Cody Franson’s life changed when the Toronto Maple Leafs dealt him to the Nashville Predators Feb. 15, a couple weeks before the 2014-15 trade deadline. Who knew so much more would change in less than three months after that?
Franson’s new (old) team, the Nashville Predators, flamed out in the first round of the playoffs, abruptly ending his hopes of a deep Stanley Cup push as a post-season rental. Worse yet, Franson was a terrible fit in Music City. He was a right-handed shooter buried on the depth chart among talented righty blueliners Shea Weber and Seth Jones. Franson played more than 21 minutes a game as a Leaf and slipped to around 15 as a Pred, with a drastically reduced special teams role, which was disastrous for a guy who thrived as a power play contributor. Nashville GM David Poile admitted after the season the Franson deal wasn’t a good fit in hindsight. The Preds also landed center Mike Santorelli from Toronto but surrendered a first-round pick and Brendan Leipsic in the process.
So Franson felt the anguish of a quick playoff exit, and his value as an unrestricted free agent may have diminished in the process. He was all but a lock for one of the top two or three paydays of the summer as a right-shot blueliner who can contribute 40-plus points and will be just 28 when next season begins. He’ll still be among the most coveted names in a vanilla free agent class, but he may have shaved $1 million off his average annual value in the last couple months. Think $5-million cap hit, not $6-million.
Meanwhile, back in Toronto, the Leafs just bagged the summer’s top free agent: coach Mike Babcock. The grass up there looks emerald-green. Is it any wonder, after all that’s transpired, that Franson hopes to play for the Leafs again next season?