Should the Flames Try to Sign Cody Franson?

The frenzy is over and there is still one big name UFA standing: Cody Franson. 

In my lead up to July 1, I named Franson as one of the Flames top targets in addition to Michael Frolik and Justin Williams. And even though Calgary’s roster is crowded and their cap situation complicated, I still consider Franson a player on interest for the Flames.

Background

Despite ending the year in Peter Laviolette’s doghouse after being traded to the Nashville Predators, the 28-year old defender is nevertheless rumoured to be looking for a contract in the range Jeff Petry (5 years, $5.5M per year). It could be those demands, plus his less than noteworthy end to the year that has Franson still negotiating on the sidelines. 

The math loves Franson but he’s a player who frequently evokes ambivalence in observers. A big guy at 6’5″, 213 pounds, Franson is nevertheless not overly mean or physical. He’s also not that fleet of foot, so can be seen as either lackadaisical or flatfooted in the wrong circumstances. 

His quantitative  results are fare less equivocal, however. Franson has been a positive possession player since he broke in to the league. in addition, he’s one of the best even strength scoring defenders in NHL, frequently managing around 1.0 points/60 minutes of ice. To put that in context, Mark Giordano and Erik Karlsson scored 1.18 and 1.16 points/60 at ES last year, respectively.

Coles notes: Cody Franson is a younger, bigger version of Dennis Wideman, except he’s far better at driving play. 

Why Sign Him?

Because Franson would give the Flames one of the best bluelines in the NHL. 

He’d add scoring to an already fairly potent group and would further firm up the team’s greatest weakness – puck possession. Brad Treliving has clearly made it a point of order to go after guys who drive play this summer. Adding Franson would mean potential dressing a possession defender on every d-pairing to start the season. 

That’s far cry from the set-up last year, when Calgary had probably the most top-heavy d-rosters in the entire league.

It’s Complicated

Of course, there’s a few reasons the Flames may balk at adding Franson at this point. 

First and foremost is the salary cap. Calgary still has some room this year, but next season is setting up to be an epic cap crunch thanks to a bevy of simultaneous raises to the club’s stars. Adding another $5M+ salary on a back-end that already features Brodie, Giordano, Wideman and Hamilton seems excessive in light of the team’s ever shrinking budget space. 

In addition, the roster is getting awful crowded. With Franson on board, Calgary would have a depth chart that would look something like this:

Giordano – Brodie 

Franson – Hamilton

Russell – Wideman 

Engelland, Smid

That’s too many NHL defenders, even if we grant that Smid may very well spend the rest of his contract on LTIR. Wideman suddenly looks redundant in this scenario, as does Engelland, frankly. 

If the Flames somehow land Franson in addition to Frolik and Hamilton this summer, Treliving and company will no doubt have to do some tap-dancing to get the roster and the cap budget in line sooner rather than later. That could include trading a guy like Wideman for pennies on the dollar. 

Conclusion

Franson isn’t a must have at this point, but his addition would be an incredible capper to an already stellar off-season by Calgary’s GM. That said, his signing wouldn’t be without risk given the size of and his addition would create all sorts of complications, including cap and roster crowding. 

Personally, I think the player and upside is worth it. We’ll see if Treliving agrees or not. 

  • Toofun

    Prior to last season I was not a Wideman fan but everyone has to admit that he was great for the Flames last year.

    For me the big difference was his attitude and effort. Like (almost) everyone else on the team he gave the club everything he had. He looked like he wanted to be there, he was desperate to win games and contribute, he had great chemistry with the other guys (most notably with Russell and Gaudreau) and he deserved the promotion to A.

    For Bouma to show “intangibles” on and off the ice was great but for Wideman to do it was much more unexpected. Don’t reward it by trading him. Give him a chance to be part of this again this year.

  • In my opinion it would be a bit excessive. I would rather keep Russell or Wideman in the top 4 than shove them both simultaneously i
    nto inconsequential third pairing minutes next season after each one was so instrumental to our success last year.

  • BurningSensation

    As much as I think Franson would be perfect for the 2nd pair, and is an upgrade on Wideman, signing him would create a serious logjam on D.

    I wouldn’t sign Franson without already knowing what the solution to that logjam was going to be.

  • wot96

    I don’t like the idea and not just for cap reasons.

    The Flames went out and got some promising young defenders in Morrison and Nakladal, the latter of whom has Pro experience. Those two should be much closer to NHL ready than the young guys we drafted this year, who could both turn out to be better than Franson. And that doesn’t address the young D drafted over the last few years who have to be wondering if they have any future with a club that goes out and gets all these free agent D.

    Rather than sign a big (slow) guy that isn’t going to be more than number four on this club, and for a lot of money, stay the course and develop the defenders that we drafted. Especially when signing Franson may make it harder to re-sign Gio or TJ down the road or to go out and get an upgrade at RW when the opportunity presents itself.

