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Cody Franson signs in Sweden – but not to stay

Edmonton Oilers'  Ryan Jones, right, battles with Toronto Maple Leafs' Cody Franson during second period  NHL hockey game action in Edmonton on Wednesday, February 15,  2012.

The Canadian Press

And now we wade into the murky waters of the international transfer agreements and locked out NHL players.

On Monday morning, Swedish club Brynas announced that Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Cody Franson had signed to play there, making him one of nearly 100 NHLers to agree to a deal so far.

The confusing part, however, was that the agreement was touted as for the full season, despite the fact Franson is a restricted free agent who, presumably, is going to sign with the Leafs when the lockout ended.

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Turns out that remains what will likely happen.

A source with knowledge of how the situation would work indicated that because Franson currently does not have an NHL contract, he wasn't required to sign a deal with a built in "out" once the lockout ended.

Once he has come to terms with the Leafs, however, there's an agreement that will allow him to leave Brynas.

(The Leafs, meanwhile, have declined comment on the situation for now, as the league needs to have a say in any communication related to the lockout.)

The reasoning for all this comes back to a fight that Sweden's Elitserien is currently in to prevent its teams from signing locked out players to partial season contracts.

Against the wishes of some of its high profile teams, the league had originally attempted to ban NHLers from signing short-term deals, a decision Sweden's Competition Authority ruled was illegal on Sept. 21.

The Elitserien has appealed the decision, which has left NHL players going to the league a grey area and why high profile Swedes like Erik Karlsson have signed in Finland's top league instead.

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So here's where Franson comes in. At the moment, Brynas can call his deal a full season one because he doesn't have a contract and was in a stalemate in talks with the Leafs anyway.

Every indication, however, is that the Swedish club doesn't intend to prevent him from returning to the NHL in the event a deal gets done.

It's a bit of a loophole, but one that benefits Franson. And Brynas, at least for now.

As for actually getting that next NHL deal done, that may not be as easy. Franson had 21 points in 57 games in a frustrating first season in Toronto, and the two sides have had difficulty finding common ground on a new deal.

Despite that, he is believed to remain interested in playing in Toronto and hasn't requested a trade. There's the potential to get a deal done, but they can't start negotiating until the lockout ends.

So until then, he'll be on a "full season" deal in Brynas.

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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