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. 



  • RedMan

    OK, I understand from an age/cap hit/asset management standpoint that everyone gets on the “TRADE GIO” bandwagon so fast, but I for one would like to suggest you all hold the boat a minute before shoving off into the unknown.

    Gio is MORE than just a great defenseman, he is also a great captain!

    How much of last years “overachieving” and and never-say-quit-attitude came from the coach, and how much of it was driven by Gio???

    I for one believe GIO brings more than just elite defensive talent, I think he brings an elite attitude and expectation, and i believe that is very valuable in the dressing room.

    on top of that, you are all talking about bringing in players at their zenith who are looking downward at their career paths with the best behind them – are we not rebuilding? signing a busload of free agents and sending GIO off… I don’t quite get this.

    Keep Gio… stay the course on the rebuild by adding pieces that don’t cost future growth.

    (PS – adding Dougie IS keeping the rebuild course as he is only 22, and cost us picks that would never have given us a player of his caliber)

    • Franko J

      Bang on. Keep Gio. See what the young guys can do.

      I think Treliving going into this offseason had two players targeted. Honestly I don’t know if Franson would be that much more of an upgrade to Wideman or Russell. I would rather have the Flames sign their own RFA’s than chasing another big ticketed contract.

      By signing both Hamilton and Frolik are great steps in staying the course.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      I like him too but keeping him will not allow the Flames to stay the course. He will demand too much which will handcuff the team and that will prevent the team from moving from good to great. This is a team that is not one piece away. If there was no cap, I’d say give him what he wants. But, that’s not the case.

  • Trevy

    I’ll be the unpopular guy. Don’t tie up huge money and term in a 32 year old when you are rebuilding or you won’t become elite. We still need more pieces. Trade Gio while he can get you a haul. Sign Franson as he is 27 and fits the age range as long as it’s not crazy term.

    • Trevy

      I’m actually with you on this as well. We did very well without Gio and can really get a good haul for him right now! Unless his asking price goes down, start listening to offers. You have to do your due diligence!

    • mattyc

      I agree as well. I just don’t see the flames being cold and calculated enough to do it. While there’s lots of objective reasons to pick Franson and ship Gio, there are a ton of emotional/intangible reasons against it.

    • Mort

      I totally agree. If there’s one thing this offseason can teach us, it’s that cap space can disappear in an instant. Signing Gio to a monstrous contract would end up hurting us sooner than later. Of course he’s one of the best defencemen in the league right now, but he’s going to be on the decline in a few years’ time.

      Whatever’s best for the team is what should be done. Gio should not be re-signed for the sake of sentimentality, or because he’s a Leader On The Ice™. He should only be re-signed if the term and the AAV are reasonable in the long run. If a reasonable agreement can’t be made, he should be traded for someone younger + draft pick(s).

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I, am more interested in seeing how Morrison Culkin and Nakladal look.

    BT has 4 to 5 player’s that should be moved. I doubt he adds another until he’s subtracted a few of these contracts. Otherwise it makes these contracts even harder to move.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I think wideman is way under valued by a lot of fans. He was one of our best dmen on the power play and one of the best on the penalty kill. With him on the 3rd pairing he could stay fresh for the pk and pp, and we could play the 3rd pairing more minutes this year. Wideman also had some of the best chemistry with Johnny hockey. They seemed to find each other on the ice especially on on the pp. Yes he does have his defensive lapses 5v5, but keeping him around until at least the trade deadline or longer could be a smart move. In my perfect world, sign schlemco get rid of engelland somehow and keep Wideman.

      • everton fc

        Hartley likes Wideman. Obviously. That will have a lot of bearing on Wideman’s being moved, or retained. I saw they latter will be the end result.

        As for Franson, no one has answered the previous question as to why he found himself quickly in the doghouse in Nashville. Why? Anyone know?? Is he over-rated??? I wonder…

        I still think we can win with a 5/6 of Russell and Schlemko, though that’s a rather “smallish” 5/6 pairing. Have Hamilton play with Wideman. I also think Russell is a perfect guy to pair with someone like Nakladal/Wotherspoon/Morrison/Culkin/whomever. And I’ll jump on the bandwagon of posts here and agree, Wideman’s better then Franson.

        As Pizzaman says, there has to be something about Franson that teams are wary of. Perhaps it’s his price tag. Perhaps something deeper…

        • everton fc

          I agree with your premise but suggest that you leave Wides and Russell together and find the partner for Dougie. I have suggested that you try he and TJ together as they could be your top pairing for a long time if they have chemistry. Gio is good enough to help any of the prospects play in the NHL.

          • everton fc

            I don’t disagree, in principal. Are you saying pair Gio with one of the kids??

            I think BT will consider the cost of bringing in anymore defensive help, and how it may impact our next three seasons of payroll.

            Gio’s contract is a big issue, as well. Obviously. I wonder how Gio/Nakladal would work? Or Gio/Wotherspoon. Or Gio/Schlmeko, for that matter. Not saying I “approve” of any of these options. Saying I think we’ll go with what we have now, for fiscal reasons.

            Interesting that Schlemko’s still available. Perhaps he wants to stay and they are looking at options…??

          • piscera.infada

            My hope is that Nakladal is an NHL ready defender.(why else would you bring him and he must be keen as he is coming to the development camp) He is R 6’2 200lb and could be a perfect fit for either Gio or Brodie depending on where Hamilton fits. However if one of the younger kids out performs him at camp and preseason I would say go for it. The thing is with our top 5 defenders we have lots of talent and flexibility.

            It’s the next tier England and Smid that I’m not confident about. Schlemko is in my mind a better alternative but I seem to keep going back to Matt Irwin as another alternative but no one seems to give me any feedback either way. I would have no problem going into training camp with 5 we have and let the 6-8 work themselves out.

    • beloch

      I say pass on Franson. If we want to contend sooner than later, we need to cap that cap space open & allow Hartley to play our 3 headed monster 25 minutes a game each. Russell is as good as Wideman or Franson as a #4 dman destined to get 15 to 17 minutes a game under Hartley’s system.

      We need to give that bottom pairing to the likes of Tspoon, Nakaladas & Morrison to try & beat out Engellend/Smid & if we must resign Schlemko.

      Yes Wideman had his best year of the 3 he has played in Calgary. The stars aligned for him with Gio’s injury & the cinderella years our rookies & young players had. Do people honestly think his value will maintain with bottom pairing minutes with Engellend. I say move Wideman & get as much value as possible & then target the position we so desperately need, If you are going to invest some $$$$ get the best darn centreman at winning face-offs for the 4th line. Stajan didn’t do it & no one else really could. 50% face-off percentage was doing good on our team. We have addressed better possession players, now we have to address the face-off circle. The defence is in good hands & we don’t have to invest more $$$ in it. But I still think Gio needs to be resigned to make the 3 headed monster lethal for other teams.