Cody Franson. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
Defenseman Cody Franson has finally signed a contract for the 2015-16 season. According to reports, Franson has signed a two-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres that will pay him $3.325-million per season. Franson, 28, scored seven goals and 36 points in 2014-15.
It took more than two months, but Cody Franson has finally found his home for the 2015-16 season.
After publicly stating he was looking for something longer than a one-year deal, Franson, 28, has signed a two-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres. TSN’s Bob McKenzie first reported late Wednesday that Franson was in Buffalo to put the finishing touches on the contract, which has now been signed, according to McKenzie.
Exact terms of the deal have not yet been released, but ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported the contract would carry an annual cap hit of $3.325-million. At that cap hit, Franson is not earning a massive raise on his previous contract, a one-year, $3.3-million deal he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in July 2014.
There weren’t many teams who could still realistically vie for Franson’s services, which made his search for a new club difficult. While the other big-name free agent defenseman, Christian Ehrhoff, was able to take a pay cut and short-term deal with the Los Angeles Kings, this off-season looked like Franson’s chance to cash in on the steady growth his game has shown over the past three seasons. Instead, it appears he’ll have to wait until July 2017 if he wants to land a long-term, big-money deal.
That said, Franson gets some significant perks playing in Buffalo that he may not have had elsewhere.
Franson almost immediately becomes a top-four defenseman with the Sabres and could very likely play on the top pairing alongside either Zach Bogosian or Rasmus Ristolainen. While the signing of Franson won’t be enough to take the Sabres from a last-place team to post-season contender, his addition does expedite the building process. If Franson performs well, the two-year deal gives Sabres GM Tim Murray more than a full season to work out an extension with the blueliner.
After a trade deadline deal sent Franson to the Nashville Predators, he struggled tremendously to end the 2014-15 campaign. He went from being a second-pairing blueliner for most of the season to a sparingly used depth defenseman in Nashville. On two occasions, he skated less than 10 minutes.
But in Buffalo, like in Toronto, Franson will get the opportunity to flex his offensive muscles and be part of what should be a speedy Sabres club. In 55 games with the lowly Maple Leafs this past season, Franson notched six goals and 32 points. Four of his markers and 15 of his points came on the power play, which should immediately help a Buffalo power play unit that finished dead-last in the NHL in 2014-15 by operating at a 13.4 percent clip.
Franson can also help on the penalty kill, although he’d probably be utilized on the second unit. With the Maple Leafs, Franson averaged two minutes per outing on the penalty kill, and Toronto finished the year with the 22nd-best penalty kill in the league. While that’s not a ranking that blows anyone away, it’s still eight spots better than the Sabres finished.
Buffalo isn’t close to becoming a Stanley Cup contender but getting in on the ground floor of a rebuilding franchise could put Franson in the right spot should he stick with the Sabres following his two-year deal. He might be sacrificing winning now, but Franson could end up with a successful franchise and the contract he wants if the Sabres turn it around with him on the blueline.