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.


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. 


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. 

  • First Name Unidentified

    I’d sign him in a heartbeat if Wideman can be punted. No way we can keep both him and Wides. He’s definitely a huge upgrade over Wides at a similar cap hit. He was, arguably, on the best blue line in the league last year.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I’m with you. I have been hoping for Franson if Tre can get him for 5 or under. Teams that miss out on him would then be approaching the Flames for Wideman. But we could still make it all work cap wise for one more year.

  • T&A4Flames

    I thought Treliving would have signed him by now… apparently the Flames are on his shortlist of teams. I wonder if Flames depth on the blueline would be an incentive or scare him away for lack of ice time.

  • 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!

    • 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).

    • 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.

  • Trevy

    I’m with you on this one Kent and Wideman’s trade value has never been higher. This will also allow teams that lose out on Franson to have another chance at picking up someone like Wideman at a cheaper cost and less term.

  • Trevy

    Trade Wideman goes the call. Let’s remember he has a no movement clause, whatever that means.
    We have approximately $7m in cap space, if Franson can be signed at $5.5m then there is no room to sign others. We still have 5 RFA’s or so to sign. Yes BT has until the season to move guys but then teams know we are in a bind.

    Are there ant other cheaper alternatives that we could sign? Matt irwin?

  • Frank Miron

    Signing Cody Franson would not be a bad idea overall if they could get rid of Wideman and Hiller’s contracts… but they could have tried to sign Matt Bartkowski instead.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    For those who would acquire Franson and say we could somehow afford him by trading England and one of our goalies for nothing imagine the pairings to be like:

    Pretty formidable don’t you think.

    For those trying to trade Wides which teams make sense and have the budget space? You likely don’t trade inside the conference so here becomes your list: Ottawa, Carolina, Florida, Washington and Buffalo. Of these teams the two that have make in my mind the most sense would be Washington(from whence he came) they have loaded up and have just lost Green; it could be a great fit. Buffalo might be fit as they could use a veteran defender. Dallas. Nashville and Anaheim have the space but would you really want to trade him to team you will be in playoff race with him?

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Pittsburgh? If Ehrhoff signs elsewhere their next highest paid D after Letang is Scuderi at 3.3M. Pittsburgh only has 8 forwards signed right now too! Honestly they could use any of Raymond, Jones or Stajan to fill out the bottom of their roster. Clearly with trading for Kessel they are in win now mode. Crosby and Malkin are in their prime and their GM is nuts. Might be able to offload salary there?

      • TheoForever

        Widemans contract would put them up against the cap, they would require us to take something that we might not need. Sorry I don’t think they are a fit especially with as few forwards as they have signed.

        • Bean-counting cowboy

          Disagree. Pittsburgh has lost Martin and potentially Ehrhoff. You think they will go into next year with Olli Maatta as their #2? After acquiring Kessel, they are going for it. They are also reportedly in on Franson. Letang and Lovejoy are their only right handed shots. We could eat 1/2 of Wideman contract which would be much cheaper than signing Franson for them. Pitt is also a team Wides would waive his NMC for.

          • Bean-counting cowboy

            If we could eat 1/2 of Widemans contract??

            So Pittsburgh would get a player who had 56 points last year for 2,8 million and Calgary takes 1/2 the cap hit for 2 years.

            IMO that would look bad on BT.

          • Bean-counting cowboy

            According to general fanagers cap Pitsburg has $5.78m left after losing both Martin and Ehroff and they only have 16 players under contract. Wides $5.2m puts them close to the cap; we need as much cap space as possible to sign Franson so keeping some of Wides salary makes little sense to me.

  • TheoForever

    Hmm, ended up in the doghouse in Nashville, curious as to why. Perhaps, damaged goods like most things that come out of Leafs, or just misunderstood.. Let’s throw bunch of money and juicy term at him and trade Gio, makes sense.
    Im sure Franson, will rebound, definately worth the risk, unless of course he is overhyped like majority of Laughs.

  • Sobueno

    Man, putting Franson and Hamilton on a line would sure make for a towering duo. Seems like it’d be impossible to fit him under the cap without some kind of move though. Always risk with signing him first and hoping for a move later in case you can’t find any takers. On the point of selling Wideman for pennies on the dollar – wasn’t he a free agent signing? Basically any return at all is a bonus in that case I’d think.

  • 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.

  • TheoForever

    Signing Franson is another opportunity to bring in a skilled defenseman without giving up an asset. Franson fits the Flames profile of nice size and skill. In my view he has lacked proper coaching at the NHL level and he has the potential of being better even at the age of 27.

