The Cody Franson Arbitration: What is he Worth?

The Cody Franson Arbitration: What is he Worth?

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In my last two articles I discussed Ryan O’Reilly’s upcoming club-elected salary arbitration with Colorado Avalanche and James Reimer’s player elected salary arbitration with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In a continuing series of articles on salary arbitration, I’m now going to break down how (and why) I think the Cody Franson arbitration with the Toronto Maple Leafs – set for this Monday July, 21st – will play out.

In the last two articles I outlined the mechanics behind the salary arbitration system set-out in Article 12 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”), so for the most part in this piece I’ll skip past the nuts and bolts and get right into what I think he’s worth. But, before I do, there are a couple of key provisions that need to be highlighted.

Cody Franson is a Group 2 Restricted Free Agent (“RFA”) because the Toronto Maple Leafs extended him a qualifying contract offer in accordance with Article 10.2(a)(ii)(C) of the CBA. In order to do so, the Club had to offer him 100% his actual salary from the preceding season, which was a $2 million dollar 1 year pact that was signed after he held out from training camp last year. In other words, they had to offer him $ 2 million dollars for next season, which he rejected. Like Reimer, this is Franson’s final off-season as an RFA as he’ll be 27 years of age before June 30th of next year, meaning he will be a Group 3 Unrestricted Free Agent (“UFA”) — as provided by Article 10.1 — whenever his next contract expires (which will be July 1st, 2015 unless he and the Maple Leafs reach a multi-year agreement before Monday’s arbitration hearing).

As I described in my previous pieces on Reimer and O’Reilly, during arbitration the Player and the Club will be permitted to lead evidence about Franson’s statistical performance in previous seasons and also be allowed to lead evidence about allegedly comparable players’ performance in order to identify a relevant salary range. The comparison evidence isn’t unlimited, however, and Article 12.9(g)(iii)(A) states that the Player and Club are only allowed introduce as evidence contracts which were signed when the relevant player was also a Group 2 RFA. A further restriction –- per Article 12.9(g)(ii)(A) — is that an agent (or other representative) can only put before an arbitrator statistical evidence that is officially maintained by the National Hockey League; meaning goals, assists, plus/minus, hits, shots etc. (sorry, advanced stats fans).

Unlike a goaltender, where there is likely to be only a handful of comparable players available to put forward as evidence, there are a fair number of 30-40 point defenseman who have signed contracts as RFAs. The task of compiling statistical evidence that lies ahead of Cody Franson’s agent Gerry Johannson is more daunting than it will be for Reimer’s agent Ray Petkau.

If I was Gerry Johannson, my list would include the following defensemen (at the very least).

Cody Franson Comparables

Defenseman
Age
Shoots
Comparator(Regular Season)
GP
G
A
PTS
+/-
PPG
PPA
SHG
SHA
GWG
PIMS
Shots
Hits
Current ContractYears & AAV
Michael Del Zotto24LCareer3172799126-8848223124423593Expiring 2 x $2.55 million
Season deal was signed771031412011312236113156
Kris Russell27LCareer4323094124-218350251605783452 x $2.6 million
Season deal was signed6872229-11480111510942
Nick Leddy23LCareer25820739310624003343191832 x $2.7 million
Season deal was signed48612181526002106538
Kevin Klein29RCareer433177188-23110321104415475 x $2.9 million
Season deal was signed6641721-80101249166
Johnny Boychuk30RCareer32119567589140441986415943 x $3.37 million
Season deal was signed7751015270000253171145
Jason Demers26RCareer280167995266250121113622902 x $3.4 million
Season deal was signed755293414180103010569
John Carlson24RCareer316331011342510300231146223056 x $3.97 million
Season deal was signed8292332-15430002215283
Roman Josi24LCareer172235174-851900340328967 x $4 million
Season deal was signed4851318-71600189631
Slava Voynov24RCareer18418617923522004703083226 x $ 4.167 million
Season deal was signed4861925517002147983
Kyle Quincey28LCareer3752388111-37470443566514772 x $4.25 million
Season deal was signed824913-5000018810688
***
Cody Franson27RCareer322281051338941005106496644
Last season7952833-2011700030115282Expiring deal: 1 x $2.0

Looking at the group of comparators, we can quickly deduce that the relevant range from Cody Franson runs from $2.55 million to $4.25 million per season. So, there’s absolutely no doubt that Cody Franson is getting a raise; the only question is where (and why) does he fit in this range?

