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.
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.
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
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.
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.