Pending UFA Cody Franson intrigued by the possibility of joining the Canucks

Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

British Columbian hockey fans get very attached to NHL players from Canada’s westernmost Province, and take particular pride in the Province’s habit of churning out the best defenseman in the country.

Vancouver hockey fans, meanwhile, have a particular attachment to former Vancouver Giants players. From Evander Kane, to Milan Lucic, to Brendan Gallagher, to Lance Bouma – every time the Vancouver Canucks miss out on landing a former Giant, the rallying cry of ‘moar giants!” can be hearding echoing from the mountain tops all along the sea-to-sky highway.

In pending unrestricted free agent Cody Franson, you have the perfect storm. The 27-year-old right handed defenseman hails from the interior and played his junior hockey with the Giants. He excels on the power play and he could be had in free agency. The Canucks have a mild cap crunch situation on their hands though, and a glut of blue-line assets that would presumably serve to make acquiring Franson prohibitive. On the other hand, he seems to be interested in coming home, for whatever that’s worth. 

“Vancouver would be a very intriguing spot, 3 years with the Giants, Vancouver is a very interesting place to play,” Franson told News 1130 Sports of potentially joining the Canucks in free agency.

“Playing in my home province, parents watching would be a great honour, the #Canucks in the mix would be fun,” continued the physical, offensively oriented defender.

Franson lacks somewhat in the foot speed department, although his results by the underlying metrics have been superb over the years. Among the defensive partners with whom he’s spent at least 300 5-on-5 minutes since 2012, all four fared better with Franson than they did without him.

He’s also an elite point producer both at even-strength and on the power play. Over the past four years the former Giant ranks 29th among all NHL defenders who’ve logged at least 1000 5-on-5 minutes in points per 60 minutes, and he’s the third most efficient point producer in 5-on-4 situations among defenders who’ve logged at least 400 minutes on the power play. He’d be a near ideal fit on a Canucks team that received just 135 points in total from all defenseman last season, the fifth worst mark in the league.

Franson’s ability to generate offense on the power play is a major reason he could be a near perfect fit for the Canucks. When Yannick Weber was bumped up to the first power-play unit in midseason, it gave the Canucks a tonne of options, and opened up the backdoor play that opposing penalty killers had begun to cheat on, and take away. Weber ultimately finished the season with 11 goals, and while he’s a solid contributor, he’s not the dynamic offensive presence that Franson has consistently been.

Franson himself brought up the power-play factor in his discussion with News 1130 Sports.

“I want to play in roles that make me earn the money we are going to be asking for,” Franson said. “The power-play role is huge for me.”

Perhaps the Canucks can entice Franson to join their club by giving him the offensive defenseman version of the pitch they gave Radim Vrbata last summer. “Hey come to Vancouver and caddy the twins on the power play!”

There’s no doubt that Franson is a solid NHL contributor and could be a particularly good fit with the Canucks. We can talk about the ‘fit’ until we’re blue in the face, but the problem remains that Franson is going to be expensive, too expensive for Vancouver’s blood in all likelihood.

While the Sicamous, B.C. native’s relative youth makes him a very attractive target – the sort of unrestricted player legitimately capable of living up to a bloated July 1 contract – with the way the market for defenseman has gone in recent years, he’s going to be prohibitively expensive for a Canucks team that’s pressed up against the cap and has already invested a lot of cap space and money into their blue line.

In addressing his preliminary plans for the blue line with the Province’s Jim Jamieson this past week, Canucks general manager Jim Benning indicated that he’s unlikely to bid on any big tickets items in free agency.

“If there’s a player out there who could benefit our team and be a good fit,” Benning said. “But we won’t be in the high end of the market, the $5 million or $6 million guys.”

Rest assured: Franson is going to be a $5 or $6 million player.

In order for this to happen then, the Canucks would need to clear a contract (or two) and probably deal away a restricted defender as well (likely one of Adam Clendening, Frank Corrado, or Yannick Weber). Whether it’s a player on an expiring contract (Dan Hamhuis or Kevin Bieksa, both of whom have no-trade clauses), or a useful veteran piece (Radim Vrbata, Chris Higgins or Jannik Hansen perhaps?), several dominoes will have to fall before the Canucks can consider themselves a credible suitor for Franson.

