Somehow, Cody Franson, one of the highest profile defencemen in this year's free agent class, is still on the open market. With many of the prime free agents, including Andrej Sekera and Mike Green, snatched up on July 1, it seemed as if Franson's time would be right around the corner.
We are now three weeks into free agency, amidst arbitration dates and fast approaching August, and Franson... is still an unrestricted free agent.
Does this mean his salary demands and expectations were too high for what was, by all accounts, a reasonable free agency period? Not necessarily; he just hasn't found the right team yet, and part of that could be due to waiting for interested teams to sort out their cap situations.
Franson spoke to Vancouver's TSN1040 earlier, giving us an update on just where he's at. Major props to Maple Leafs Hot Stove for doing the dirty work and transcribing his interview.
"There’s probably five or six teams right now that we’re talking to, and there’s some very interested ones, but some teams are in cap situations and all the rest that comes with it," Franson told TSN1040. He refused to mention all the teams currently interested in his services, but did drop notes on a couple specifically asked about:
- His hometown Vancouver Canucks do not appear to be interested at the moment,
- Neither would a team he played for this past season, the Toronto Maple Leafs, although he says he left things on a good note there and would be open to returning,
- And the Boston Bruins are interested in him.
Calgary never comes up, but it's interesting to note what was said about Boston: with their trading Dougie Hamilton to the Flames, they need more help on the backend.
Tie that in with the fact that Franson talked about the need to actually contribute to his team - something that did not work out with the Predators, and made it clear to him that he wants to actually be needed - could possibly leave Franson thinking the Flames wouldn't be a good fit. After all, they had one of the highest scoring bluelines in the NHL last season, and Franson could be afraid of being trapped in a redundant situation again.
Nashville had a glut of right siders in Shea Weber, Ryan Ellis, and Seth Jones; Calgary has Hamilton, Dennis Wideman, and Deryk Engelland. There still is, however, room for him: the Flames could split Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie, both lefties, up, and have Franson play with one of them, while Hamilton plays with the other. Make no mistake about it, there's definitely a spot in the Flames' top four for Franson.
Alternatively, more room could be coming in via trade. Brad Treliving has shown us this offseason that he's interested in boosting his team's possession, and Franson, a positive possession player throughout his career, would be an instant fit for Treliving's goal.
Franson said there were teams interested in acquiring his services, but those teams had cap issues to work out. This could easily apply to the Flames: while they currently have room, they still have five restricted free agents to sign, including three arbitration cases. That will certainly put a drain on the cap space they currently have, not to mention potentially complicate things for next season, when several key players require extensions.
So maybe, as has been speculated throughout the off-season, the Flames are trying to find a taker for Wideman? Behind Hamilton, Wideman is the Flames' second-most expensive defenceman. He still has two years left on his deal at $5.25 million per, and a no movement clause just to complicate things.
Franson would be an upgrade on Wideman, though. He's younger (he'll be 28 to start the season, to Wideman's 32), he's the stronger corsi player, and he still scores a fair amount - and is a better bet to repeat his past season's performance than Wideman is.
Franson, in Hartley's active defence system, could see a new career high in points, while Wideman is far more likely to regress.
So are the Flames one of the teams Franson is talking to? Maybe; it would certainly fit everything Treliving has done so far this off-season, and the fact that Franson is still waiting for potential suitors to be able to fit him in is a good sign. There's certainly a place for him in Calgary.
The dream for a top four defence consisting of Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, and Cody Franson is still alive. And wouldn't that be among the class of the NHL?