Cody Franson also elects for salary arbitration

Cody Franson didn’t have a very good 2013-2014. His offensive numbers, a strong point for Franson throughout his entire career, dwindled. He had a career-low 0.69 even strength points per 60 minutes rate, and failed to have a very good puck-possession season despite playing over half of his minutes with Jake Gardiner, arguably Toronto’s best defenceman.

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Despite the tough year, the 33 points in 79 games and a tangible step back from his numbers of one season ago, Franson filed for arbitration, the second of two Maple Leafs to do so, and will probably remain a Leaf this upcoming season.

A year ago, it was a mystery as to why Franson didn’t file for arbitration. He was eligible, had a fantastic 2013 campaign with 29 points in 45 games, a +2.2% Relative Corsi playing next to Mark Fraser, and a second pairing player on one of the NHL’s biggest surprise playoff teams.

We theorized here that Franson wanted a longer-term deal, something he probably deserves given the fact he’s been an incredible soldier for the Leafs in his limited time here. Franson was the last piece of the puzzle to sign in Toronto a year ago, with a team-friendly contract that was shallow in both term and dollars, signed for less than he was worth which allowed the Leafs to begin the season (barely) under the salary cap.

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Toronto aren’t in a similar cap crunch this season, but it’s nice to know that the Franson unsigned saga won’t extend too far into the offseason. The Leafs currently have four defencemen under contract, and probably need another four signed, not counting the Marlies players that I’m sure the Leafs don’t want to have to count on to be NHL-ready if they hope to make a playoff run.

So that means the Leafs have, again, about $13-million to sign Franson, Gardiner, Peter Holland, and various depth players to round up those spots on the roster. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that Franson deserves an arbitration award around where Carl Gunnarsson came in a year ago. I haven’t had time to go through the list of comparable players, but both sides have a pretty good case. Franson had very good offensive numbers in previous years, while the Leafs can argue that he struggled in his most recent season.

The good news, though, is that the two plausibly contentious restricted free agent contracts this summer, being Franson and James Reimer, will be resolved well before training camp since the team will either sign off after an arbitration award, walk away, or settle the case before the hearing begins.

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I’d still like to see the Leafs settle with Franson and offer him a longer-term deal. A one-year arbitration award means that Franson is probably gone next offseason, an ending none of us really want. A longer-term deal also probably reduces the cap hit, giving the team a bit more breathing space to sign Gardiner.

Corsi % by D-pair (minimum 200 minutes together) in 2013-14

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CF/20 CA/20 CF %
Gardiner / Rielly 21.94 18.25 54.6%
Franson / Gardiner 17.18 19.42 46.9%
Gardiner / Ranger 15.31 19.43 44.1%
Franson / Rielly 17.35 23.67 42.3%
Gunnarsson / Phaneuf 15.33 22.85 40.2%
Gleason / Rielly 15.29 25.02 37.9%

Data via Hockey Analysis

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    • FlareKnight

      All you need to do to find out why Gardiner is their best D-man is look at the data table Cam put at the bottom of the article. I’ll give you a hint: look at who happens to be in all three of the top Corsi% D-pairings for the Leafs.

        • FlareKnight

          Why is that so ridiculous? Corsi shows shots which become goals which are good things especially in hockey. Of course there are other elements to defense but Corsi is a pretty good indication of possession time. Possession is VERY important for defense because if the opposition doesn’t have the puck, they can’t create offense and preventing offense is what defense is all about.

          What I’m trying to get at is that if Gardiner can eliminate his occasional brain cramps, his possession and corsi % will reflect immensely on his overall game. Considering what a sloppy mess the Leafs are defensively, the fact that Gardiner’s average Corsi% is even close to 50% is crazy. Just look at the other D-pairing %.

          • acg5151

            Shots for vs. shots against or shot attempts for and against do not correspond to possession and definitely don’t correspond to goals scored for and against.

            More importantly, when it comes to defencemen, time on ice and quality of competition are very important – Gardiner has been playing sheltered minutes against low quality competition because he hasn’t been able to handle strong forwards.

