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.
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.
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.
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
|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%|