Finally, one of the best free agent defencemen available this offseason has found a home. A horrible, horrible home. But a home nonetheless.
The Buffalo Sabres have officially signed former Leafs defenceman Cody Franson to a two-year contract that carries an annual cap hit of $3.325M. Franson spent the past four seasons in Toronto before being dealt to the Nashville Predators, the team that Franson broke into the NHL with, at the trade deadline with Matthew Lombardi.
In return, Toronto received prospect Brendan Leipsic, Olli Jokinen (who was flipped to the St. Louis Blues), and a 2015 first round pick (which was flipped a couple times for more picks).
Franson’s arrival in Buffalo is really interesting for a couple reasons, but mostly because of the cash (or lackthereof). For a defenceman of Franson’s ilk – not the fleetest of foot, but a 6’5, right-handed shot with a healthy amount of offensive skill – $3.3M per year is a very reasonable price tag.
Should Franson be getting paid more? Well, the Leafs certainly thought at some point in the not-too-distant past. Back in January, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Toronto offered the then 27-year old a multi-year contract extension worth $4.6M per season. Apparently that wasn’t enough, and Franson chose to try his luck in free agency. He thought he could make more than that. I thought he could make more than that.
So, for significantly less money than expected, Franson is now in Buffalo, where he’ll certainly improve a defensive group on a team that could surprise a few people. The Sabres have a bunch of nice, young pieces and are expected to start turning their fortunes around in the near future. Adding Franson only helps them speed up the rebuilding process, not that winning in Buffalo is the same as winning in general, but I digress.
Perhaps most importantly, an improved Sabres team could make the Leafs the worst team in the Flortheast. Last season, Buffalo finished dead last in the division (and Eastern Conference) with an ugly 23-51-8 record and 54 points. If all goes well, they might be able to overtake Toronto and become the second worst team in the East. That would be excellent for the Leafs’ 2016 first round pick.
How does Franson in Buffalo make you feel? Will watching him regularly suit up against the Leafs make you sad? Should Toronto have done more to keep him around for a few more seasons? Let us know in the comments below…