The NHL’s free-agent period begins at noon ET today. Here’s the latest free-agent rumors. 

Latest on the Maple Leafs.

TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby reports the Maple Leafs could target winger Matt Beleskey.

Could the Leafs bring back Cody Franson?

Could the Leafs bring back Cody Franson?

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cites reports speculating the Leafs could try to bring back defenseman Cody Franson via free agency.  It’s rumored the former Leaf is seeking a six-year deal worth $6 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Any GM who pays Franson that much should be fired immediately. As for Beleskey, he would provide depth at left wing for the Leafs, but they must ensure they don’t get into another David Clarkson situation. The 27-year-old is either a late-blooming star or a one-year wonder. Approach with caution.

Updates on the Penguins.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: As the Penguins search for a top-six scoring winger shifts to the UFA market, Dave Molinari reports it’s unclear if they’ll pursue Alexander Semin, who was bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes yesterday. Forwards they could pursue include Blake Comeau, Eric Fehr, Joel Ward, Justin Williams, Michael Frolik and Jiri Tlusty.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Jason Mackey also reports it’s uncertain if the Penguins have interest in Semin. Pens general manager Jim Rutherford signed Semin when he was GM of the Hurricanes.  The Pens could also continue trying to acquire a scorer like Toronto’s Phil Kessel via trade. Mackey reports the Penguins met with Tlusty and Ward.

NBC SPORTS: Jason Brough reports Semin’s agent claims his client isn’t heading to the KHL. He also claims he’s fielded several calls from NHL teams.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Semin’s a gamble, but as long as the contract demands are reasonable, he could be a worthwhile short-term (one to two years) affordable ($2-$3 million annually) gamble with the right team. Perhaps Semin regains his form skating alongside countryman Evgeni Malkin with the Penguins? 

Other notable UFA speculation.

MLIVE.COM: In the wake of the Detroit Red Wings buying out Stephen Weiss, Ansar Khan suggests they have the cap space to pursue defenseman Mike Green, but believes they won’t overpay for his services. Khan also suggests Cody Franson could be on the Wings’ radar. He also claims the Wings have some interest in right-handed shots like Justin Williams and Joel Ward.

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Eric Stephens reports Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray could look to free agency to fill some holes at forward. Justin Williams, Joel Ward, Eric Fehr or Curtis Glencross are possible options.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Pat Leonard reports the New York Rangers could try to boost their offense via free agency. Matt Beleskey could be the best option but he could prove expensive. A more affordable option could be Curtis Glencross.

NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis reports Islanders GM Garth Snow could seek a backup goalie via free agency.

THE DENVER POST: Mark Kiszla believes Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic must “deliver the goods” via free agency to improve the club’s defense. Kiszla notes some scouts believe Matt Irwin is a blueliner on the rise, but he wonders if Irwin could make as much difference as oft-injured former Penguin Christian Ehrhoff.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a quieter-than-normal morning for rumors prior to the start of this year’s UFA market. That’s largely because this year’s market is perhaps the worst in years. There’s a belief once the best available players are signed up today and tomorrow, teams which struck out via free agency will return to the trade market.