    I agree with previous posts that this will afford the Flames an option to trade Wideman and avoid a contract/gap issue in the future. Based on Wideman’s recent performance and minimal years left on his contract he can get the Flames a high draft as well as a top prospect.

    The cap would not be an issue as we have Jones and Hiller that would instantly clear $8.5M off the cap

  • 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)

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • beloch

    If Franson were willing to take $5M per season he’d already be inked. Andrej Sekera, who most figured would sign for less than Franson, is getting $5.5M. Franson is the biggest of the big UFA defenders out there and a lot of teams want him bad. His next contract is going to be absolutely ridiculous. Hamilton was a RFA and Frolik’s reasonable contract was a real surprise given that he was a UFA. Neither of these signings should raise our hopes of getting Franson to defy the laws of UFA signings.

    There is potential for Treliving to work out a defenceman-swap involving a non-UFA player though. Wideman, like Russel, is an offensive guy who could work well on a second pair with a good possession partner. Putting him on your third pair is a bit of a waste. If the Flames put Russel on their second pair, they need the return for Wideman to be a guy who can drive possession on the third pair while lugging around one of Engelland, Smid, Wotherspoon, Nakladal, or Morrison. They don’t need a guy who brings more offense. That’s doable. The Flames are carrying too many forward contracts (especially if they re-sign their RFA’s), so Treliving can put together a compelling package.

    Engelland and Smid, on the other hand, are going to be very difficult to get rid of. Their contracts aren’t up until a year after the big cap crunch hits too, which is unfortunate. It’s not all bad though, because the Flames will need cap-space the following season to re-sign Bennett and Hudler. If Treliving can weather the crunch in the summer of 2016, the following year should work itself 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.

  • 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.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Can anyone explain to me the RoR contract? How does it benefit him? How does it benefit the Sabres? Is it a violation of the collective agreement? If not how might it impact Gio’s contract or for that matter Franson going forward?

    • piscera.infada

      Technically, O’Reilly benefits because players don’t have to pay into escrow on signing bonuses. Therefore, Ryan O’Reilly is only deducted the (let’s say) 15% escrow on $1 million per season as opposed to 15% of $7.5 million per season. This is strange because it limits the escrow burden on O’Reilly, seemingly shifting it onto other players. Seems like O’Reilly may catch some guff from the Players Association for it.

      The Sabres benefit, because signing bonuses don’t count as salary for the purposes of a buy-out. Technically, when the player’s “bought-out” he won’t be “signing in perpetuity”, which means that isn’t paid the signing bonus per year. Thus, while that amount is part of the cap now, if the Sabres buy him out, they only have to eat 2/3 of the remaining $1 million per, over double the remaining length of the contract.

      Again, technically, there isn’t anything wrong with that. O’Reilly has hedged his bets that he’ll play the remainder of the contract without getting bought-out. Some may argue that Buffalo is “circumventing the spirit of the salary cap” vis-a-vis buy out penalties, by structuring the contract in such a way that it greatly limits the penalties for buying out such an onerous contract.

      That said, I doubt the league has grounds to reject the contract or penalize Buffalo, but I guarantee there will be an “O’Reilly clause” in the next CBA.

      I’m not sure this works for Giordano, because any year he’s bought out is likely his last–you would think his play would have deteriorated too quickly due to age, making the contract burdensome. The narrative for his contract will likely be centered around “security”, making a contract like this moot. Then add in the fact that the escrow avoidance would likely rub other players the wrong way, I’m not sure you’d want to go down that path. O’Reilly’s a different cat though…

      • Burnward

        Also, if there’s another lockout ROR is still guaranteed to get paid.

        I just want to say all you people that are willing to trade Gio are fahking nuts. They’ll get it done. Too much internet insider crap going on with Gio at the moment. He’s not seriously looking for 9 per over 8 years. He isn’t stunned.

        • piscera.infada

          It doesn’t unless he’s bought out. As I stated above, his full $7.5 million goes against the cap as long as he is on the roster.

          For the example of a buyout, let’s say he’s bought out after year four of the deal. If his “base salary” was $7.5 million dollars, the buy-out penalty would be $15 million (2/3 of the remaining salary), spread-out over the next 6 years (double the remaining years of the contract after year four [so 3 years remaining, times 2, equals ‘6’]). As such, Buffalo would be charged $2.5 million per year for the next 6 (!) years as a penalty for buying him out.

