Johan Franzen (Graig Abel/Getty Images)
A concussion suffered in January is still hindering Johan Franzen’s ability to get back on the ice. Franzen, 35, has a history of concussions and has suffered setbacks while trying to get back into the Red Wings lineup, but GM Ken Holland is hopeful ‘The Mule’ can play in 2015-16.
MLive.com’s Ansar Khan reported Friday that Franzen is still recovering from the head injury suffered on Jan. 6, but that Red Wings GM Ken Holland is hopeful ‘The Mule’ can be back in the Detroit lineup to begin the 2015-16 campaign.
"I'm told he's working out every day," Holland told Khan. "The expectation is that over the course of the summer he's going to be healthy.
"I expect to see him in training camp. I expect to see him playing hockey next year. Until I hear otherwise, that's how I'm going to proceed."
The play on which Franzen suffered the concussion, which resulted in neither a penalty nor a suspension for Klinkhammer, didn’t appear overly violent, which makes the injury all the more concerning. Franzen has a concussion history, too, having missed 22 games in 2014 with one, as well as suffering them in 2008 and 2006.
According to Khan, Franzen had been skating with the club late this season but not taking part in the actual practices. Franzen had also been experiencing setbacks, such as bouts of nausea. Holland told Khan that had the Red Wings gotten by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first-round of this year’s post-season, it’s possible Franzen could have made his return to the lineup.
“There was a time in the Tampa Bay series that there was some optimism that if we were able to advance far (he could return)," Holland said.
In 33 games last season, the 6-foot-3, 223-pound power forward had seven goals and 22 points, which was the worst points-per-game pace of his career. Franzen has been a fixture of the Red Wings lineup for the past several seasons and is signed to a hefty 11-year, $43.5 million contract, which he inked in 2009-10. About to enter his seventh year of the contract, Franzen’s last big campaign came in 2011-12, when he scored 29 goals and 56 points in 77 games with Detroit.
The 35-year-old counts for $3.95 million against the salary cap. Should he be unable to suit up to begin the year, it could give the Red Wings some salary cap flexibility entering the season, somewhat similar to what the Philadelphia Flyers have done with Chris Pronger. However, the hope is Franzen, for both his sake and Detroit’s, will be ready to go come October.