The Toronto Maple Leafs’ cap situation just got a lot tougher as the team has signed defenseman Paul Ranger to a one-year deal worth around $1 million, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.
Ranger, 28 (29 in October), was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 6th round (183rd overall) back in 2002. After spending two more years with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals, Ranger played in 69 games for the Lightning’s then-AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, where he had 11 points (3-8). Ranger then spent his next five years with the Tampa Bay Lighning, accumulating a total of 92 points (18-74) in 270 games, which included a 10 goal, 31 point season in 2007-2008. However, in his final season with Tampa Bay in 2009-2010, Ranger played in just 8 games as he was granted “personal leave” from the team and told general manager Steve Yzerman at the end of the season that he was not prepared to make a decision on his future with the team, thus leading many to believe that, at the age of 25, Ranger had retired from hockey. However, two years later, Ranger reappeared as he signed a one-year, AHL contract with the Toronto Marlies. Ranger looked like he didn’t miss a beat. He was much better than his competition but when asked if he would like to play in the NHL if the opportunity arose when the lockout was over, Ranger said he didn’t want to. Sure enough, when the lockout ended, Ranger remained with the Marlies. He played in 51 games for the club and had 25 points (8-17). Ranger had a lengthy absence due to a concussion he suffered midway through the season.
The Maple Leafs are obviously willing to give Ranger an NHL shot as they gave him an NHL contract, but it will be interesting to see how he performs. This is obviously a low-risk, decent-reward signing since they can send him to the AHL and suffer a $100,000 cap hit if he doesn’t find his form. If that’s the worst case scenario, I’m perfectly OK with that. It’s just because they still have Cody Franson and Nazem Kadri as unsigned RFA’s and Mark Fraser is going to arbitration. So, unless the arbitrator sides with Fraser and the Leafs walk away, they’re going to have to trade a body on defense. Hopefully, Dave Nonis doesn’t think it has to be Franson or, God forbid, Jake Gardiner but instead somehow finds a trading partner and drops John-Michael Liles on someone in a salary dump. If they have to sweeten the deal by adding a draft pick, that’s fine by me so long as they can get Franson and Kadri signed to reasonable contracts and fit under the cap.
As for where Ranger will fit on the defense, he played on the right side with the Marlies but is also comfortable playing on the left. So, with guys like Liles, Fraser, Gardiner, Carl Gunnarsson, and even Morgan Rielly being left defensemen, it seems likely that Ranger will be on the right side again. A third pairing of him and Mark Fraser would be solid with the other two consisting of Dion Phaneuf with Gunnarsson, and Gardiner with Franson. The Maple Leafs have roughly $5.5 million in cap space after this signing so a move should be coming to clear out cap room. Just hope that it’s Liles moving and not Franson.
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