Top-10 UFA Countdown: #3 – Cody Franson

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Photo Credit: Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports

This is a series counting down the top-10 pending UFAs. It will be posted across the Nation Network over the next month! Enjoy! 

When the Nashville Predators acquired Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli in February, everybody thought it was a match made in heaven. After all, the team was getting two quality players that they were familiar with, without giving up any present assets. Theoretically, it was the type of move that should’ve taken a good team to greatness, but instead, it was a bust.

David Poile was quick to admit that the team was forcing a square peg into a round hole. After all, the Predators are very adament about following shot handedness with their defencemen, and they already had three quality righties. As such, Franson didn’t recieve the necessary playing time, didn’t fit in, and will now hit free agency. But what will he command?

Track Record

Since joining the league in 2009/2010, Franson has quietly been one of the league’s most efficient offensive defencemen. Of the 108 defencemen to play at least 5000 even strength minutes since his NHL debut, Franson is one of just eleven to average over a point every sixty minutes. His peers are a combintion of the league’s elite point-getters (Karlson, Keith, Letang) and guys who have straight up played forward in stretches (Byfuglien, Burns).

It is worth nothing, however, that his production has been a mixed bag in the past couple of seasons. Franson was actually second in the above per 60 statistic from 2009 to 2013, but struggled as the Leafs began to deploy him in tougher situations.

Season PTS/60 CF% CF% Rel ZSO% ZSO% Rel
2009/10 1.16 55.27 4.68 54.15 9.65
2010/11 1.29 50.96 2.47 50.26 4.98
2011/12 0.97 51.22 3.56 51.84 3.3
2012/13 1.5 45.51 2.16 44.9 3.31
2013/14 0.7 44.88 2.6 40.63 -0.15
2014/15 0.89 49.81 1.72 45.71 -1.19

It’s pretty simple logic, really; it’s easier to get points, or at least attempt to do so, when you’re 30 feet from the net rather than 180 feet from it. As well, teams have gradually caught on to Franson’s slower-than-average foot speed over the years and have tried to capitalize on that by playing quicker forwards against him.

Despite his even strength “struggles”, Franson has continued to excel on the powerplay. Even in the past two years, he’s been the league’s ninth most productive defenceman with a man advantage, thanks to his excellent puck-moving abilities. 

Future Performance

Franson is still likely to be a key offensive contributor on most hockey teams, if given the opportunity. With that said, the situation has to be correct to get the most use out of him. Ideally, you’ll be deploying him in the offensive zone more often than not, and giving him a chunk of powerplay minutes.

It’s also in his next team’s best interest to play him with a mobile partner. While he’s capable of driving play with just about anybody and makes most of his partners better, there was a noticible uptick in control of the game when he was sent out with guys like Jake Gardiner and John-Michael Liles in Toronto, as opposed to the likes of Dion Phaneuf, who, while good, aren’t quick enough to support Franson if he makes a mistake or has to attempt to rush back.

A good situation should turn Franson into a 45, if not 50 point scorer over a full season. Seeing as he’s only 27 years old and doesn’t rely on athletics to make his game great, he should have a lot of gas left in the tank. As long as he stays healthy, look for him to be a solid contributor to a team with some support for years to come.

Contract Outlook

After years of short-term deals with the Maple Leafs, it’s pretty obvious that Franson will be looking to commit to a mid to long term deal with whoever decides to sign him. While it’s doubtful that a team will sign him to a UFA-max seven year deal, a three to four year term is definitely not out of the question. It would bring him to his early thirties, and give him another opportunity to get his big payday if he succeeds.

The dollar figure becomes the big question. Higher profile offensive defencemen are typically locks to make well over $5 million per season, but haven’t really gone into their contract years as slow as Franson has. Given the fact he wasn’t particularly hyped up at his offensive peak, I could only see him earning that much if a bidding war were to ensue. Realistically, something in the $4.5-4.75 million range from a team with some cap flexibility wouldn’t be a huge shocker if he ends up signing mid-term, though he could also pull a, well, Cody Franson, and sign a 1 or 2 year deal at around $4 million if he’s super confident that he’ll rebound.

More from the Top-10 UFA Countdown

#10 – Johnny Oduya

#9 – Antti Niemi

#8 – Martin St. Louis

#7 – Christian Ehrhoff

#6 – Matt Beleskey

#5 – Paul Martin

#4 – Antoine Vermette

  • JackB

    What gets me is these young men make millions!! This is their chosen profession!! Why the hell don’t they work on their deficiencies (constantly) in their offseason, spare time. Medical doctors constantly update their medical learning, other professionals also update.

    Why hasn’t Franson worked on his skating every summer since he was young. Anton Lander has reportedly worked on his skating with the Oilers skating and skills coach ever since he was 16 or 17 and still in Sweden. He (reportedly) started working with Steve Serdachny after going to one of Serdachny’s European skating clinics, even before being picked by Edmonton.

    That also goes to the general question of dedication and desire – why does it seem that some players “fall off” after they get their contract? Why does their level of play pick up in contract years?

    Remember how much better Dustin Penner’s play was in the year the Olympic team was being picked? Then fell off when he wasn’t picked?

