Despite coming off what can only be described as a disappointing finish to his 2014-15 campaign, Cody Franson will still be a highly sought after commodity in this summer’s UFA market. At 27 years of age and entering what should be the prime years of his career, Franson can count on receiving a fairly substantial hike in pay from his $3.3 million salary from a season ago.
With teams across the league now putting far more focus on locking up their own players to long-term deals, as opposed to going big-game hunting via free agency, the availability of quality players is becoming more and more scarce. With that being the case, it should come as no surprise that many seem to believe Franson is all but guaranteed to hit the jackpot on July 1. While the chances of the Edmonton Oilers throwing their hat in the ring are fairly good, expecting Peter Chiarelli to enter into a bidding war for the former Toronto Maple Leafs rearguard would not be realistic.
— theScore NHL (@theScoreNHL) February 15, 2015
From Nashville To Toronto, Back To The Preds
It is no secret the Oilers have always had an interest in the 2005 third round pick, dating back to his first go-round with the Predators organization. In the summer of 2011, David Poile decided to package the towering rearguard with an injured Matthew Lombardi and sent the pair to the Maple Leafs in exchange for Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney. At the time, it was a move that left many across the hockey world scratching their collective heads and Toronto with an upcoming 23-year-old blueliner.
Despite showing signs of development in his overall game and morphing into a key figure on the Maple Leafs power play over the last four years, the two sides were unable to agree to an extension prior to last season’s NHL Trade Deadline. With his hands essentially tied, Dave Nonis decided to move the asset for what he could. To his credit, he was able to pry Nashville’s 2015 first round pick and prospect Brendan Leipsic out of his counterpart and all he had to add to the deal was Mike Santorelli.
Again, the trade was no surprise but the fact he went back to the Preds was. On a blueline which already featured the likes of Ryan Ellis, Seth Jones, Roman Josi, Shea Weber and the surprising Mattias Ekholm, the addition seemed rather odd. While his defensive shortcomings were occasionally overlooked during his time with the Leafs, thanks in large part to his booming point shot and puck-moving ability, it was those shortcomings that proved to be problematic during his second tour of duty with the franchise that originally drafted him.
Same Old Song And Dance?
In a blink-of-an-eye, Franson went from a go-to-guy in Toronto to nothing more than a spare part on what was arguably the league’s deepest blueline. It was not a good fit for either side. However, in a place like Edmonton, the native of Sicamous, British Columbia would go back to being used in all situations and logging a ton of minutes on a nightly basis. Certainly a positive from the player’s standpoint but from an organizational point of view, one could argue the complete opposite.
If Franson was to sign with the Oilers, he would instantly become their best defenceman. Problem with that is, just like Jeff Petry before him, he is not a top pairing guy. That isn’t meant to be a knock on either player but if the plan is to fork over a lengthy extension at a price tag north of $5 million per season, Edmonton must ensure they place said player in a situation he can succeed in.
Franson Is A Proven Point Producer
As a No.3 defenceman and power play quarterback, Franson would likely be worth such a commitment. Unlike Petry, the former Vancouver Giants rearguard has proven to be a consistent point producer at the NHL level and one can only imagine the sort of totals he could put up playing alongside the trio of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and Connor McDavid. It is no secret; the Oilers need to add another right-handed shooting defencemen and preferably one who can run a power play.
The fit is obvious but after the Montreal Canadiens signed Petry to a $33 million extension over six years, the asking price likely went up. With that said, if the plan of attack is for Peter Chiarelli to go out and pursue Cody Franson in the free agent market, it had better be part one of a two-part maneuver. Again, bringing in a player of his caliber and not addressing the need for a top pairing defenceman could prove to be counter-productive and that is something this organization can simply ill-afford.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.