Which begs the question: is it worthwhile to perform major roster surgery for a player like Franson? He’d make Vancouver’s blue line more potent offensively, and he’s absolutely a useful two-way piece. While Franson doesn’t have the foot speed that Vancouver needs and is apparently looking for, in all other respects, he’d be a major upgrade over everything the Canucks have on the right side of their defense corps aside from perhaps Chris Tanev. 

  • Brent

    “I want to play in roles that make me earn the money we are going to be asking for.” = “I won’t be taking a hometown discount.”

    That being said, I’d rather have Cody Franson @ $6M rather than Ryan Miller.

  • wojohowitz

    I really hope Benning takes a swing at Franson.

    Canucks have a 1st opal ring w Edler and Tanev, so Franson wouldn’t be expected to be the savior on this team. What did the Canucks lack from the backend….points, what does Franson do?. Score points, especially on the PP where Tanev and Hammer have spent way too much time lately!!

    Trade Juice and Weber, then pair Hammer and Franson. That gives Corrado and Clendening 4 solid guys in front of them so they aren’t pressed to be top 4.

    Salary wise Juice and Weber should equal Cody’s salary but with better results.

    • Yes yes yes.

      I’d really like to see the Canucks keep Bieksa as a third pairing/veteran leadership guy, but if they swapped him out for Franson I really couldn’t complain – a Hamhuis/Franson second pairing would be wonderful.

      • Fred-65

        I agree….
        My only hope is that with consistent coaching Sbisa will limit the brain farts and maximize the speed and toughness.

        Like Kassian who went from Buffalo to AV to Torts to Willie….maybe some stability with coaches and a system will have a positive effect.

        I hope!

  • Fred-65

    Cody Franson is a soft player. We have a shorter but mirror of him already at 1/5th the price …Weber. In Nashville Frason in 23 games he was 1 + 3 In TO he was 6 +26 in 55 games. Weber had better numbers. CF sat in the press box for most of the play-offs And just as an add on to that his favouite team is the Leafs. Not for me

    • Larionov18

      Tells me Toronto has two first-round picks. Tells me Toronto has the assets to trade up to 3rd overall, or 2nd if Tim Murray has another brain fart. (Based on recent history, this could happen. It would be dumb-ass, but it could happen.)

    • peterl

      Lol quite the opposite, Toronto traded him because he was too good for them. He was on an expiring contract and they knew they weren’t going to be able to keep him for both financial reasons and that he may rather play on a better team. Going into a rebuild it made sense to ship him out for picks and prospects

  • Chungus

    A Toronto lad singing the praises of Franson. From what I’ve read on various sites, Toronto fans don’t want him at that price. He’s big but doesn’t use his size like he could and should. He’s not a great skater true, and he’s a good producer on the powerplay hmm maybe. For 6 mil? Canucks are not a contender and won’t be for a while, the money is better spent elsewhere.

  • Fred-65

    Apparently Fransn wants his membership renewed at the Country club

    In fairness, Franson said immediately after being traded he would absolutely consider returning to the Leafs. But the allure now is even stronger. Franson told TSN radio over the weekend, “Definitely, with Mr. Babcock going there, it’s an exciting time for people in that organization, and I think it makes it more intriguing to free agents for sure.”

    He added he’s always loved Toronto and that he was “hopeful Toronto’s in the mix come July 1, and my phone will definitely be on and hoping they’re one of the teams that calls.”

    He’s tall an he’s soft and he desn’t stand out on most clubs his numers are worse than Weber and he’s fraction of the cost

  • Thefreshpots

    The stupidity in some of these comments is unbelievable. Franson is good in transition, a point-producer, and a puck mover. That’s something the Canucks need. He’s a strong possession player who may not play big but does show a proclivity for physical play at times. He didn’t work out in Toronto because he was misused by the woefully inept Randy Carlyle.

    We could use Franson. To suggest that he’s soft or a pylon is a huge missing of the plot. The only problem I have with Cody is his cap hit, which will more than likely be prohibitive.

