What We Learned: Why are teams waiting on Cody Franson?

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St. Louis Blues' T.J. Oshie and Toronto Maple Leafs' Cody Franson go after the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)

Elliott stops 27 shots as Blues shut out Maple Leafs 3-0

St. Louis Blues' T.J. Oshie and Toronto Maple Leafs' Cody Franson go after the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)

The apparent sticking point in all these Cody Franson negotiations, which have stretched on impossibly long to this point, is that Franson would like a team to sign him for more than one year. Not that he's hard-lining that, but it's definitely a preference.

And the thing is, teams should be falling all over themselves to give him that kind of term.

Franson is 27 years old and to all appearances greatly helps his team. In a lot of respects, he could be considered a high-end No. 3 defenseman or a low-end No. 2. This despite being on rotten Toronto teams for the last three seasons and generally having a lot asked of him. He pushes positive possession, suppresses opponents' shot attempts, generally outscores the other team, and so on. He also makes the teammates with whom he shares the ice post better numbers than they do without him. In short, Franson looks like a defenseman who should be pulling what you'd consider to be, say, Brooks Orpik money. Maybe that's not a good example, so here's a better one: Young(er) Andrei Markov.

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Chart via Emmanuel Perry/War On Ice
Chart via Emmanuel Perry/War On Ice

Markov was 30 years old for most of the 2008-09 season, and continued to get huge-money deals that took up a significant portion of the cap even after the contract under which he played that year ($5.75 million AAV, 11.4 percent of the cap when it began in 2007-08; equivalent to an $8.16 million hit now). That paid him until he was 32. And obviously, Markov's 20s were better than Franson's. No one's saying they weren't. Thus, he “earned” that huge deal — and even one of the two subsequent ones — based on the reputation he rightly garnered as a very good defenseman over several years prior to signing it.

But if you're matching and in some cases bettering a Markov in the beginning of his decline, you're still pretty damn good.

Now, obviously, there are some caveats here. Teams haven't really spent their money all that wisely in the past, and that leads to cap crunches. For instance, the Bruins are a team that is constantly talked about as being a potential landing spot (mainly because they need more than one top-four defenseman on their roster), but we all know how the Bruins' cap situation is. Fair enough. Teams can't spend money they don't have. But as for the ones that are worried about term, well, it seems a little crazy. If you can sign a 28-year-old guy until he's, say, 31 or 32, that's not likely to end up looking too bad even if his decline starts right at his age-30 season. At that point, you may not be too excited to be paying such a player $4-5 million (5.6-7 percent of the cap) but it's not an unbearable load for a guy who starts out at this talent threshold.

Teams were more than happy to splash the cash on Zybnek Michalek ($3.2 million AAV for two years), Francois Beauchemin ($4.5 million for three), and Paul Martin ($4.85 million for four), Franson should be in that conversation as well. It was a soft D market this summer, no question about that, but it didn't stop some guys from getting paid. So it leads one to wonder what all the tire-kicking on Franson is about.

Some of it, I think, is that the Predators didn't seem to like him very much once they paid through the nose for him ahead of the trade deadline, and consequently let him walk without making much of an attempt to bring him back.

Again, Franson has strong career stats: positive numbers for relative possession and goalscoring against middle-pairing competition while starting the majority of shifts in his career buried in his own zone (he did, after all, play 236 games for Toronto). He was a sought-after guy and Nashville acquired him after trading him years ago (for Brett Lebda haha). 

So one has to wonder what poisoned the well so much that in the 28 games he played for the Predators that Franson is now a curiosity of sorts. All the numbers indicate that Franson, as his usage got easier under Peter Laviolette, did a more convincing job of pushing his opponents around. That's, basically, what you want a guy to do. Except in one respect, which is, for many people, the only important respect: 

Yahoo Sports
Yahoo Sports

Why did Franson go from greatly outperforming his teammates in terms of goalscoring to doing so only marginally — which, again, is still better than his teammates — despite an uptick in scoring chances? The answer, you won't be shocked to find, is “bad luck.”

Despite the fact that Franson dramatically increased his 5-on-5 SOG/60 numbers from Toronto to Nashville (4.01 to 5.46; but again, easier competition will do that), the number of goals he scored for the Predators in the regular season was just one, that on the power play. Personal shooting percentage of 2.9 overall and, obviously, 0.0 at evens. The fact that he scored no goals on 28 shots at even strength is obviously a worry, but that SOG/60 number is high enough that it shouldn't be a major concern. Teams, though, are going to have those concerns because that “one goal in 28 games” thing stands out.

This is, also, likely a consequence of Nashville's apparent disinterest. They got the close-up look, and didn't like what they saw enough to even offer the guy a token deal. This after they raised him from his junior days, sent him off to Toronto for a few years, then paid quite a ransom to get him back. He was very much “their guy,” and they appear to have wanted no part. That, too, is going to scare off suitors.

But again, there are teams trying to figure out how they can make it work, even at this late date. Someone is going to sign him; he probably won't end up as a training-camp invitee unlike some other veterans who are still kicking around the free agent market. This isn't a situation where he's going to become Anton Stralman, who went from “He's a fancy-stats darling who can't get a multi-year deal” to “We in the Hockey World collectively and universally agree that this guy is very impressive,” in short order. But he's certainly a slight step below that, and there's still a lot of value there as a consequence.

Whoever does end up signing him might want to consider the benefits of locking him up for three or four years at whatever reasonable dollar figure they can make work. If he's willing to give up AAV for term, they'd be locking in a mega-bargain middle-pairing defenseman. Anything in the neighborhood of $3.5 million would be a steal.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: If you want to live at Ryan Getzlaf's house, all you need is $4.9 million

Arizona Coyotes: It would be expensive for the Coyotes to move to a new city and stay there. But then again they might actually make money for once if they go somewhere else, so...