    Just saying.

    Maybe the most important aspect to consider in assessing players (draft picks OR professionals) are “head things”. Desire, heart, dedication, love of the game … Do they party and golf (Stoll, Las Vegas, coke) or work out constantly (Chelios, Chara)

    Thank goodness we are cleaning house in our scouting staff, both amateur AND professional. (Getting to really like our new GM.)

  • Parallex

    He’s gonna be really expensive. If Petry get’s 5.5×5 then Franson is probably gonna get at least 7×7.

    Best D on the market (and comparatively young) so whomever writes the check is gonna be taking a big gamble given how big the contract is likely to be.

  • Parallex

    The Oilers have lots of young defensemen that need the zone start push. It is insanity to sign a veteran UFA who requires a zone start push. Klefbom and Nurse need the zone start push as they enter the league.

    The Oilers need D who can play the defensive side of the game. If they can bring offense, that is a bonus.

    Only sign D who can be buried in zone start hell (like Fayne) and survive. That is the type of D the Oilers need.

    They don’t need to waste money paying for a power play specialist, who is shaky in his own end.

  • RedMan

    when the Oiler fanboys are active, everything is backwards… bad is good, losing is winning, sucking is success… then you get the “FIST” post… forgot what it is like to share space with such young people… I guess the positive takeaway is that Edmonton hasn’t lost the teen generation by their recent overwhelming failure, er, success,

  • Franson himself has come out and said he either wants to go back to the Leafs or go to Vancouver. So maybe that makes Bieksa or Hamhuise available?

    But if not, then I would think Franson is an upgrade on Schultz. And he may be slow but he has a lot more size to him so he won’t be nearly as soft.

    • The Last Big Bear

      Bieksa is ready for the glue factory.

      Hamhuis would be a godsend for the Oilers, giving them (along with Fayne) a second defenceman who can play top-4 minutes effectively. And Vancouver is situated to rebuild their defence around Edler and Tanev (a very good situation, if they choose to pursue it), so, they just might be willing to let him go for picks and prospects.

      Franson would be a solid score for the Oilers, and a big upgrade on Jultz, but Edmonton’s track record in landing top Free Agents speaks for itself.

      Franson would be a fantastic fit for the Flames, even just for his age if nothing else. They would probably have to move out Wideman to make it work cap-wise, but that might be in the cards anyways. I don’t think that’s an upgrade in on-ice performance today, giving up Wideman to get Franson, but as I said, age considerations are crucial for the Flames right now. They either need players on one-year deals, or guys who will still be impact players 3+ years from now.

      • everton fc

        I think the Flames could (and should) make it work with both Franson and Wideman on the roster. Wideman’s contract is winding down. He won’t be here forever, and will be moved to make fiscal room for the signing of the young guns, down the road. Franson for 4 years isn’t bad – he’s only 31.

        What makes the deal perhaps difficult is the re-up for Gio. He’s talking high numbers. He knows he’ll never get 9mill/season, but he may be able to get 8mill somewhere. Maybe in Calgary, but he’s 32 when the season starts and will want 5 years, me thinks. He’s been a but banged up over the years, not playing a full season since 2010-11 (not counting the year of the lockout). Have to consider a player’s durability when you’re paying top dollar.

  • everton fc

    Non-confrontational Flames fan here! I think Franson would be a nice addition here, and he lives here off-season, I believe. But at what cost? A contract would be moved.

    Most would say move Wideman. I say “nay. Keep Wideman until his contract runs out. You’d have Gio/Brodie/Franson/Wideman/Russell and any of Engelland/Schlemko/Wotherspoon/et al as your defence. Pretty good “d”.

    Contracts like Raymond’s, perhaps Hiller’s, perhaps Jones (I’d like to keep Jones, though, and maybe even re-sign him on the cheap for another 2 years to patrol the right-side in a 3rd/4th line role for the immediate future while the “kids” mature). Wold he sign with the Flames on cheap, to be closer to home… ???

    As for the Oilers, he’d obviously be a good fit. No need to debate that. But would he go there? Players may think twice, in the positive, w/the new GM, new coach, McDavid all up north.

  • fl33zy

    Why does anyone on Canucks Army care about him joining the Oilers?? Am I through the looking Glass here?

    Benning should clear cap room and try to pair Franson w Hammer…. Franson on PP would be unbelievable.

  • mgg

    I think a few people seem to have misunderstood GM Poile’s comments – he wasn’t trying to explain Franson’s struggles by saying he played on his off-side but was referring to Jones/Ellis. Franson played on the right side in Nashville (his preferred side) – it’s Jones and Ellis that moved to the left side to accommodate him. Franson also started on the 2nd pairing with Ekholm who is a left shot.

  • Let’s make a great deal and kill two birds with one stone how bout a package deal talbot and yandle for 33 and 57 if we must throw in MM then if PC could make it happen land Chara all impact players and who better to work nurse and other young d core then the biggest beast over the past decade in Chara just think he would pay huge dividend and set the perfect example of what’s expected going forward nurse would have the best teacher at his disposal what do you think