TORONTO – He was nowhere to be found in the fall of 2013. While the first day of Maple Leafs training camp got underway at the Mastercard Centre in west Toronto, Cody Franson sat at home in his apartment, waiting for 3pm practice with the Ryerson Rams. He was mired in the second of three contract struggles, this one finally coming to a close on Sept. 26, less than a week before the start of the regular season. "It was really weird," he recalled of the experience. "Ive had a couple negotiations go close to the wire, but never where I anticipated that Id actually have to leave, pack up my bags and actually leave the rink the day before camp rather than just feeling like somethings going to get done. That was an odd feeling to wrap my head around. Its unfortunate that thats the way that it had to go, but thats the business sometimes." Franson remained a restricted free agent this past offseason and though it took the threat of arbitration, he and the Leafs were able to come to terms on yet another one-year deal, this one for $3.3 million. And so unlike last fall and the fall before that, the now 27-year-old defender begins what he agrees is the most important season of his NHL career without a contract hiccup to worry about. "I think Franny knows and feels that he has to have a better season than he did last year," said head coach, Randy Carlyle following the first day of on-ice workouts. "When a guy misses camp it can have an effect over the course of an 82-game schedule that he doesnt start well or he has more valleys than peaks. We saw that and we experienced that with Cody Franson for periods of time [last season] and hell be the first one to admit it." Franson describes his 2013-14 campaign as an inconsistent picture, on point some nights, not so much on others. He bounced between a rotating cast of defence partners and troubled defensive strategy, ultimately unable to fulfill the top-four role (and increased competition) the club had hoped he might be capable of assuming. His possession numbers were amongst the best on the team and he remained the highest scoring defender in Toronto, but he never quite found the groove of a year earlier, when he broke out with 29 points in 45 games while holding down 19 minutes per night. The stench of another collapse also lingered, almost to the point of no escape. Trips back home to tiny Sicamous, British Columbia this past summer brought with them the expected questions from friends and family, all curious as to how he and the Leafs could tumble so rapidly from a sure playoff position to yet another stinging miss last spring. "It just seems to be the common theme," he said of the meltdown, the third in as many years. That disastrous finish also left him wondering about his future in Toronto, especially precarious with new management in the fold. "When things happen like that you never know whats gonna happen," Franson said. "That opens a lot of doors that maybe typically wouldnt be open had we done well." His place with the organization has never really been all that secure. Signed to three one-year deals, each with a dispute of some kind, Franson has mostly been left wondering where exactly he fits in the Leafs big picture. And hed like to change that this season. In describing his goals for the coming year, Franson says he would like to keep up the offensive production, remain a physical presence, and become an improved all-around defender. Because the Leafs added Stephane Robidas and Roman Polak in the offseason, Carlyle may be able to employ him in a less demanding role, something closer to the third pairing duty and competition he excelled with in 2013 – be it alongside Morgan Rielly or Jake Gardiner. Set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time next summer, Franson has a lot riding on the year that follows. Its not a stretch to call it the biggest season of his career. "Oh, definitely," he said. "With [unrestricted] free agency next year Im out to prove that I can do the job that they need me to do. This is where I want to be. Im hopeful that something can get done. Ive got to have a big year in order for that to happen." Johnny Manziel Jersey . According to a report from ESPN, sources said Manuels college coach Jimbo Fisher told teams he didnt think Manuel had the tools to be an NFL starter. Ozzie Smith Jersey . He will just have to wait a little longer. 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