Boston Bruins: When prospects are like, “Kinda wish I got to fight at this development camp,” maybe that's a problem with their quality.

Buffalo Sabres: Zenon Konopka last played with the Sabres in 2013-14, and is now eyeing a return following a 20-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs that effectively shut him out of the league. And really, who wouldn't want a 34-year-old fighter on the roster?

Calgary Flames: What could possibly go wrong with giving Lance Bouma too much money and too many years? Good lord, he shot 15.4 percent last season and still only scored 16 goals.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes didn't sign Noah Hanifin after just a year of college to send him to the AHL. I'd bet a decent amount of money he sticks with the big club for the full 82. 

Chicago Blackhawks: This seems like the kind of talk from a man who is trying to convince himself that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are “worth every penny.”

Colorado Avalanche: You'd be excited about a new opportunity, too, if your new coach told you your linemates (for training camp, at least) were Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. That's a big step up from Chris Kelly last year.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets sure are spending a lot of money, but one has to wonder to what end. Is this team actually Cup-competitive? With that blueline, it's real tough to say. 

Dallas Stars: Top-six forward to benefit from addition of good top-six forward. You don't say…

Detroit Red Wings: This is good value for Tomas Jurco. Especially if they get the “8-7-15 in 36 games” guy from a year ago, and not the “3-15-19 in 63” one from 2015.

Edmonton Oilers: It turns out that when you build a big new expensive arena with taxpayer money, owners want to use it to get richer rather than make it easier for fans to afford seats. Huh, no way to see this coming, I guess.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers might still be a sleeper pick to move instead of (or in addition to) the Coyotes, right? Like, would that really surprise anybody three or four years from now?

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings back in the playoffs? A truly bold prediction.

Minnesota Wild: Ryan Carter — who's from Minnesota, guys. Minnesota. Where the Wild play — will have a banner hung in his honor at his old high school's rink. That's cool.

Montreal Canadiens: Things are going pretty well for Carey Price lately. So well, in fact, that he apparently won another Sochi gold medal in February.

Nashville Predators: Lots of players seem to not want to play for Wisconsin any more. New Preds signee Jack Dougherty is one of 'em

New Jersey Devils: The Adam Larsson contract is one of those rare instances where, yup, everyone does a-okay for themselves. Larsson gets decent money and assurance of a lengthy payout, and the Devils got a good, young, improving player locked up long-term for relatively short money. 

New York Islanders: This week's Best Sentence In Hockey: “Utilizing the Islanders and this relationship to really launch their brands in and around the New York market is something that we’re very excited about.” Gotta launch those brands!!!

New York Rangers: The Rangers locking up Derek Stepan for less than $7 million per is a steal.

Ottawa Senators: Well, first of all, it's rare to see guys actually get their new deals from arbitration (Alex Chiasson's is only the third since 2011), but second it's rare to see the arbitrator go this hard in one direction. Chiasson will make $1.2 million next season, after the team asked for an award of $1 million, and Chiasson sought $2.475 million.

Philadelphia Flyers: Is “better than they were last year” equal to “good enough to make a difference?” Probably not.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Departing assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald, who took a job with New Jersey, is often talked about as a player-development wizard. And I mean, look how many prospects the Penguins have developed in the last five years or so. 

San Jose Sharks: The Sharks will definitely have a captain next year. Oooo, it should be Joe Thornton!

St. Louis Blues: What will Troy Brouwer's role be next season? Probably not as big as everyone hopes. 

Toronto Maple Leafs: The words “full autonomy” and “Lou Lamoriello” seem worrisome to me, as well. Hope he trades for Travis Zajac.

Vancouver Canucks: Marcus Naslund was recently inducted into the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame. He sent them a nice email about it, which seems like the appropriate level of caring. 

Washington Capitals: Mega-bargain for Braden Holtby. He's worth so much more than a $6.1 million cap hit.

Winnipeg Jets: The fact that you'd have to argue for “sign the really good young defenseman instead of the really good one who's a decade older” is strange. But then again this is the first “The Jets don't need Byfuglien” article that doesn't come off as lazy dog-whistle.

Gold Star Award

OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 21: Jared Cowen #2 of the Ottawa Senators fight with Shawn Thornton #22 of the Florida Panthers during second period action at Canadian Tire Centre on February 21, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 21: Jared Cowen #2 of the Ottawa Senators fight with Shawn Thornton #22 of the Florida Panthers during second period action at Canadian Tire Centre on February 21, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Say what you want, but getting just about anyone — let alone a player of Alex Semin's skill level — for $1.1 million is a pretty good deal. Shawn Thornton makes more than that.

Minus of the Weekend

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 11: Members of 'Nordiques Nation' get fired up prior to the NHL game between the New York Islanders and the Atlanta Thrashers on December 11, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. 1,100 fans from Quebec attended the game to show their support for an NHL team. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 11: Members of 'Nordiques Nation' get fired up prior to the NHL game between the New York Islanders and the Atlanta Thrashers on December 11, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. 1,100 fans from Quebec attended the game to show their support for an NHL team. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Gary Bettman says here that the league isn't focusing on another wave of expansion right now. Thank god. Can you imagine the quality of player that will be at the bottom of league rosters if we get four expansion teams? Two is too many. 

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “Corporal Komarov” is rarin' to go.

Canes get:

Draisaitl

Yakupov

Oilers get:

Justin Faulk.

Signoff

Well, the obvious one. The birthplace of spaghetti and pasta, all the oily stuff: Italy. 

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

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