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Future Free Agents: Cody Franson

After two disappointing seasons in Buffalo, Cody Franson is headed back to the free agent market. He didn’t really gel with the Sabres, as you can see based on his worse-than-usual production, but Franson is still the same big, skilled defenceman who can shoot bombs from the point, making him an attractive option for many teams in need of depth on the blueline.

Who is he?

Just two years ago, Cody Franson was rolling into the offseason with his eyes on a lucrative multi-year contract. He was 27 years old and over the previous few seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs had broken out as a good defenceman who could provide offensively. I mean, to show where his value was at, Franson was traded along with teammate Mike Santorelli to the Nashville Predators for a first round pick, a solid prospect in Brendan Leipsic, and Olli Jokinen as a cap dump.

But July 1 came, and the offers didn’t. The other big name free agents that summer — Andrej Sekera, Mike Green, and Paul Martin — quickly signed big, multi-year deals, but Franson remained available. Finally, in the middle of September, the Buffalo Sabres offered Franson a two-year deal worth $3.325 million annually, and he went with it.

Since then, Franson has kind of drifted into the background. His two years in Buffalo were pretty forgettable, largely because of how bad the team was, and this summer, he’s heading into another free agent period with virtually zero hype around his name.

Despite that, Franson is still a good player and an attractive free agent. Both of his seasons with the Sabres were limited due to injury, but when he was playing, Franson was one of the Sabres’ better defencemen. He put up 0.29 points-per-game in Buffalo, significantly below his production in Toronto, but that’s largely because he wasn’t given minutes on the power play. Franson’s 50.1 Corsi For percentage (+3.8 rel) is the best among any Sabres’ defenceman who played over 500 minutes the past two seasons, and based on his with and without numbers, it’s pretty clear that Franson was a driving force behind making his teammates better.

But beyond the statistics, Franson is still the same player he was heading into summer 2015. He’s a big body who doesn’t skate all that well, but can make a great first pass and has a hammer from the blue line on the power play. That said, he tends to make boneheaded decisions — random passes to nobody, giveaways at inopportune times, and so on — which was a key consideration a couple years ago when teams ultimately wouldn’t give him that big, multi-year deal.

How much is he going to cost?

Last time, Franson signed a three-year contract worth $3.325 million annually. Back then, he was coming off of a season in which he produced 32 points in 55 games with the Leafs before joining a loaded Predators blueline in a depth role. So you have to think that he isn’t going to be getting any kind of pay raise after back-to-back seasons putting up fewer than 20 points.

Even though the free agent market is thin, Franson’s past two seasons haven’t done a hell of a lot to inspire confidence. If Franson gets a similar cap hit to the one he had in Buffalo the past two seasons, it’ll likely be on a one-year deal. If he’s going to sign for two years again, I imagine it’ll be at a discounted rate.

Can Buffalo afford it?

Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 3.05.04 PMThey certainly can. Being a young team, the Sabres have a good chunk of their roster locked up and have a lot of cap space to work with. Their only housekeeping tasks as of right now are signing both Anders Nilsson and Robin Lehner, and then, of course, improving on this team.

Like I said, Franson was low-key one of Buffalo’s best defencemen over the past two seasons, which is partially a testament to him being a serviceable player but also an indication of how terrible Buffalo’s blueline actually is. So they would certainly be smart to bring him back, especially if it’s on the cheap like last time.

If he hits the open market…

But if you’re Franson, why on earth would you want to go back to Buffalo?

Franson had his minutes slashed pretty dramatically, largely on the power play, during his time with the Sabres despite the fact the team didn’t exactly boast better options. Beyond that, as Jack Eichel suggested in the quote above, the team seems to be in shambles, and without a coach and a brand new general manager, it’s difficult to get on board with its future.

There are plenty of teams around the league that could use Franson. The Flames come to mind immediately, as they badly need to improve on their blueline depth. He could slide into the role that Dennis Wideman once had, and could be a good option for the team’s power play. He said he would love to return to Toronto, where he played parts of four seasons, and the Leafs also need depth on the blueline. The Stars and Bruins badly need defencemen, and many teams, like Anaheim and Minnesota could also be in a strange situation depending on who Vegas grabs from their roster.

