Should the Leafs Bring Back Cody Franson?

During his introductory press conference, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock told reporters that Toronto will once again become a prime destination for free agent talent. Well, that didn’t take very long, did it?

Appearing on TSN 1050 yesterday evening, Nashville Predators defenceman Cody Franson told Bill Hayes and Dave McCarthy that he’d be very much interested in returning to Toronto.

“100%. I’ve always said that I loved it in Toronto – it’s been reported that I grew up a Toronto fan a number of times and it’s the truth. I enjoyed playing in that city and definitely I’m hopeful that Toronto’s in the mix come July 1st. My phone will definitely be on and hoping they’re one of the teams that calls.”

That’s a little surprising to hear, considering the Leafs traded Franson, along with Mike Santorelli, to the Predators just a few short months ago. In return, Toronto received a first round pick (24th overall) in the upcoming draft, as well as prospect Brendan Leipsic and veteran centre Olli Jokinen (who was later flipped for a late round draft selection). 

Franson spent four seasons in Toronto and was a mainstay in the top four. A rare mix of size and offensive skill, and with a valuable right-handed shot to boot, Franson put up 115 points in 236 games with the Leafs. 

Despite his strong showings, Toronto seemed hesitant to commit. Franson was signed to one-year deal after one-year deal at a relatively low dollar figure. You’d think after so many “show me” contracts, the Leafs would have signed him to a multi-year deal, but instead used Franson’s RFA status against him to keep his cap hit down. Ultimately, it worked out well – they were able to flip his attractive $3.3M contract at the deadline just before Franson became an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Apparently, somehow, he still wants to come back.

The question is not whether Toronto should be interested in Cody Franson – they should be. The question is how much is he really worth? It seems like free agent defenceman of Franson’s calibre are always said to be looking for $5M per year on at least a four year contract – that’s always where the conversation goes first, but there are a couple of things working against Franson that could potentially keep his cost down.

There’s actually a relatively large group of top four defenceman that will become unrestricted free agents on July 1st, and while Franson is certainly one of the most attractive options – one of the most skilled and only 27-years old – the supply and demand could work against him. Mike Green, Jeff Petry, Christian Ehrhoff, Zybnek Michalek, Francois Beauchemin, and Andrej Sekera, among others, are all looking for new contracts.

Beyond that, Franson played pretty well in Nashville, but the numbers certainly didn’t come easy. Franson scored only four points in 23 games for the Predators, and his average ice time of 15:25 minutes per game essentially made him their sixth defenceman. It shouldn’t move the needle too much, but that performance might lead some teams to value him at a lower dollar amount. 

If Toronto can find a way to sign Franson for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $4M a year for four years, I’d say there’s no reason to not jump all over that. As that number creeps up closer to $5M and five years and beyond, my interest in bringing him back drops significantly. It’s not that I don’t think Franson deserves the long-term commitment and the money, but that’s not the kind of deal a rebuilding team should be signing. At that point, I start considering my other options, like a cheaper free agent or the internal promotion of one of my youngsters.

      • CMpuck

        Wow we have Burke…

        Wow we have Babcock…

        Um… maybe it’s the players that suck so maybe it isn’t a great idea to just give raises to stiffs like Kadri and Franson that you proved you can’t win with…

        And ignore that Franson is a borderline healthy scratch on a good team like the Predators.

        So Leafs Nation wants to hand a big contract for a guy that has a couple cute fancy stats and ignore that Cody is already two steps behind the rest of the league when it comes to foot speed, he’s has a habit of making God awful turnovers that result in top quality scoring chances for the opponents and if that’s not enough he only puts up a consistent effort in contract years.

        At what point do you demand the organization to set a standard (i.e. would a contending team sign this talent at that given contract) and get rid of players that don’t fit the bill.

        Franson is about to get his Pavel Kubina like payday and people want the Leafs to be the hicks that sign that deal?

