I’ve always been a Cody Franson fan.
The 6’5″ 215lb RH defenseman has always struck me as being under appreciated, almost to the point of being abused, especially by the Toronto Maple Leafs who signed him to a series of 1 year contracts.
During my Sunday morning trip around the hockey news sites and blogs, I ran into more than a few “experts” who think signing Franson as a free agent would be a big mistake and are creating a narrative that has no basis in reality.
Most of these self proclaimed gurus, obviously haven’t take the time to look closely at the player or the situations he’s been placed in over the years with Nashville and Toronto.
So, upon digging a little deeper, I discovered an exceptional piece of work from Sportnets’ Steven Burch.
Since 2012-13 the On-Ice SV% at 5v5 for Franson is .917 (90th out of 123 defenders with 1,000-plus minutes of ice time). The median On-Ice SV% for that same group is .922. However, he also started 38.1 percent of his shifts in the Defensive Zone—the highest rate of any of the 123 players in the group. And when comparing possession metrics, Franson’s teammates had a weighted average Corsi For % of 43.9 percent, 121st out of the 123 over the same two-year span—Jake Gardiner ranked 123rd by the same metric.
So Franson arguably was starting in the toughest situations in the entire NHL the past two seasons—he had the highest proportion of Defensive Zone starts, with the worst teammates in terms of possession, in front of below average goaltending. It seems curious that anyone would argue that Franson has been “sheltered” defensively based on those statistics. But they do, because they’re not looking beyond the eye test.
I encourage you to read the full article as it may change your mind about this players’ value but here are a couple of other money quotes.
To put it plainly, Franson produces offensively amongst the elite D-men in the NHL. His possession impacts are amazingly consistent, and have never been negative. He has shown an ability to both reduce shot-attempts against and increase shot-attempts for. And goals-for and against improve significantly when he is on the ice compared to what one would expect based on his usage.
Just to hammer in that point about Franson’s offensive ability….
So, here we are 5 days after free agency and there is a superb young defenseman sitting without a contract.
There are some lingering questions about Franson’s footspeed and his lack of physicality despite his size but, really folks, who cares?
Franson is a very good possession player who scores at an elite level both at even strength and on the power play.
We don’t know what Franson’s contract ask is but when you consider the Edmonton Oilers just signed Andrej Sekera to a 6 year X $5.5M contract anything at or near that number should be a bargain for a team that signs Franson…especially when you consider Franson is only 27 while Sekera is 29.
I expect some very smart GM is sitting waiting for Franson’s price to drop a little or is trying create some cap space to sign him and I wouldn’t be surprised if that team is the Calgary Flames.
Kent Wilson at Flames Nation makes a pretty compelling argument for the Flames adding Franson:
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.
Wilson alludes to the “complicated” cap issues Calgary would face in signing Franson but the Flames have way too many forwards on their roster and will have to move a few and it’s very likely that Ladislav Smid will be permanently on LTIR until his $3.5M cap hit expires.
The Flames could certainly pull the trigger on adding Franson…the question is, will they?