    • Last year prior to having an unexpectedly decent season point-wise for the Leafs prior to getting traded, Franson was mentioned frequently as a target for dumping. He’s an ok player but not worth what his contract will cost and the basic premise that he’d help the PP I have a hard time with. Didn’t the Leafs PP rank something like 26th last year? We could definitely use a PP QB but personally I’d try out Clendennig if that’s the case, far cheaper option and I think he didn’t get enough of a shot with us — as a 3rd pair puck mover I think he’d be great. One of the things I’ve consistently not understood under any of the last three coaches is why D-men whose calling card is supposed to be PP prowess don’t get used in that role. It happened with Garrison and then with Weber. Edler isn’t a PP QB but a complementary player with the big shot — and for god’s sakes get Tanev, Hamhuis and Bieksa a million miles away from a PP.

  • wojohowitz

    See it for what it is. Gerry Johannson is just doing his job by calling in favors from all the main stream media types. Do a google news search for the last 24 hours. There`s over 20 stories about Cody Franson. Nobody is going to pick up his contract. Franson can play in the NHL next season but he`s going to have to take a pay cut. Next up is probably Mark Fistric – another ex-Giant looking for a contract and another Johannson client. Yawn

    • Larionov18

      Last time I checked Canuck players wives and girlfriends were not being harassed on twitter or called names when they dropped their kids off at school. No uniforms were thrown on the ice either. No, you run when EDM or Toronto calls.

      • Larionov18

        So are you implying that I’m harassing Canucks wives on twitter or are you implying that I’m harassing Canuck wives on this site and that’s why you implied what you implied?

        Or that you are replying because you’re a Canuck wife who’s trying to imply that I’m harassing a Canuck wife such as yourself?

        So what are you implying, that I’m harassing their wives on twitter or that I’m harassing you, a Canuck wife on this site?

        BTW I don’t use twitter.

          • Larionov18

            Well if Vancouver Canuck’s wives were harassed like they were in TO and EDM the team may actually PLAY BETTER for a change.

            There’s nothing more effective than telling the chief and his family that he isn’t doing his job right, especially when the angry villagers are standing in front of the hut with spears.

            If people held the Canucks and the government’s feet to the fire we would all get better of everything.

            Now, do you think the government and the Canucks are ever taken to task? I think your heart knows the real answer to that.

            The pill I take is called ” Not a Sucker like the rest of them “.

          • Larionov18

            ….I’m trying to keep up… are you implying that we should harass the governmentsezez wives so that we can get pills we don’t have to suck on? I’m on-board, but I think it has to be shorter to fit on a bumper sticker.




            Not a sucker like the rest of those pills, chief. Not ever again.

          • peterl

            Being a Canuck fan means euphoric highs & depressing lows with uncertainty, paranoia, hope, and — if you’re lucky — even the occasional god-complex between the peaks and valleys.

            So pretty much the same as pills, but cheaper if you already have the internets. If not then get a library card, ’cause they have internets and drug dealers so you’re basically covered.

      • Larionov18

        I think what he meant to say is that the Canucks organization is not a place for hockey players to come to play if you like to be with a club that cares about winning.

        You might have misread his comment as much as he misread your reply.

  • Larionov18

    Franny is one of the athletes our company works with in the off season. He is far from soft. He’s always pushing the pace in the gym and on the ice. His strength numbers are impressive. He’s big strong and the only thing that is soft are his hands. He’d be great in Canuck sweater; however I feel his contract will be too much for us… Like the article stated about undergoeing surgery to accomplish it.

  • peterl

    The Canucks aren’t in a good position to sign Franson from a depth perspective. Yes they could use him, but the presence of so many right-handed defencemen next season (Tanev, Weber, Bieksa, Corrado, Clendening) all deserving at least NHL roster spots means another tangential move would have to be made first.

    The first priority should be to move a veteran (i.e. Bieksa as many fans suggest) and make room for at least one of Corrado or Clendening to make the jump to the NHL.

    Adding a UFA like Franson really hinders their advancement right now. A number of other moves needs to be made to accommodate Franson.