Should the Flames Pursue Cody Franson?


Cody Franson
– pic via kkthemook


The Toronto Maple Leafs are facing some tough decisions. Even though they bought out Mikhail Grabovski and let Clarke MacArthur walk this summer, the new deals handed out to David Clarkson ($5.25M) and Tyler Bozak ($4.2M), Paul Ranger ($1.0M) and Jonather Bernier ($2.9M) in concert with a dropping cap has them in a budgetary bind. That could mean an opportunity for the Flames to grab a relatively big, young, offensively capable defender in Cody Franson.

The Leafs have about $6M in cap space remaining, but need to re-sign Mark Fraser, Nazem Kadri and the aforementioned Franson. Fraser has filed for arbitration, requesting $2M/year (with the team coming in at about $880k), meaning Toronoto cannot walk away from whatever the arbitrator awards. Even if that battle goes the Leafs way and Fraser wins less than a million, that still only leaves just over $5M in space to ink Kadri and Franson, both of whom figure to be fairly expensive. Kadri is Toronto’s best forward under the age of 23 and he rode some nice percentages to a near point-per-game pace last year. He’s going to get paid

That probably leaves Franson on the outside looking in. Rumors are the Leafs are shopping the 25 year old defender already. A towering 6’5", 213 pound rear guard, Franson is a former 3rd round pick of the Nashville Predators who had back-to-back 50+ point seasons in the WHL before turning pro. He’s already played 254 games at the NHL level, although he has yet to break the 30-point barrier in the show (he was on pace to score over 50 last year however).

Why The Flames Should Do it

Franson brings a lot of things the Flames currently lack on the back-end. He’s a pro, but also young, big, and has a booming shot and offensive upside. He has also had decent possession rates relative to his teammates in Toronto, finishing second and first in that category respectively in each of the last two seasons. He was also top-2 on the Leafs blueline in terms of even strength points scoring efficiency in those same two seasons. On top of all that, Franson’s four goals and 29 points last season were good for the 8th best points total in the entire league amongst defensemen.

Given all that, Franson seems to be poised to take a real step forward and establish himself as a legit top-4 defender who can quarterback a powerplay. A useful piece for an organization who has next to no legitimate offensive defenders in the pipeline after TJ Brodie (with apologies to Ryan Culkin, Eric Roy and Brett Kulak).

Why the Flames Shouldn’t Do it

Aside from the fact that trades between Toronto and Calgary never seem to bank in the Flames favor, the truth is the Leafs will be looking for what the Calgary organization is currently trying to hoard – namely, futures. Toronto will be trying to shed salary in any Franson deal, so they won’t be too interested in taking much back in terms of dollars, meaning kids and draft picks is the currency of the day.

In addition, although the Leafs are in a bit of bind which weakens their negotiating leverage somewhat, there’s no doubt a player like Franson will attract attention from more than a few suitors, potentially driving the asking price up. Futures are by definition undercertain, but they are also the bedrock (hopefuly) upon which Feaster et al. are rebuilding the team. The Flames should no doubt be willing to give up a piece or two to acquire Franson, but if the asking price veers into high-end prospect territory (first rounders, Gaudreau, Baertschi, Poirier, Klimchuk, etc.) it may not be a feasible swap.

In addition, there are some issues surrounding Franson’s results thus far. Of particular concern is the fact that he has more or less operated as a third pairing defender through the entiret of his NHL career. Last year, Franson was 7th in terms of average ES ice time on the Toronto blueline (15:03/game). The year before that, he was 7th again, this time averaging less than 15 minutes at 5on5 per game (14:36). His quality of competition metrics have been similarly soft since he entered the league.

So while Franson is big and can score at a decent rate, he has yet to be consistently tested against good players at even strength. The risk, therefore, is that Franson can’t move up the rotation effectively and more or less becomes another Anton Babchuk on the back-end.


As always, what a Franson trade ultimately comes down to is the asking price. Despite some concerns, the player strikes me as a worthwhile gamble for the Flames if he can be had for a package involving a marginal roster player (say Kris Russel or Derek Smith), a marginal prospect (Chris Breen, Greg Nemisz, any of the blueline prospects outside of Wotherspoon) and/or a middle-tier draft pick (2nd or lower). Otherwise it doesn’t make too much sense for the club.

Around the Nation

      • ChinookArchYYC

        Franson is in the right age group for the Flames for the short, mid and longterm. I doubt Kazig gets a deal done, but picking up a salary dump like JML might. If you’re the Leaf’s why buyout JML, if you don’t have to. And yes, I know they’re extremely cash-rich.