        • CMpuck

          There are so many things wrong with this comment, I don’t even know where to start. First off, if you are not willing to give a raise to Kadri and Franson then you are a terrible manager. What are you going to pay a 50-70 point two way centerman 2 mill like he was getting before? Give me a break. Are you going to pay a 40-50 point d-man 3 mill like he was getting before? Give your head a shake. Kadri was the Leafs best all around player this past season and is not paid a lot. There is literally no reason to hate on him. Franson was the last d-man on the Preds because they have by far the best defense core in the league. IMO it’s not even close. They have very few star forwards however and that was their downfall. Franson was by far the Leafs best d-man when he was traded (best advanced stats, best “standard” stats – whatever you want). His value has decreased from his time with the Preds and I am sure he is willing to take a discount to go to the Leafs considering how much he wants to be here. The Leafs will not be paying him 5 million a year – you do not need to worry about that, Shanahan and co. know better than to do something like that. However, with that said, a contract at around 4 million for 4 years is very reasonable for what you are getting in Franson and I think the Leafs will be able to sign him at that money. You do need an NHL roster next year and Franson is a good piece to have considering that. You are not giving him a very expensive contract and you will get good value.

          • CMpuck

            Kadri is a contributor on a playoff team so cut bait. Franson is barely a contributor so don’t give him a fat contract.

            Kadri isn’t a 50-70 point center, he’s a 31 point center. He doesn’t have a two way game.

            Franson isn’t a consistent 40-50 point defenseman, he’s slow and is a liability in his own end. Not a winning ingredient.

            Calling Franson a 40-50 point blueliner is like calling Clarkson a 30 goal scorer.

            Beyond that as a fan, I don’t want another season of either of these stiffs. Change the script already.

          • TGT23

            Kadri will easily be a 50-70 point producer in his prime which, if you signed him would be what you are paying for. That is unobjectionable. He had 39 points this season playing in just 73 games on a terrible team. I don’t know where you came up with the number 31 but alright. If you don’t think he has a two way game you clearly just didn’t watch the games which is respectable but don’t pretend that you somehow know what you’re talking about in that case.

            As for Franson, 115 points in 236 games with the Leafs equals about 0.5 points per game which is the equivalent of 41 points in a full season (40-50 point producer). Simple math. You hate on these players because you hate the team. This is typical of many sports fans. When the team is bad they overlook the fact that some of the players are good and immediately jump to the conclusion that all of the players are bad. That’s just a dumb oversight.

          • CMpuck

            It’s nothing more than your imagination to call Kadri a 50-70 point center. For a franchise to run on this assumption, let alone invest 20+ million? Glad you’re not running the Leafs. Used to read the same bs about Wellwood. Magic hands is going put up 50 points.

            39 points WOW, look Dixon Ward, Kadri is hunting you down on the all time scoring list. -40 points, is there anyone in the league with half a pulse that can’t put up 39 points in a top six C role? That’s literally nothing special.

            Kadri gets opportunity and does nothing special with it. There isn’t a playoff team in the league that needs a Nazem, he’s recyclable talent, nothing more, flush him.

            Gunna look at Kessel’s last five years too? Take a longer sample size to overlook obvious holes. That’s dumb.

            Franson two years ago had Josh Gorges (i.e. plug) trade value coming off a hideous year and this year he was exposed in Nashville.

            I love the Leafs, I’ve seen the Leafs moronically bring back plugs, no more thanks. these hissy fits make for shallow arguments.

          • Kanuunankuula

            How has Kadri been given a change? Playing with Winnik and Santo at best and Clarkson at worst. He’s been the scoring threat on his line all year around, second PP2 almost the whole year. Do you honestly think that he’d have that many points if you replaced Bozak with him?

            He’s a good player, not necessarily a 1C, but a really good 2C. If you think we should throw that away, then you really do deserve the success that the Leafs have had.

          • CMpuck

            Minutes are a chance, PP is a chance. A center in a top six role should drive scoring. If he can’t be a horse in the middle of the top six, WHY DO YOU WANT HIM? really good 2C is a borderline 1C, Kadri is a classic example of 2C or bust (useless in bottom six). Put Holland in that spot and he racks up 39 points as well. Just a guy.

            But he’s great because Winnik sucks or he’s great because Bozak sucks, ok, tapping out, hand Kadri the spotlight at 1C where he can be exposed so I can be proven right like I usually do with this team.

          • Jeremy Ian

            Curious: how would you “plug” the holes if all you have are plugs and, at least for the time being, what you are a lot of holes and you need plugs?

            The stars (as opposed to the plugs) are not exactly abundant. What do you think, the Leafs are just going to snap their fingers and fill all the holes with 1st round picks, one-sided trades, and UFA’s who take a discount just to play for our vaunted team?

