Defenseman Cody Franson, who played almost four seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs before being traded in March, said Saturday that free agents, like himself, will find the team more attractive now that it's coached by Mike Babcock.
"I definitely think it makes [Toronto] more interesting," Franson told TSN 1050 Radio. "... Definitely, with Mr. Babcock going there, it's an exciting time for people in that organization and I think it makes it more intriguing to free agents for sure."
Franson will be a free agent July 1 after finishing the season with the Nashville Predators. He said he would like the chance to return to Toronto.
"One hundred percent; I've always said that I loved it in Toronto," the 27-year-old said. "... I'm hopeful that Toronto's in the mix come July 1 and my phone will definitely be on and hoping that they're one of the teams that calls."
Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly agrees that players would choose to sign with Toronto to play for Babcock, who was hired Wednesday.
"When you have a coach like Mike Babcock, your team improves automatically," Rielly told the Toronto Sun. "Players will want to come to play in Toronto and really embrace the role of playing for the Leafs. … We're happy to have him on board."
Babcock, who signed an eight-year contract reportedly worth $50 million, coached the Detroit Red Wings to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past 10 seasons. The Maple Leafs made the playoffs once in those 10 seasons; they were coached last season by Randy Carlyle then Peter Horachek.
"It changes a lot," Rielly said. "There is always talk about the rebuild and that's important, but I think it improves our chances of having a rebuild the right way when you have a coach like Mike Babcock.
"He has a pretty good idea of what he wants to do, and I know all the players are willing to buy in and do it the right way. He's a coach all players respect and that's great for us."
Last offseason, addressing the thought that free agents avoided the Red Wings because Babcock was a demanding coach, he told a Detroit radio station, "The way I look at it here, if you don’t want to be coached, don’t come here. If you want to be pushed to be the best that you can be, that’s what we do here. You know what? The proof is in the pudding.
"If [the Red Wings] are concerned about (free agents not liking him), then I should coach somewhere else."