Nearly three weeks into the NHL's free-agency period, former Nashville Predators and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson remains unsigned. In a free-agent market decidedly thin on quality talent, the 27-year-old blueliner was considered among the top players available.
It was expected Franson would be among the players signed with the first 24 hours of free agency. That he's still without a contract entering late-July is drawing headlines as free-agent activity slows down.
CBS Sports' Adam Gretz suggests Franson's high asking price could be a factor, speculating the blueliner seeks a deal comparable to the annual cap hit ($5.75 million) of Washington's Matt Niskanen. Gretz also thinks the decline in Franson's performance following his February trade from Toronto to Nashville hurts his free-agent value.
The Edmonton Journal's David Staples cites TSN's Craig Button forewarning Franson's lack of speed could be an issue. While acknowledging the rearguard's lumbering style, Staples points out he's an excellent passer with a strong snapshot from the point. He believes Franson is best suited as a second-pairing defenseman.
Franson's struggles after joining the Predators could certainly give some GMs reason to question his abilities. However, his youth, 6-foot-5 frame and passing ability should still prove enticing for clubs seeking experienced blueline depth.
The most likely impediment is the asking price. CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty reports Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney hasn't ruled out adding a defenseman. However, he believes Franson could be too expensive for the Bruins, who have roughly $4 million in cap space.
In a summer where the free-agent pool is shallow and a marginal increase in the salary cap forces many GMs to become frugal spenders, Franson is in no position to command a lucrative long-term contract.
At some point before the start of 2015-16, Franson will sign a new contract, but it'll be considerably less than the riches he envisioned when free agency began.
GIORDANO CONTRACT KEY FOR CALGARY
While this summer's UFA market lacked star talent, next summer's could be stocked with several notable names. Among them could be Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano.
Following the Flames' recent activity (acquiring Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik respectively via trade and free agency), NBC Sports' Ryan Dadoun expects they'll shift their focus toward re-signing Giordano. That won't be an easy task, as his asking price is reportedly around $9-million annually.
Citing the expensive addition of Hamilton (re-signed to a six-year, $34.5-million deal), Dadoun believes inking the 31-year-old Giordano raises questions over how the Flames will manage their cap space beyond 2015-16. He notes the impact it could have upon retaining right wing Jiri Hudler, who's also eligible for UFA status next summer. Rising young stars Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau will be restricted free agents and expensive re-signings.
It could force Flames GM Brad Treliving to make a cost-cutting trade to free up sufficient space for these re-signings. Dadoun wonders if the Flames might ship out veteran blueliner Dennis Wideman and his $5.25-million annual cap hit.
The acquisitions of Hamilton and Frolik certainly bolster the Flames depth for 2015-16. It's also possible they were acquired as insurance in case Giordano and Hudler depart next summer via free agency.
What Treliving must avoid is becoming so strapped for cap space that it creates an opportunity for a rival club to sign Monahan or Gaudreau to an expensive offer sheet. The Flames GM would face the same situation by which he acquired Hamilton from the Boston Bruins, who chose to trade the 22-year-old defenseman to Calgary than risk losing him to an offer sheet.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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