            Be realistic.

          • TGT23

            39 points in 73 games equals over 40 points in a full season (probably 43-45 points). Saying that Kadri can never be a 50-70 point producer is assuming that he makes NO progress. He is just entering his prime. You are crazy to think that he can’t hit 50 points. There is actually proof that he can. 2013-14 50 points. 2012-13 44 points in 48 games. What you are saying is not backed by anything but your own hatred for the player. Kadri has had mixed linemates (very few of them actually legit top six players). He has not been given a good opportunity to succeed except when he has been put on the top line. And even then, Carlyle left them no time to gel before he was right back to Bozak as the top line center.

            Franson was not “exposed” in Nashville. He was just buried behind an all-star defense core. You cannot blame him for that. You really want to talk about the 2013-14 season in which he was playing injured practically the entire year as support for your argument that the Leafs should not bring him back. Even with the nagging injury he still got 30 points I believe. Far more than most other d-men in his position could have gotten.

            If these two were not on the Leafs, you would be dying to get them. It’s true, good teams build through the draft (which is why I don’t understand your hatred for Kadri). However, most teams also have some free agents. Take Tampa Bay for example. They have Stralman. Free agent who they got last summer. Franson is very similar. What you propose sounds a lot like Edmonton. Draft stars but give them no support and therefore have a terrible team. I’ll pass thanks.

          • silentbob

            You’re right, you can’t write Kadri off as a bad player and they certainly shouldn’t give him away “just because”, but you also can’t call him/value him as a 70 point player when he has yet to have even one 70 point season (and no, 44 points in 48 games doesn’t count). And you can’t say he is only given the chance to succeed when playing with Kessel when claiming he is a good player, if he is a good player worth keeping on his own merit, he shouldn’t have to play Kessel in order to be a good player.

            Franson is a good, prime-aged 2nd pairing D-man. The Leafs don’t need that right now.

          • TGT23

            Nazem has seasons of 39, 50, and 44 points among his three full-seasons… While playing on a 2nd line where his linemates are usually 3rd, 4th, or AHL quality players…

            So, how exactly can you actually say he is a 31-point player?

          • TGT23

            You could also make the argument that he was almost a point per game player during the short season with the same quality of players. He spent all of that season with one of Kulemin or Komarov on the one wing and I think combined they had 10 goals and spent 2/3 of the season with his other wing occupied by Frattin or Macarthur. He only spent a 3rd of those 48 games with a legitimate top 6 forward and that was Lupul and during that stretch Kadri’s ppg numbers started going down. The argument can be made that during the lockout shortened season he was offensively dominant but since then hasn’t been the same player offensively and has regressed every year. The argument that he can’t produce because of the quality of wingers he plays with is moot because he’s produced before with similar quality of wingers.

  • silentbob

    At 4 million x 4 years, he is a bargain. After watching the Marlies closely this past year, unless there are surprises to come at training camp,only Percy seemed ready to make the jump to the NHL and with the new philosophy of not rushing players, the Leafs will need some defenseman to round out the roster.
    I expect Phaneuf, Polak possibly Gardiner plus the core of forwards. to be moved at the draft or before September so that leaves Reilly, Robidas, Erixon, and Percy. Do they resign MacWillians and promote Granberg as well? Only if he is ready.
    I believe Babcock could turn Franson into a reliable 2A and possibly a 1B defensemen.
    Remember the “pain”? Look at the potential 2016 defence and feel it… That’s a ticket to Austin Matthews!

    • When considering who makes the team from the Marlies and who doesn’t you must also consider waiver status. Granberg has to clear waivers to go to the Marlies next year as does Carrick, McKegg, and MacWilliams. Now I doubt anyone will claim MacWilliams but the other three are still young and may not clear. An important attribute for a rebuilding team isn’t just whether the player is ready it’s also about deciding whether you want to run the risk of losing an asset for nothing. It’s the sole reason Carter Ashton made the team out of training camp this past year and McKegg, Carrick and Granberg will be in the same situations. If any of the three are not going to make the team out of camp then they’ll probably be traded for a draft pick.

