Pittsburgh Penguins Free Agency Target – Cody Franson

At first glance Cody Franson seems like a player the Pittsburgh Penguins cannot afford, but can certainly use. He is a very well-rounded defenseman who is good for 35-40 points per year and around 200 hits and 100 blocked shots.

Also, there is a lot of hockey left in his tank – he is turning 28 years old next month. His play actually reminds me of a younger Paul Martin with more physicality.

Franson would be an unbelievable insurance policy for our injury plagued defense. He slots perfectly into a top 4 pairing, but if needed he can play on the top pairing. Most importantly, he has the ability to run the point on the power play if Letang suffers any setbacks. This versatility is what the Pittsburgh Penguins desperately missed last year in the playoffs after a plethora of injuries depleted their puck moving defensemen.

How can the Pittsburgh Penguins afford Cody Franson? 

He has been on the open market for about a week now and obviously he has not received a contract offer that blew him away. Start by offering Franson $4.25 -4.5 million per year for 4 years and see if he bites. Considering the recent contracts signed by top-tier defensemen, this is a good starting point.

But the question remains, no matter the amount, how can the Pittsburgh Penguins afford Cody Franson?

Nov 26, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson (4) carries the puck as Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Spaling (13) defends during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There is a gaping black hole on defense with a significant salary cap hit – Rob Scuderi. Scuderi carries a salary cap hit of $3.375 million, but he is owed $3 million and $2.5 million in actual salary over the next two years. Trade him to a team that needs to get to the salary cap floor as they are usually very cost aware as well (i.e. the Arizona Coyotes). Throw in a late round pick if needed but get it done because the difference between Cody Franson and Rob Scuderi would basically be $1 to $2 million.

Hold on one second… an incremental $1 to $2 million dollars would net the Pittsburgh Penguins a top 4 defenseman instead of a shot blocking 36 year old??! Yes, this can happen and it should happen. Imagine a defense corps of:

Letang/Maatta
Cole/Franson
Dumoulin/Pouliot
7th – Lovejoy

After 2009, I have a soft spot for Rob Scuderi, but lets learn a salary cap lesson from the Chicago Blackhawks and move on. This potential defensive lineup is far too good to ignore and is realistic, despite the Pens’ current cap crunch. It will just take creativity.