      • beloch

        Still struggling with the Kanzig pick? Franson was not much better offensively in his draft year and has little of the physical element and was also a 3rd rounder.

          • beloch

            Kanzig is a mammoth presence on the blue line. At 6-5, 240, keeping opponents away from his net and off the puck by using size and strength is his game. Both his skating and shot could be timed with a sun dial, but he’s always on the ice against the opposition’s top line and on the penalty kill in a shutdown role. And make no mistake: We have yet to see him lose a fight in two seasons. He’s a rough customer will fight the Western Hockey League’s toughest over-agers and shows no fear and tremendous balance for a big man.

            Not many who play a shutdown role like him as a 17 year old. sorry

          • MC Hockey

            Not even his agent. I do want to give this kid some time though. Quite intriguing. I wouldn’t give him up for franson at this point in a package. Franson has a lot of what we need but there are a lot of red flags too. I agree with people wanting to risk players like butler, Breen, etc and I liked the idea of taking on liles if that would lessen the package going the other way too

          • everton fc

            If we were working towards a playoff spot, I may be inclined to agree. But, we are rebuilding and that will take some time. I want to give this 3rd rounder with tremendous work ethic at least a chance. What do we have to lose? Plus, getting Franson right now would cost us more futures and I don’t see the value in that.

          • please cancel acct

            It’s just a matter of effort with Franson, and how he is severely lacking it.
            Needs to continue working on his defensive-zone coverage and overall consistency. Can at times look sluggish as a skater. Must also use his massive frame more to his advantage.

            Those are from 2 different scouting reports. Is he really the guy we want? He does provide some good offense but I don’t know.

  • Parallex

    I’m going to say “no, they should not”. The obvious caveat being that anything could and should be had for the right price (the right price for Calgary), but in all probability Franson will have multiple suitors so an offer that has any realistic chance at getting the Yes isn’t going to be of the laughably lowball variety.

    I don’t think the Flames ought to be in the business of trading futures for a only youngish player for whom the remaining team control does not extend into the Flames next probable window of contention and with whom the prospect of a team friendly extension is an unknown at best.

    • I don’t think the Flames ought to be in the business of trading futures for a only youngish player for whom the remaining team control does not extend into the Flames next probable window of contention and with whom the prospect of a team friendly extension is an unknown at best.

      That’s an entirely reasonable issue to note and one I neglected. Well done.

    • McRib

      Considering five agencies (CAA, Newport, Octagon, Top Shelf, O2 Sports) represent 99.9% of the payers in this industry. Its really not hard to find out what extension Cody Franson would be looking for.

      Jay Feaster actually has solid connections in this line of GM work. No contract is unknown!!! If Calgary presented a viable offer they could speak to him and discuss things in place before approving it. Big Question is why hasn’t Edmonton already made this move?!?!? Haha. Oh, thats right no one wants to play for Edmonton but our rebuild is going to be the same. Hahaha.

      • ghostofberanek

        I’m sorry, did you say the Flames rebuild was going to be the same as Edmontons? You poor, unfortunate soul. I see some very dark times ahead for the Flamers, and we’ll see how many players willingly choose Calgary over E-town over the next 5 years.

  • McRib

    As long as he is isn’t asking for crazy money always really liked his game in Junior, also he would be fairly close to home (Salmon Arm, BC) we might get a bit of a discount. Nashville really stalled his development because they were so deep on the back end, but had a very solid year in Toronto. Never understood why Jake Gardiner was getting all the hype last season over Franson!?!?!?

    I think he could be a great signing with top pair potential!! We should trade them Chris Butler and a Tyler Wotherspoon (Brett Kulak is going to be as good or better anyway). I know Tyler Wotherspoon is our best defensive prospect but he is worth even more due to hype after World Juniors/Mem Cup, also the big club doesn’t need defenseman anyway when they do Kulak will be ready. Not to mention Pat Sieloff. We will need a big name prospect to land Franson, I think Wotherspoon falls into the big name category because of game experience rather than his potential, which is a fifth-six shutdown defender role not hard to come-by.

  • RKD

    I think the Flames should do it, the Leafs cannot afford to ink all three of Kadri, Kessel and Franson. In terms of priorities both Kadri and Kessel supersede Franson right now and they will be getting big contracts. The fact that Kadri’s agent is still talking to Nonis is that Kadri like Subban is probably looking for big dough.