      • silentbob

        If the guys from the Marlies can’t make one of the worst teams in the NHL and you want to retain them, could they just not make the team out of training camp and develop further with the Marlies? There is simply no reason to expose someone to the waiver wire if you want to keep them.

        • CMpuck

          In order for them to go down to the Marlies they’ll have to clear waivers. The CBA waiver eligibility rules aren’t the same as they used to be. Once a player comes off their entry level deal and has played a certain amount of games at the pro level including both the NHL and AHL games then they must clear waivers before they are able to go down to the AHL at the beginning of the year. It’s to keep teams like Detroit from keeping guys in the minors for 5 years while they develop. Carrick, Granberg, and McKegg have all played over the certain amount of games required and are all coming off their entry level deals as of July 1st. Thus the leafs will only have 3 options with them: either a)Keep them on the NHL roster b)Trade them or c) put them on waivers and hope they clear so they can go down to the Marlies. I believe they’ll all be on the NHL roster next year as Carrick is the type of player that Babcock loves, a Glendening type. McKegg in the limited games and minutes he’s played at the NHL level hasn’t been pushed around and looked like he belonged and just needed to play more minutes in more of an offensive role, plus his play with the Marlies in March will help his cause. And Granberg will be there because they won’t want to lose risk losing him for nothing and I don’t see them signing any free agent defenseman even if Phaneuf leaves which means there will be probably 3 spots open if they want to carry 7 defenseman.

  • while I believe there will be changes to the Leafs, perhaps Phaneuf, Bozak and Lupul. The temptation to keep a very excellent scorer will be too much and they will try to challenge him to accept the new regime. They will add a few pieces through free agency, but I do not believe at this time that a big free agent acquisition is going to happen.

  • Benjamin

    Yes, if the stars align.

    He was excellent here relative to the contracts we handed him, I think we can all admit that. And Harte of the Lion is right, I don’t think we can reliably count on any of this year’s Marlies making the jump, save Percy if he stays healthy. He could be an excellent hold-over for a few years while things get sorted.

    Now, about those stars aligning.

    A) They’d need to unload some anchors beforehand. Can’t forget to start regaining cap flexibility just because Babcock shows up.

    B) The term can’t be longer than, say, 4 years. His mobility isn’t getting any better so I’m thinking the risk starts to rise pretty quickly after he hits 30.

    C) The cap hit shouldn’t be over $5M.

    I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t get a bigger offer, but people definitely slip through the cracks in free agency, crazier things have happened.

    • silentbob

      Look who is back… Hey Oilers Dynasty, where are mom and dad today? I wish they would monitor your computer use more closely, have a “pudding”cup and go Away! LOL

  • silentbob

    FYI, I am a fan of many of our players, own their jerseys and have cheered for them with a passion however, we were not a “good team” last year, or the year before that, and so on and so on..
    Regardless of where we stood in the standings, when Carlyle was fired we were an eighth place team at best, ready to make an early first round exit. Anyone who believes we were a better team is being unrealistic.

    @oldhockeyfan, this team will not be competitive for the next few years and they will stock the cupboards with early draft picks/high-end talent. While Phil Kessel may not bring the return we originally sent to Boston, Kessel plus ??? might bring back two first-round picks, 2015/16 or 16/17 and I believe if another team offer that to us, Shanahan will fly that GM in on the private jet to get the deal done. We can only hope any team that agrees to that trade tanks as badly as the Leafs did when acquiring him.

    @Adam, if they trade Kessel, JVR, Lupul, Bozak, Phaneuf, UFA’s Booth, Sill, Orr, Smith and Lindstriom are gone, there could be 8 or more roster spots available. I don’t know how many Marlies will make the team however Frattin, Percy, Kozun, Brennan, Froese McKegg and Carrick could with a strong performance at camp.
    It is also possible we get A+ prospects from these trades who are NHL ready.
    As Justin Fisher wrote, to bring back Franson to help fill the roster at a reasonable cap hit for 3-4 years would be a great move however I think he will get 5-6 years at 30 million plus from another team.

    Any Marlies players making the team out of camp can be expected to stay for the year, so the issue of clearing waivers should not be an issue.

    Am I alone or does anyone else find it amusing that a week before we got Babcock the fans on these boards and the talk shows were onboard for a massive rebuild by trading the core of this team, yet the moment we sign Babcock everyone wants to keep the players who are the problem. I believe that firing Carlyle, installing Horachuk and changing the system they played was a Shanaplan test to see the type of players he had on the team.

