Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)

Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)

UFA Target: Cody Franson

Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)

Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)

Sometimes teams find bargain contracts late in the UFA period right before camp opens. This is not one of those times.

For some inexplicable reason, Cody Franson has remained unsigned late into the summer during a year where the defensive UFA class was rather weak. Given the Flyers need instant help on defense, it’s possible they would be wise to sign Franson, a known commodity, to help bolster the blue line.

While the Flyers have several top prospects coming through the pipeline, Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere and even Mark Friedman, there is no guarantee that all 6 will turn into NHL caliber players.

Also, Mark Streit is getting older, and outside of Del Zotto-Schenn, the Flyers lack defenders who can play regular shifts for long periods of time.

Cody Franson would provide some great insurance for this situation. For one, he’s nearly a top pair caliber talent as shown by his HERO chart.

Via Own the Puck

Via Own the Puck

Also, Franson’s had a positive impact on puck possession with his linemates.

Via Own the Puck

Via Own the Puck

While he had perceived struggles with Nashville, the charts indicate this was due to bad luck and not lack of skill and therefore taking a gamble on Franson is not a bad idea.

His boxcar numbers are not bad, and the fact he’s a right handed shot would help the Flyers blueline immensely as it would take pressure of Luke Schenn to play above his talent level in situations requiring a right shot.

Let’s assume that the reason that Franson is unsigned is because he wants a long term deal. The Flyers would be wise to find a way to clear salary to add Franson.

Per CapFriendly, the Flyers have 583,333 in cap space right now. Obviously Franson would never sign a deal for 580K so the Flyers need to clear some cap space.

Let’s assume that 5 years, 25M (AAV of 5M) is enough to get the deal done. The Flyers would need to clear about 4.5M in cash to make it happen. Let’s look at the ways it can be done and try to find a reasonable method.

Option 1: The Flyers trade one (or more) of Vinny Lecavalier, RJ Umberger, or Andrew MacDonald for draft picks with no retained salary and no NHL players coming back.

Verdict: Highly unlikely. There is no team that would take any of those players on when they could just add Franson instead. And assuming they did; they would likely want an asset like Scott Laughton or a first round pick or one of the big defensive prospects to sweeten the bad deal.

Option 2: RJ Umberger’s season ending injury hasn’t healed and he finds himself to LTIR.

Verdict: Possible, however until Umberger gets some reps during training camp to find out how healthy he is, there’s no reason to assume this is possible

Option 3: Vincent Lecavalier retires.

Verdict: Possible, but unlikely. Vinny still thinks he can play and has several million reasons to keep collecting two pay checks.

Option 4: The Flyers retain 50% of the salary and move 2 of Umberger, Lecavalier and/or MacDonald for picks.

Verdict: Getting warmer, while Lecavalier at 4.5M isn’t appealing, it’s possible that 3 years at 2.5M AAV (Flyers retain 2M) might entice a salary floor team to give up a pick for Vinny in the hopes he could tutor some young forwards. Perhaps Arizona or Florida would see a benefit in this. RJ Umberger at 4.6 for a fourth line caliber player is too much, but a team in need of the floor and looking to rebuild wouldn’t mind letting him expire on their watch for 2.3M AAV forr 2 years. Candidates for Umberger at this rate might be Arizona again, or Carolina who seems to be starting a rebuild as well. MacDonald’s 5 years of retained cash is a bad idea due to the term, it would be better to retain money for less term as it would make the first extensions for the defensive prospects easier.

Option 5: The Flyers trade the Schenn Brothers for picks.

Verdict: This is the most likely way to clear the money, the Schenns have enough perceived value that the Flyers could acquire a possible first and third round pick in the next draft for both players and still sign Franson. Right now, the Flyers would clear 6.1M in cap space to move the Schenns, which would drop to 1.1 in cap space if Franson signed for 5 years at an AAV of 5. This would allow the Flyers to have an extra 1.1 to add to the money needed for extensions to Voracek, Couturier and the still-not-extended Michael Raffl for next season.