            I’m not saying that Gardiner sucks or that he’s not the most talented guy on Leafs’ defense – he may well be the one with the greatest potential and he had some really good showings at the end of the season – but to call him best over the Captain solely on the basis of his corsi numbers is just out of whack. It’s one thing to show flashes of brilliance (Franson and Rielly did too) but quite a stretch to call him the top guy on the basis of that.

            There has to be another reason for why Cam said what he said – that’s why I’d like to hear from him.

          • It’s true, I’m calling Gardiner the best based on one flash of brilliance that has begun since he began his career.

            The fact is that the Leafs get incredible results with Gardiner on the ice—results they get with no other defenceman or forward.

          • What you said first makes no sense. Of course shots for and against correspond to possession. The point of possession is to end up shooting the puck so generally if you are creating more shots, you have the puck more. You also said shots for and against don’t correspond to goals. Do I even need to explain how ridiculous that statement is?

            You did bring up a valid point which is that Gardiner’s quality of competition was low. In that case, why did Gleason and Reilly get so heavily out-chanced? They were playing against the worst competition weren’t they? (Third pairing)

            The point is, like I said before, if Gardiner can lose the occasional brain cramp in his own zone, he will be the best D-man for the Leafs because of the chances he creates in the offensive zone and his relative possession time in comparison to his teammates.

          • I would also like to add that you said Gardiner played sheltered minutes…he played the second highest average ice-time on the entire Leafs roster just after Phaneuf.

            As for quality of competition, I haven’t looked at Gardiner’s quality of competition recently but you can clearly see in the data table that Cam put at the bottom of the article, Gardiner never really got a chance to play on the top d-pairing with Dion. The graph shows d-pairings with a minimum of 200 minutes together and Gardiner only got to play 200 minutes with Reilly, Franson, and Ranger. So how can you say that he wasn’t capable if he never got the chance?

          • “Shots for vs. shots against or shot attempts for and against do not correspond to possession and definitely don’t correspond to goals scored for and against.”

            Wow, have you been living under a rock for the past year? These stats are now used on nationally televised hockey games. I’m pretty sure measure what they’re said to measure.

    • Back in Black

      While the discussion above is fine, I’m sure the regular criteria of proper positioning, winning puck battles, making breakout passes, supporting/leading play through the neutral zone, and contributing to offensive success would also suffice.

      Neither Phaneuf nor Gunnarsson had a particularly strong season, and while you are free to pick the captain instead an argument could be made that Gardiner was the best overall.

  • ubermiguel

    Franson and Reimer going to arbitration is the best outcome for Nonis. If Nonis and co negotiated the contract, he would give these guys 7 year contracts over 5 or 6M each.

    The arbitrator might actually give the leafs a fair contract for once. Reimer/Franson need to fire their agents.

  • FlareKnight

    Personally Franson gone by next season is an ending I’m all for. A long term deal after the season he just had sounds like a disaster waiting to bite us. Forget just the offensive side of the game, his defense was a black hole. I lost count how many 2 on 1s he forced his partner to defend because he was making dumb plays on the blueline.

    If the arbitration reward goes bad, then just let him walk. It sucks for asset management, but he’s got no spot on this team long term. Have better offensive blueliners to lean on and can replace his defense easily enough.

  • acg5151

    33 pts for a dman is a solid amount. I think he realized he should have gone to arb last year when he made nothing at the last minute and missed camp. This way, it gets done sooner and he will probably have a bit more leverage.

  • acg5151

    Especially if we trade Franson
    I’m sad that we never gave TJ Brennan a chance to play for the leafs.
    I know being the top defense man in the AHL
    doesn’t necessarily mean that he is an NHL caliber
    defense man but I think the Islanders got a steal for what they signed him for.
    And the Leafs already always have trouble beating the Islanders…..

  • Franson has serious consistency problem and I wish would be traded. I thought an RFA swap with Canucks’ Tanev would have been swell, but he just re-signed.

    Also, I like when your CF% charts have a GF% column with it. Gives a bit of context. Kinda like a pitcher’s stats line shouldn’t just be K’s.