Buffalo Sabres Sign Defenceman Cody Franson

by Michael Clifford on September 10, 2015

Buffalo signs Cody Franson for two years, and it has a ripple effect on Buffalo's blue line.

****

One of the final UFA dominoes fell as the Buffalo Sabres signed defenceman Cody Franson to a two-year deal carrying an average annual value a little over $3.3-million per year. Cap information can be found at Capfriendly.

This is obviously not the deal that Franson and his agent had in mind by holding off signing a deal from a team for the summer. It is also an incredibly weird circumstance in that players who have produced similar to him over the last few years like Alex Goligoski and Matt Niskanen signed way bigger contracts over those last few years.

The fact that this is just a two-year deal with an AAV under $3.5M a year makes me wonder how much that trade to Nashville killed his value. If he had not been shipped from Toronto, and puts up around 45 points like he was on pace for, is there any chance he gets such a low amount, relatively speaking? I don’t see it. The thing is, he wasn’t that bad in Nashville. He was just buried on a depth chart that had a lot of good defencemen on it.

Fantasy

Franson’s fantasy value will probably be dependent on the type of league he is being drafted in. I would really hesitate grabbing him in roto leagues. He has never been one to stuff peripheral stats (like penalty minutes or shots), and I don’t see him boasting a good plus/minus this year on that team. For all the improvements Buffalo made in the offseason (and last year), going from historically bad to potentially a playoff team is a quantum leap in the NHL, and one that takes more than one offseason. Factor in their uncertain goaltending tandem, and the peripheral stats for Franson just won’t be there barring a 50-plus point season to justify anything more than a third (maybe fourth) defenceman in roto leagues. Look at what Jack Johnson did last year and that should give a rough outline of what to expect from Franson this year – 40 points, 21 power play points, 141 shots, minus-13, 44 penalty minutes.

The other impact here is that on Rasmus Ristolainen. He had been pegged as the likely power play QB for the Sabres this year after an impressive season that saw him put up 20 points on that team as a 20-year old defenceman. I know he was minus-32, but I’m not really ready to blame him solely for that one. Both he and Franson are righty shots, and while it’s not improbable they both play the top power play, I think they do end split up.

This signing kills Ristolainen’s value. If he’s not a go-to defenceman both at even strength and on the power play, he’s a fantasy JAG (just a guy). Those in keepers/dynasties don’t have a lot to worry about because Franson may be gone after two years, but in re-draft leagues, Ristolainen shouldn’t be drafted in anything but deeper formats.

Franson, on the other hand, should figure to finish in the range of the 30th-40th defenceman in roto leagues. He would be ok as a third defenceman in 12-team leagues, but I’d prefer to draft him as a fourth.