According to TSN’s Darren Dreger the Toronto Maple Leafs may consider moving defenceman Cody Franson a restricted free agent looking at a major payday.

The Leafs still have significant room under the NHL salary cap – according to capgeek.com with 20 players under contract the Leafs have just over $6 million available to sign their restricted free agents. Add in roughly a million to sign Mark Fraser and the club has roughly $5 million left for their two big-ticket restricted free agents: Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson.

And that’s problematic particularly if (as Dreger’s report indicates) Franson is looking for something in the ballpark of $4.0 million per season.

We’ll start with Kadri. The 22 year-old had a brilliant season putting up 44 points in 48 games (the second best total on the team) along with a plus-15 rating. There is at least one significant caveat on that total – while Kadri’s clearly a very good player the Leafs also converted shots at a 14.4% rate with him on the ice 5-on-5. That was the highest on-ice shooting percentage in the league and save for players on Sidney Crosby’s line it’s generally had more to do with a nice run of pucks going in than the actual talent level of the player in question. (Oilers fans should remember this – in 2011-12 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle posted ridiculous on-ice shooting percentages. While both excellent players they couldn’t make that last in 2013.)

Regardless Kadri is in line for a big raise. Most seem to expect that the negotiations on a new deal for him are going to drag out; the dollars could be relatively modest over a short term or significant over more years or anything in between.

So: $5 million in cap space a defenceman hoping to take up 80 percent of that and tough negotiations with Nazem Kadri still ongoing. It isn’t a huge shock that Toronto is willing to consider moving Franson.

Franson is coming off a good season. The 6’5” right-shooting defenceman finished just outside the top-five in scoring by a NHL blueliner in 2013 just ahead of Shea Weber and teammate Dion Phaneuf. Combine those two facts and it’s clear both why Franson is looking for big money and why he’s interesting grist for the rumour mill. As with Kadri however there are some caveats:

- Franson’s on-ice shooting number was 13.4 percent. We’ve touched on how difficult it is to sustain that kind of total above and it helped power Franson to a remarkable 1.46 points per hour at even-strength. How remarkable is that? The following chart show every NHL defenceman (minimum 40 games) to top that total since 2007-08 as well as Franson’s scoring numbers previously.

The two things worth noting: first that Franson really is a brilliant offensive defenceman at even-strength and second that even for a brilliant defenceman he’s coming off a remarkable season. In six seasons only one defenceman managed to hit this list twice (Mike Green) and it’s a group of elite players plus recent waiver wire fodder Matt Hunwick.