There will be many options for Franson, especially as a short-term option, and I’ll go out on a limb and suggest they’re all better than Buffalo.

OTHER FREE AGENT PROFILES:

Forwards: T.J. Oshie Nick BoninoAlexander RadulovBrian BoyleJoe Thornton, Justin Williams 
Defencemen: Michael Del Zotto Kevin Shattenkirk Karl Alzner  
Goalies: Ben BishopRyan Miller 

  • Hemmercules

    Tough call. If the Oilers lose Reinhart then maybe not a bad idea for some depth if he comes cheap. Cant say I know enough about him though, I know a few people around here hate him.

  • Oilerchild77

    I’d rather re-sign Kris Russell. At least Russell can skate, and it’s a skater’s league now. Any dman that has lead feet is a liability that you can’t afford to put on the ice.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    I remember Franson also being near the top of the league in hits by a d-man. I’d love to hav his clap bomb on the point.

    Michael stone is also an option and he’d be cheap because he didn’t do too well in CowTown.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Way too much of the text reads like a Dennis Wideman description. If the Flames want a Franson type who will cost less, just re-sign Wideman. Franson isn’t a true 4th, and the Flames have enough bodies in house and cash on hand to go to the outhouse to fill out spots 5 to 7. Franson is not the answer.

  • Captain Ron

    “he tends to make boneheaded decisions — random passes to nobody, giveaways at inopportune times, and so on”

    Didn’t we just finally rid ourselves of the same type of player? Why would we want to make one of Feaster’s mistakes over again?

  • Oil9744

    Meh, I think he would be a better option then Gryba on the right side, but Edmonton is no shape to be handing out any contracts right now with Connor and Leon getting paid this offseason, plus I’d like a spot open on the right side for maybe Ethan Bear or Ryan Mantha on that 3rd line with Nurse, and it’s a way cheaper option, I don’t see Franson making a imapct at all if he was in Edmonton

  • RJ

    If you think it through, they’re not signing him to play 1RHD. That’s Larsson’s job.

    Is Benning a 2RHD long-term or just a small sample size? Then you’re looking at bringing him for a 3RHD.

    But if that’s where you’re looking at, you’d have to see what happens with possible trades or UFAs like Rutta. You’d have to assess where Bear is as a prospect. If it were up to me, Bear would spend all of next season as a top pairing RHD and play the PP. Let’s see what he can do for a season before you look at him seriously.

    If they’re just looking at a 3RHD, then a max of two years and less than $2m. Which probably means he’s going somewhere else.

  • Kepler62c

    On a 1-Year deal, sure why the hell not? Cap space is the only issue there. Worst that happens is he ends up on the 3rd pair or a healthy scratch and then he’s gone in a year. Just don’t plan your roster around the guy providing top 4 level of play the whole season.

  • Jobu

    This name keeps coming up repeatedly. Not sure the reason for the big (and oft repeated) love fest with this guy. The seasons he played well were on the worst team in the league. Olli Choke-inen anyone? Jay Blow-meester anyone? No thanks from me on Franson unless we get him at 6 man salary.

  • toprightcorner

    Too slow. Any player that is described as a below average skater, the Oilers need to move on. Lack of speed gets you in trouble. Only way I would consider signing him is on a 1 year $2 mill contract, and that eon’t happen.

  • Just.Visiting

    From the perspective of a Flames fan, I really struggle to see why some of the Flames Nation contributors see him as a potential piece of the puzzle. Stone seems much better than this.

    • CussingTortoise

      The underlying numbers. Franson is able to keep the puck going the right way. Stone is not. Franson will also be much cheaper, for some reason, than Stone.

  • freethe flames

    If Franson is not the answer who is? Stone can be a serviceable 5/6. Switch the pairings up and look internally? Say Stone/Kulak, Hamilton/TJ, Andersson/Gio.