With the Rangers evidently looking for defensive help in the continued absence of Marc Staal and Mike Sauer, it’s interesting to note something Pierre LeBrun mentioned on today’s Cross Check’s blog over at ESPN.
LeBrun noted that former Nashville Predators blueliner and current Toronto Maple Leafs bench-warmer Cody Franson may be available. I added the “may be”, LeBrun made it sound far more definitive than that.
Now, I don’t usually deal in rumours, but LeBrun is reputable and I’ve long been an admirer of Franson dating back to his days with the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL. If the price were right, and we all know Glen Sather wouldn’t pull the trigger unless it were, then Franson is definitely someone the Blueshirts should take a long, hard look at.
And here’s why…
LeBrun: I heard from sources on other teams Monday that Gauthier was phoning around looking for help on defense. The thing is, he’s not alone. Tampa and the New York Rangers are among the other teams also looking for blue-line help. It just so happens that Cody Franson is available in Toronto, although I’m not sure whether any of those three teams has interest in him.
First and foremost, Franson is a defenseman that fits the Blueshirts hard-working, grinding style to a tee. He’s an above average puck-mover and would be a handy addition to the second powerplay unit given his big, accurate shot, but it’s his large frame and physical play that would see him ingratiate himself to John Tortorella.
At 24, Franson is still very much a project piece, but he’s shown during his time in Nashville that he can be a reliable top-four defenseman with offensive upside. Sure, he played with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter which will do wonders for any young blueliner, but his role increased over time because he earned it. Seven points in 16 playoff games and two strong +/- campaigns is hardly something to scoff at either.
Franson isn’t Jeff Woywitka, Steve Eminger or Brendan Bell, he’s markedly better than all three with plenty of room for further improvement. Is he a third-pairing guy? Perhaps, but I feel you’d probably see the best of him in a second-pairing role, particularly if Marc Staal is out long-term and Ryan McDonagh continues to partner Dan Girardi in his absence.
Of course, the downside to being a promising young player with a reasonable track record in both the regular and post-season – particularly when the guy signing your cheques is Brian Burke – is that the asking price is bound to rise a little. Franson, currently earning $800,000 per year on a two-year deal, is a restricted free-agent at the end of the season and, given the Leafs reluctance to give him the kind of ice-time that he saw with the Predators last season, that may be something that works against Burke in any negotiations.
Brandon Dubinsky or Artem Anisimov would undoubtedly be at the forefront of Burke’s mind when asking for a return on Franson at this point, though it’s tough to see Sather parting with either for a soon-to-be RFA that’s in and out of the Leafs line-up. It goes without saying though, that if something can be structured to the Rangers liking then Franson would be a shrewd acquisition both in the short and long term.