    Nonis overpaid for Clarkson big time and got stuck with a long term. I guess they figured Franson was more expendable in the long run than Bozak.

    The Flames need to rebuild their defence, at one time we had Reg, Phaneuf, Jay-Bo and Gio all on D. I’m not saying to tie up all your money in D but the Flames really gutted their D. They don’t really have true shutdown guys. I would keep Russell or Smith. Outside of Babchuck, and Sarich I think Butler has really struggled. I could see Butler outplayed by Smith or Ruseell in no time. Butler was only signed for one year, I think he’s gone after this season.

    • The Last Big Bear

      I would be absolutely amazed if Butler out-played Russell next year. And it isn’t that Russell is that good, either…

      @The Last Big Bear

      where are you hearing that stuff about “as long as its not someone like Breen or Cundari in return”? I could see a Leafs fan saying that, but I don’t think anyone around here would balk at giving up one (or both) of those guys for Franson.

  • everton fc

    I’d move Butler for this kid in a heartbeat. Ditto Smith. And Russell. And O’Brien (they won’t take him, I know…)

    He’s a right-handed shot. Which should interest us, as well. I say go after the big, right-handed shot.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Yeah, for the right price this is a no-brainer for the Flames.

    And ‘the right price’ means not over-valuing Flames prospects. I’ve heard people say things like ‘as long as its not someone like Breen or Cundari in return’, which is insanity.

    Breen is 24, has done absolutely nothing at the NHL level, and if he ever makes it as a roster player in the big show is unlikely to be anything other than a depth defender.

    Franson is 25, and has been a productive NHLer for the last two years.

    There shouldn’t even be a discussion as to which is worth more. If Cody Franson was on the Flames, this blog would be vomiting with rage at the suggestion of ditching him for a guy like Breen or Cundari.

    • MC Hockey

      This is on the ball I think just with a bit more detail.. Nice job Big Bear! More to add: Besides obvious ones like top 4 d-man, keep Wotherspoon, Seiloff, and if possible Cundari. But Breen, Kanzig, Butler, Smith, and Russell should all be in play perhaps with a 3rd rounder as well if needed! Then sign Franson for 5 years at AAV of the 2 million he wants as that’s a bargain over long term and fits with when Flames get competitive!

  • beloch

    The Flames trading with the leafs is like a problem gambler going back to that one casino in Vegas that always seems to have his number because, darn it, he has a good feeling this time!

  • everton fc

    I bet they’d want a forward prospect and pick.

    They still have Gardiner and Rielly in the

    Just what is the asking price, and what are you willing to give up?

  • beloch

    Maybe Reinhart or Horak & a 3rd would get the deal done if we are so inclined but I think there are better offers are out there from other teams, but maybe not.

  • beloch

    What’s with sudden love affair with Leaf castoffs? First we spend a bunch of time debating Grabbie now Franson; lets remember the Leafs lost the first round and likely would not have made the playoffs if the season lasted two more weeks as they were in a tail spin. Grabbing the Leafs 3/4 line center and 4/5/6 defenseman helps the rebuild how? Let;s give our kids a chance; Blazing Saddles away.

  • T&A4Flames

    Why haven’t they just gone out and signed Blum. Seriously, the guy has some issues no doubt being as he was allowed to walk. But the guy played some 1st pairing minutes with Weber did he not?

    He’s young as well with offensive potential. And, very importantly, he costs nothing more than a contract.

    • piscera.infada

      He signed a 1 year deal with Minnesota (?) I believe. He played some (very small amount of) first line minutes with Weber, but I think it was only because they didn’t have much of an option at the time. In addition, he hasn’t done much in the show to speak of yet as he’s been back and forth between the minors where he’s put up some decent totals (~.5 ppg in the AHL).

      I don’t really see what a lot of other people see in him. Russell’s NHL numbers are slightly better, and his AHL numbers are comparable. Blum is bigger and younger (24 vs. 26), but I think overall they’re comparable – save for the fact Russell has much more experience in the show (364 game vs. 91 games). I’m not too sure signing guys just because they’re young is the best way to go about things.

  • everton fc

    Franson’s biggest asset is his right-handed shot. And his size.

    Russell will be better than Butler.

    If the deal can get done with Butler and a pick, I’d consider it. But Russell’s size – or lack of it – bothers me.

  • loudogYYC

    Franson would probably be a perfect fit on the blueline. That’s a deal Feaster has to clearly win though, specially because it’s Toronto and we always get fleeced on those deals.