    If the Flames had a way of getting rid of $6 or 7m in cap hit off the current roster from players they don’t need or want, it might be different. If BT cannot make that happen, then I don’t think he can afford to go out and get Franson.

    • piscera.infada

      The Flames went out and got some promising young defenders in Morrison and Nakladal, the latter of whom has Pro experience. Those two should be much closer to NHL ready than the young guys we drafted this year, who could both turn out to be better than Franson. And that doesn’t address the young D drafted over the last few years who have to be wondering if they have any future with a club that goes out and gets all these free agent D.

      This is a very astute observation. I’m against signing Franson for myriad reasons, but the biggest one for me (and probably Treliving, given what we’ve heard and seen from him) is term. I simply don’t think Franson is good enough to invest the type of term he’ll want–I’m assuming he wants 5 to 6 years (bring the cap down a little bit, and you’re looking at 6 to 7 years now).

      Instead of looking at the joke Tim Erixon has become, I think we need to do a bit of a retrospective and learn from that situation. Why did he force the trade? It wasn’t because he didn’t like the city, or the players, or the coaches, or the management. It was quite simply because he didn’t see any opportunity for himself in the organization. We finally have some prospect depth at defense, and I get that the “big-three” (Andersson, Kylington, and Hickey), are years away from cracking the lineup, but the organization has to prove that there are opportunities here. That means giving the likes of Nakladal, Wotherspoon, and Morrison a chance to compete for a spot.

      We spent (or at least I spent) the majority of that Anaheim series fawning over the young, competent blue-line the Ducks were able to put out every game. Why could they do that? Because (for many reasons that were not “good asset management”) they didn’t (or couldn’t) invest so heavily in term for veteran defenders. So, you want to sign Franson for 5 or 6 years? Resign Gio for 5 or 6 years? Assume we keep Brodie in 4 years? Add that to Hamilton for 6 years? We’re looking at a blue-line that essentially has no movement for the next 6 years.

      I also say no to Franson. Be measured in your approach to dealing Wideman–you honestly don’t have to do it right now, but there could very well be a sweetheart deal that crops up between now and this time next year.

      On the other edge of that knife, you have to give Russell top-4 minutes with Hamilton (or whomever the lineup settles with). You need to see what happens when you pair him with a good possession player. We may be surprised. We may not. Either way though, that’s going to be a very important extension for this group moving forward next off-season. Is he a partner dependant #4, or a bottom-2 guy? There’s a vast difference in term and dollars between those two players.

  • beloch

    The cap space is more valuable than signing Franson, we’ll need those cap dollars available very soon for guys like Monahan, Gaudreau, Bennett.

    Stay the course, keep jobs open for kids, continue developing NHL caliber players from within the system.

  • Bananaberg

    Zero reason for the Flames to pursue this guy. I don’t really care what the math/stats say on him; BT went out and set the table for a franchise core of defense. Next upgrade(s) are needed at RW, not at our #4 Dman spot, where we’ve already got Russell. People seem to have a short memory — go back and watch Russell’s game/style when he was in STL. Now fast forward to today after he’s had a chance to watch Gio and start modeling his game after him. Paired with a possession star like Hamilton (as opposed to Wideman), Russell’s numbers are going to start to reflect his development. Now add the fact that we’ve got a nice cohort of young prospects pushing from the back for future roster spots, and you’ll see what Russell can bring to the table.

    Let’s also factor in that we can resign him for $3-4/yr…instead of taking a swing on Franson for “PETRY DOLLARS”. Russell fits in the culture/locker room. Franson is not a buy for CGY.

    • Excellent post. I am a huge Russell fan think he makes that top 4 one of the best in the league. He has blossomed coming to Calgary & he will be a way cheaper option than having a Franson 5.0+ mill cap hit anchoring our payroll. No Franson please. Wideman on our bottom pairing is doable but would be a waste IMO. Could a package of Wideman & Raymond be a fit for Jersey or Arizona?

      • piscera.infada

        In a perfect world you could package Wideman and Raymond up. But both have NMCs so both would have to waive and why would they go to either NJ or Arizona given the current state of those teams, especially now that Calgary looks like it is on the upswing.

        I think you would have to package those two up at the TDL and market them to a contender with some cap space (not sure if there are any) and keep a big chunk of their salary in order to make it palatable even though Wideman should have considerable value.

        Honestly, I think we have to hope Raymond has a bounce back year and we’ll have to suck it up with Wideman until his contract is done.

        • piscera.infada

          If Hartley remains intent on scratching Raymond, and playing younger options over him, it may be incumbent upon Raymond to be moved anywhere he can get playing time. I’m unsure Raymond is in a situation where if he wants to play, he can really be picky about where he plays.