    The results of the test? An Giant F!

    Most of the players gave up and threw in the towel on the management, coach their teammates us fans and the season. The same attitude Kessel gave Steve Spott when he was told of the new break out strategy the team was implementing in October.
    Kessel told his coach, “I’m not doing it”. No matter his talent, it is time to move on.

    Perhaps Babcock can turn these players around but this core will never win a Stanley Cup. Shanahan and Babcock have said they’re not building a team to make the playoffs, they are building a team that will challenge for the Stanley Cup year after year… “Chicago, Anaheim, L.A…etc.”

    And a final note… Oilers Dynasty, go crawl back into your hole, unless you can contribute something other than written diarrhea, we are not interested.

    • CMpuck

      I understand. I was just pointing out that where your comment said to promote Granberg from the AHL only if he’s ready well they won’t really have a choice because if he isn’t ready then he’s still going to be on the team or risk losing him via waivers. I think part of why we’ll be worse next year is there will be young players who may not be NHL ready making the team just because management doesn’t want to risk losing them on waivers. Granberg will be either on the NHL roster next year or traded because I doubt he clears waivers. I will find it interesting to see next year when the Leafs name their opening night roster and their top 4 centres are Kadri, Holland, McKegg, and Carrick unless they get Wiess back in the Phaneuf deal to Detroit.

  • TGT23

    I have mixed feelings about the guy. I mean how can you not like a guy from Sicamous God’s country. Just a small town in the interior that also produced some guy named Shea Weber.

    Cody seemed to be one of the few leafs who stepped up to the plate during the total collapse of the club. He obviously is enthused about coming back and it appears he has leadership qualities. His offensive game is solid. But and it is a big but, his defensive game seriously suffers with his lack of foot speed.

    That plus glaring give aways. But name a leaf defenceman who didn’t suffer from this illness last year.

    With Phaneuf likely to be moved soon, it indeed might be an idea to bring back as a veteran along with Polak to lead the younger defencemen. As others have stated, the leafs have over paid far too often when it comes to free agency. So the $4 million figure does sound about right.

    There is also something about dealing a guy getting a first round pick back along with a prospect and a veteran who you trade for a late pick and then getting that player back on the roster.

    I recall Brad McCrimmon costing the leafs a second pick as the leafs got him for a short run for the playoffs. He immediately went back to the club he was traded from to join the leafs.

    If the new brain trust plays it right, it should be fascinating to see what Kessel, Phaneuf, Bozak, Lupul etc. could bring at next years’s trade dead line. Cody brought a late first round pick so obviously despite the huge contracts one would expect at least a first round pick for some of the above mentioned players as teams desperately try to load up for the playoffs.

  • Gary Empey

    Franson appears to be a nice person. He does play the point well. One of the Leafs biggest problems was inability to get the puck out of their own zone. If the management team decide to hire a free agent defenceman I expect they would be looking for one that can make that pass up to a forward as you see Rielly often does.

    One of the Swedish defencemen on the Marlies Petter Granberg recently made the Swedish National team.
    I can’t understand how he can make his national team while not able to crack the lineup on one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL.

    Now before someone says he only barely made the Swedish national team please stop to think how well the Leafs would do against against them

    Re- Kadri Center seems to be his natural position. He does have big trouble on faceoffs though. This puts the Leafs back on their heels after every draw. I am not sure what the solution to this will be. He has tried wing but was not as affective.

    Gauthier is reported to be good at faceoffs. I am not sure how Nylander is as I am only able to get Marlies highlights here in the Philippines.

  • Jeremy Ian

    I am with the fence-sitters on this. Depends completely on the trades for Phaneuf et al and the terms. There was a time that Franson and Gardiner made a decent pairing. After that, we saw some pretty nauseating defense. So, I don’t know…

  • TGT23

    I look forward to Nazem signing a long-term deal and getting a REAL shot under Babcock. If only so the haters can cry about it all season.

    As for this article, no, I don’t think they should bring Franson back. He’ll likely demand a No Movement Clause which I am not a fan of. I mean, I have no evidence to prove he will ask for one but if I’m resigning with a team that traded me I’m probably asking for one.