get cap relief by buying out Mikhail Grabovski, Nonis doesn’t have much wiggle room for the immediate future.

Namely, the 2013-14 season.

At the time of writing, the Leafs have roughly $6 million in cap space with 20 players on the roster. The biggest x-factor is the new deal needed for Nazem Kadri, the restricted free agent forward that finished second on the team in scoring last season, with 44 points.

There’s also useful defenseman Mark Fraser, who played in 45 games last year and averaged close to 17 minutes a night. He played on a one-year, $600,000 deal last year, and will likely be in line for a small pay bump.

There’s also the question if Toronto can replace Franson internally.

Morgan Rielly, the fifth overall pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, could challenge for a roster spot. He’s too young to play for the AHL Marlies and probably won’t benefit from another year with WHL Moose Jaw, where he was nearly a point-a-game player last year.

Stuart Percy, the club’s first-round pick in 2011 (25th overall), might also push to be with the Leafs. He’s only had a brief taste of AHL experience, but looked solid with the Marlies last season, scoring three points in four games.

But all those decisions are in the future, and Nonis said he has plenty of time to make them.

“It’s July,” Nonis said on Sportsnet 590 on Thursday. “I’m not surprised that [Franson, Kadri and Fraser] are not signed, and we have a lot of time before we have to start worrying about it.”

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning – Game 6

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22:  Tyler Johnson #9 of the Tampa Bay Lightning collides with Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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Tonight could be the final game of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. You can catch Game 6 via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 6 is on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Bolts lead the series 3-2.

Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s game:

Malkin guaranteed a Penguins win in Game 6

Lightning coach doesn’t seem flustered by Malkin’s guarantee

Kucherov continues to be clutch for the Bolts this postseason

Marc-Andre Fleury: ‘I should have been better’ in Game 5

Will Ward be back with Carolina? Francis discusses ‘interesting summer’

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 29:  Cam Ward #30 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 29, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Hurricanes 3-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Honestly, if you look at Cam Ward‘s numbers, it’s difficult to imagine the Carolina Hurricanes signing him to another contract.

(Unless perhaps you just keep circling “Stanley Cup: 1.”)

His numbers have been putrid by just about any metric, especially if you look at the numbers he generated since signing the bloated $37.8 million deal that is set to expire.

Maybe the Hurricanes are just going through the media motions in appearing open-minded about bring back Ward, but GM Ron Francis indicated that it’s under consideration in discussing Carolina’s off-season with the News & Observer.

“We’re still looking at that,” Francis said. “We plan to meet in early June to see where we’re at.”

More details:

Francis said “term and money” would be the key elements of the contract discussions – that is, the length of contract and salary being proposed. At the same time, Francis said the Canes would evaluate free agents or possibly goalies who might be available in a trade.

Teams play things pretty close-to-the-vest, but how would Hurricanes fans feel about Ward coming back? What kind of price would be palatable?

Here’s a list of potential free agent goalies if you want to pass some time pondering such questions.

Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday

NHL_2016_StanleyCupPlayoffs
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We don’t know who’s in or where it will begin, but we do know this — the 2016 Stanley Cup Final will begin next Monday.

From the league:

The National Hockey League today announced the schedule of dates for the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, which will begin on Monday, May 30. Additionally, Stanley Cup Final Media Day will be Sunday, May 29, in the host city for Game 1.

The Stanley Cup Final will match the winner of the Eastern Conference Final, either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Tampa Bay Lightning, against the winner of the Western Conference Final, either the St. Louis Blues or San Jose Sharks.

The club which earned the greater number of points in the 2015-16 regular season standings will have home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final and will host Games 1, 2 and, if necessary, Games 5 and 7. The other club will host Games 3 and 4 and, if necessary, Game 6. The Blues collected 107 points during the regular season, most among the remaining teams, followed by the Penguins (104), Sharks (98) and Lightning (97).

The start time for all Stanley Cup Final games will be 8 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Group has exclusive coverage of the Final in the U.S., while CBC and TVA Sports have exclusive coverage throughout Canada.

2016 STANLEY CUP FINAL SCHEDULE
(all start times 8 p.m., ET)

Game 1 Monday, May 30
Game 2 Wednesday, June 1
Game 3 Saturday, June 4
Game 4 Monday, June 6
Game 5* Thursday, June 9
Game 6* Sunday, June 12
Game 7* Wednesday, June 15

This marks the first time the Stanley Cup Final will begin in May since 2012, when the Kings took on the Devils in New Jersey (on the 30th).

L.A. went on to capture that series in five games, wrapping things up on June 11.

After two years in Switzerland, Tom Pyatt signs with Sens

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 22:  Tom Pyatt #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Simon Despres #47 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battle for a loose puck during the game at Consol Energy Center on March 22, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Tom Pyatt is back in the NHL.

Or, at least, back with an NHL organization.

After spending the last two seasons with Swiss club Geneve Servette, the 29-year-old forward has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Ottawa Senators.

“We’re very pleased that Tom has committed to our organization for next season,” said GM Pierre Dorion in a release. “He has already accumulated a significant amount of experience at both the American and National Hockey League levels and provides us with solid depth at forward. Having spent his last two seasons playing professionally in Switzerland, members of our coaching staff are familiar with his versatility. We’re looking forward to seeing him in training camp.”

The Sens, of course, just hired a head coach in Guy Boucher who’s spent the last few years in Switzerland. (Also, an assistant coach.)

Pyatt’s deal is worth $800,000 in the NHL and $200,000 in the AHL.

Before leaving for Switzerland in August of 2014, Pyatt played 245 NHL games with the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, scoring 27 goals and 27 assists.