Nashville Predators Free Agent Watch – Cody Franson

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Well the Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs are exciting huh? Out East the Rangers forced a Game 7, and in the West the Blackhawks are fighting for their season tonight in Game 6 of their series against the Ducks. Even Emilio Estevez is getting in on the action. He apparently angered some Blackhawks fans, but they’re Blackhawks fans, so I assume they’ll get over it once they sober up in realize it’s June.

Anyway, the Nashville Predators are starting to get their…ducks… in a row for next season. A lot of negotiations are going on behind the scenes right now as David Poile and the coaches make decisions on which players to lock down for next season. Today we’ll take a look at Cody Franson, who started his career in Nashville, came back for a bit last season, and may be making another quick exit.

For a breakdown of free agent statuses and the difference between them, check out this hockey-reference.com page.

Current Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

Franson was originally drafted by the Predators back in 2005. He was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011, and then back to Nashville earlier this February. He was traded in a deal that brought him and Mike Santorelli back to Nashville in exchange for a first-round draft pick, Brendan Leipsic, and Olli Jokinen.

At the time, the deal was heralded as a great move that bolstered the Predators already impressive defensive corps and brought in a scorer for the bottom six. I loved the move myself, although I had reservations about moving Leipsic. He was a smallish forward, but played with a lot of speed and tenacity that I was looking forward to seeing in Nashville.

Franson is coming off of two consecutive one year deals he signed with the Maple Leafs in 2013 and 2014. The deals were worth $2 million and $3.3 million, respectively.

2014-2015 Season

Between Toronto and Nashville, Franson finished the season with seven goals and 29 assists. The 36 points he accumulated were a career high for the 27 year-old. Unfortunately all but four of those points were scored while playing with Toronto. In his 23 games with Nashville, he had just one goal and three assists, although he did chip in two more assists during the playoff series against Chicago.

Franson also saw his playing time drop drastically after the trade. In Toronto he was averaging a career-high 21:23 of ice-time per game. In Nashville he was relegated to the second and third pairing and only averaged 15:25 time on ice per contest.

Franson never really seemed to find his groove under Coach Peter Laviolette. Whether that’s because he never got a grip on the system Laviolette ran or because of the problems pairing him properly with all the right-handed defensemen on the Predators’ roster, I’m not sure. Either way, he never really lived up to his potential with the boys in gold.

With all that said, Franson did have good possession numbers with Nashville. His even strength Corsi was 57.7% and his Fenwick was at 58.2%. His Corsi relative to the rest of the team was 5.6% better, and his Fenwick was 5.9% better. Those are great possession numbers no matter how you look at it. (In fact, Franson has posted a positive relative Corsi every year he’s been in the league, he’s a possession machine).

Future With the Predators

I don’t see the Predators making an offer to Franson. The defensive corps is already deep, with arguably the best top pairing in hockey with Shea Weber and Roman Josi. Ryan Ellis recently inked a deal that will keep him in Nashville until 2019, and Seth Jones is set to receive his pay raise after next season. The Predators just don’t have a need for Franson, nor do they really have the money to pay him. He’ll probably be looking for a long-term deal and will easily fetch over $5 million a year. The Predators can use that money to fix holes in the bottom-six and re-sign other free agents. They already have a plethora of talent on defense.

Next: Do the Preds need to re-sign Anton Volchenkov? Reports say they're in talks

Also, Poile didn’t sound overly optimistic about Franson when he spoke with the media earlier this year. It might just be a situation where it’s better for everyone to go their separate ways rather than getting involved in a bidding war with other teams that could drive his price near the $6 million a year range.

Franson has spoken openly about returning to Toronto or maybe joining the Vancouver Canucks, but make no mistake about it, he will be a sought-after commodity once free agency starts. He’s going to have suitors from every corner of the NHL, but the Nashville Predators won’t be one of them.

Gut Feeling Odds of Re-Signing: 95/5 Against