Let The Fighting For The Final Defense Pairing Begin: Franson Signs

Today, the Nashville Predators re-signed defenseman Cody Franson to a one-way two year deal worth $1.6 million. The 23 year old recorded a respectable 21 points in 61 games in his rookie season last year. With 6 goals, Franson ranked 3rd in goals for rookie defensemen, 4th in overall points.

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 17: Forward Eric Boulton #36 of the Atlanta Thrashers skates against defenseman Cody Franson #32 of the Nashville Predators during a pre-season game at Sommet Center on September 17, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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The deal doesn’t exactly break the bank, even for the Predators. So what was the hold up in signing a contract? Having a cap hit of $693, 889 for the past three years at the NHL level, the raise was marginal. I suspect, as previously noted, that Franson was looking for that elusive one-way deal, in essence all but guaranteeing him a roster spot at the NHL level. Of course, a one-way deal does not necessarily mean you’ll make the Predators roster. Just ask Alexander Sulzer. Sulzer signed a two-year deal on a one-way contract and spent most of last season in Milwaukee. I don’t see this year being an different for the German native.

It would appear that signing Franson for $800 000 is a steal seeing as the B.C. native was first among rookie defensemen in plus/minus ratings as well as game winning goals, with 3. But look more closely at his stats, and the contract seems to be a perfect compromise for both players and team. Plus/minus can be deceiving. Franson only played on average 14 minutes a game and he wasn’t being paired up night after night against the league’s most offensive-minded players. He was a rookie. Would we expect anything different?

Franson, Nashville’s 3rd choice in 2005, will likely get a chance to prove himself by playing against more elite members of the NHLPA. Of course, he has to make the team first. Preds GM David Poile has already made it clear that Franson needs to earn his roster spot. It isn’t guaranteed.

Who counts as Franson’s competition? Weber, Suter, Bouillon and Klein are easily considered the top 4. There will be fierce competition for those final two spots. Ryan Parent, Sulzer and now Franson are all on one-way deals. Then there is the curious case of Aaron Johnson. Johnson signed a two-way deal but has mountains of NHL experience. Jonathon Blum has played a full season in Milwaukee and is considered by many pundits to be the next in line to play in Nashville. Swiss’ Roman Josi is regarded very highly by the Predators organization. Teemu Laasko had a shot last year playing in Nashville but eventually lost his position to Franson.

And don’t forget Ryan Ellis, the 2009 first round draft pick. Ellis actually skipped Team Canada’s summer junior training camp in Newfoundland to bulk up and train to take a run at making Nashville’s roster out of camp. If Ellis doesn’t make the team, he’ll be sent back to junior. Because he won’t turn 20 until January 1st, he is not eligible to play for the Admirals in the American Hockey League.

That’s 8 quality defensemen for 2 open slots. Let the fighting begin.

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