Forget Tavares for a second, there might be a perfect, cheap RHD that has been flying under the radar which if signed, could be a wonderful reunion back to TO.
After being a “walk on” sign by the Vancouver Giants in the WHL, Franson was selected 79th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Nashville Predators. It took a few years for Franson to develop and be called up to the Preds, but in the 2009-2010 season, he was given a shot. He remained with the Predators until he was traded after the next season, to you guessed it, the Leafs. Franson remained with the Leafs for a few years, he was eventually dealt BACK to the Preds, along with Mike Santorelli for Olli Jokinen, Brendan Leipsic and a 1st round pick in the 2015 draft (which would end up being the pick used to select Travis Konecny). After that trade, Franson struggled to find a home, originally being signed by the Buffalo Sabres, and just his past offseason, he was passed up on in the Free Agency, until Chicago offered him a 1yr 1-million dollar deal.
I’m going to go into why the Leafs should give him another opportunity, and why he is worth much more than a minor league deal.
What Do the Numbers Say?
Right off the bat, his breakups stand out. In the defensive zone, he is very strong and able to shut things down. On top of his defensive game, his offensive output is no slouch either, he seems to be involved no matter where the puck his, and to make quite an impact on the situation. He won’t put up incredible numbers, but he does very well for himself. He is a strong defensive player that battles, which sounds like a Babcock dream to me. Did I mention that he’s 6’5?
At a quick glance, it’s easy to see that Franson is not the most flashy player, but he is extremely tough defensively.
How does Franson compare with the recent Leafs RHD?
I am going to analyze Franson vs. X, where X is the most consistently used RHD over the past two years.
- Connor Carrick
- Roman Polak
- Nikita Zaitsev
- Ron Hainsey
Boy is the Leafs current situation a mess on the right side.
a) Cody Franson vs. Connor Carrick
In my opinion, Carrick is the best RHD that the Leafs have on their roster. He could use more minutes to truly prove himself, but in the past two years, he has been sat in favor of the veteran choice (yes, I’m looking at you Polak). It’s very likely that Carrick’s numbers will improve with use, but even then, it sure seems that he would step in as the best RHD. In this quick comparison, Franson seems to be an extremely safe bet. Too bad their is not a stat for Hoagie’s/60, else Carrick would crush this comparison. Round 1 goes to Franson.
b) Cody Franson vs. Roman Polak
Listen, enough has been said about Polak in recent years that does not need repeating here, the reality is, is this comparison even worth discussing?
Franson = Good…. Polak = Bad.
c) Cody Franson vs. Nikita Zaitsev
This is a tough one, as one almost feels bad for the flak that Zaitsev catches. When it comes down to it though, Zaitsev is simply not the player that he is paid to be, and the visual says it all, Franson is just that much better.
d) Cody Franson vs. Ron Hainsey
Lastly, comes Ron Hainsey. Looking at his defensive game, Hainsey posts some pretty respectable numbers. The only issue with this is how much Babcock trusts him, and the fact that he is too worn to be putting in the icetime that he’s been given. In the past year, he was driven into the ground with usage, which became more and more clear as the year went on. Franson would ease an immense load from Hainsey, which would make him more effective. Alas, when it comes down to an overall comparison, Franson wins again.
Honestly, the comparisons with what the Leafs have been utilizing are just depressing. Their right side is downright horrible, but one player could make all the difference. When it comes down to it, Franson would come in as your best option on the right side, with the added bonus of a minuscule cap hit. There’s no indication of him receiving a raise, so its very likely that a contract this offseason would look the same as last year. Getting a good RHD for that low of a cost is unheard of, and worst case, he doesn’t do well and its a 1yr deal in the season in which they have more than enough cap space to play around with. This is the most low-risk transaction that could be made, with a great chance of payoff. Yes, he is known to struggle to read the play at times, but really, that flaw is much better than what is currently employed by the team. Franson is a legitimate NHL player that belongs in the league, and where better fit than back with the Leafs?
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