          Under his current contract though, of which only $1 million is “base salary” per year. If a buy-out occurred after year four, the buy-out penalty would be $2 million (2/3 of the remaining salary), spread-out over the next 6 years. Thus, a penalty of $0.33 million per year for the next six years (thus, the penalty if greatly mitigated).

          As I understand though (and this is what I’m not clear on), if O’Reilly is bought-out, he no longer receives the signing bonuses for subsequent years. As such, he either a) banks on making it to the completion of the deal, or b) banks on still being able to command a sizeable contract upon being bought-out.

          • Parallex

            Additionally it offers him a bit of Strike/lockout protection as bonuses are upfront money. So if any labour stoppage occurs so long as it occurs prior to July 1 they’ll get paid.

          • Parallex

            Again between you, generalfanager and reading about escrow on line I think I get it. Might this now become the format for players who should be getting bridge contracts? I suspect every teams capologist is looking hard at the impact of this. I also expect that the League and the PA will also be looking at this (the high end guys will think this okay but the midrange and lower guys will want this changed).

            Do performance bonuses work the same way or are they subject to escrow?

  • T&A4Flames

    If we could work Franson into our cap for the next few years, it’d be great; damn would our D look solid. But, what is Franson waiting on? Surely he’s fielded a few offers. Is he looking for a chance to win? Does he like and trust BB? If we could sign him to something in the 4.5 range, do it. More than that, our cap situation becomes increasingly difficult. However, anything less than Wideman’s contract would be a solid win. Then try to trade Wideman and Raymond for Okposo and we should have a team that could go all the way this year.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    My guess is that Franson is waiting for a contract in the 6.5-7.0 million range on a non-contender. He is likely willing to take less on a cup contender…But those teams aren’t biting!

  • Greg

    If you can move wideman and sign Franson at roughly the same $, I’m all for it. But you’d have to wonder why anyone would trade assets for wideman if they can have Franson for free at the same price.

    Ergo, I don’t see it happening, as much as I’d like it, don’t think we have the cap room to add more on the backend with the pending raises forthcoming.

    • The Last Big Bear

      Because Wideman is better than Franson, and is I nly signed for 2 seasons, while you’d probably have to roll the dice on 6 or so years of Franson.

  • RKD

    They could sign him if they really wanted to, maybe he needs to lower his asking price. If teams don’t want to pay a premium for this guy or even meet his ask then he will keep sitting on the sidelines. Before everyone trades Gio out of town, maybe Treliving can creatively structure a deal to the Flames liking. Engelland should be moved, it is possible Smid retires or goes on long term. Wideman will come off the books in a couple of years as well. I know they have a lot of forwards, but I would prefer they keep improving in some positions there. Why not move Mason Raymond out too?

  • Parallex

    Guys there is something rotten in the state of Franson! He is still not signed yet but he is supposedly the best D UFA! He is the best UFA but was in LaViolettes doghouse? A good coach who like Hartley pushes his players? Oh and you don’t think teams are using advanced stats too? Even the Flames are paying attention when you consider Backlund and Frolik signings. So foot speed? Bad agent? Or what he is asking makes keeping Gio a bargain. Or is he another ex-leaf head case? But the longer he is unsigned the bigger the smell of rot. Red flags all over this guy. I like Kent a lot but he is wrong on this one and very very bad for the Flames. Five years to sit in Hartleys doghouse? No way.

  • Parallex

    Here is the information of the development camp, I excluded the fitness training which is Monday

    Date: Tuesday, July 7 – Skill Development

    Groups A & B Time: 10:30 a.m.

    Groups C & D Time: 12:15 p.m.

    Location: Canadian Olympic Park (COP) – WinSport

    Date: Wednesday, July 8 – Skill Development

    Groups A & B Time: 11:30 a.m.

    Groups C & D Time: 1:15 p.m.

    Location: Canadian Olympic Park (COP) – WinSport

    Date: Thursday, July 9 – Scrimmage

    Time: 9:30 a.m.

    Location: Canadian Olympic Park (COP) – WinSport

    Date: Friday, July 10 – Skill Development

    Groups A & B Time: 9:00 a.m.

    Groups C & D Time: 10:15 a.m.

    Location: Canadian Olympic Park (COP) – WinSport

    The breakdown of the groups can be found on the Flames website.

  • Graham

    Big guy, but slow and doesn’t play physical. Likely wants a five year deal in or around 5 million. Not sure I would spend that kind of money for what you get.