Looking at the comparable players above, one of the things that immediately (and perhaps surprisingly) stands out is that Cody Franson delivers a tremendous amount of body checks. With 644 hits in 322 games, Cody Franson has averaged two registered hits per game over the course of his career, which is tops among defenders included in this list both as an absolute and average number. Another area where Cody Franson excels is in registering shots on net. This comes as no surprise to fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs who will begrudgingly admit that this player’s ability to unerringly get the puck through to the net is a major asset on the powerplay.

Looking at point production, Cody Franson is second on this list in total career points scored (one point behind John Carlson) despite being only fourth in games played (behind Klein, Russell, and Quincey respectively, and only slightly ahead of Carlson). Franson is also third in career powerplay points, and tied for first in game-winning goals. All of which is to say, like it or not, Cody Franson is a difference maker on the ice amidst this list of comparable defensemen. Franson is also ranked sixth on this list for career plus/minus; say what you will about his playing sheltered minutes, but I’d argue that Russell and Del Zotto are similarly deployed and both earn more money with significantly worse career plus/minuses.

Other factors that I would raise as evidence in Cody Franson’s favour are that he led his Club in points from the defence corps in both of the last two seasons, has consistently anchored the Club’s first powerplay unit, and is a coveted (and rare) right-handed defenseman with size.

On the flip side, if you’re the Toronto Maple Leafs and you’re trying to minimize the amount of compensation that the arbitrator is going to award the player, there are some negatives attributes that will have to be raised. Firstly, the Club will allege that Franson is a defensive liability (as evidenced by last season’s horrendous -20 rating) and that as a result his coach is forced to play him against lesser competition and give him relatively more offensive zone starts. Of course, the corollary of getting relatively more offensive zone starts is that the player is bound to score more points, which (arguably) discounts some of the fact that he’s lead the Club in points from the defense corps the last two seasons. In an ironic twist, the Club should argue that if Franson were more trustworthy in his own zone, he might actually score fewer points.

Another point the Club could raise is that Franson is arguably an off-ice distraction to his team, having complained to the press about insufficient ice-time in the past, while also having held out of training camp the previous year, as well as being involved in on-going legal challenges in his home province. None of these points are definitive by any stretch, but they are a means to demonstrate to an arbitrator that despite the relatively positive stat line, there are defensible reasons why the Club is resisting the player’s contract demands. If I’m the Toronto Maple Leafs, I’d also argue that while Cody Franson is a valuable complementary player, he is very likely overshadowed on his own Club by as many as 4 or 5 other defenseman, meaning his role on the Club will be that of a third-pairing defenseman with additional powerplay time and he should be compensated accordingly.

So, just what is fair compensation for Cody Franson? Looking at the list above, it might be tempting to conclude that, given their relatively similar stats lines, Cody Franson might be worthy of a contract in and around the $3.9 to $4 million dollar per season salary that players like John Carlson, Roman Josi and Slava Voynov are earning. While it’s true that their basic stat lines are comparable (for arbitration purposes), the issues with using these players as comparisons are multi-fold. Firstly, these players are younger than Cody Franson and are already as good (if not better) players than Cody Franson, and likely have more room to improve than he does; the gap is likely to widen. Furthermore, and just as importantly, these players are signed to multi-year deals in which the Club has prepaid for future potential, and also future UFA seasons, both of which come at a cost premium. One could argue that the contract signed today by Dmitry Kulikov is yet another example of this theory. As with all such contracts, the Club pays a premium upfront on the gamble that the player’s improving play and rising salary cap will see the contract become a relative bargain sooner than later. While these contracts make a lot of sense to sign in certain cases, for all of the reasons I’ve just explained they’re entirely inapplicable as a comparator for an arbitrator that can only award a one-year contract to a soon-to-be 27 year-old defenseman.

Having (I think fairly) discounted those three players, the next most comparable player is Jason Demers of the San Jose Sharks. This off-season Demers signed a two-year $3.4 million dollar per season contract, and given his comparable age, career stage and relatively similar performance last season (leaving aside his far superior plus/minus given that he played for the Sharks who had an incredible regular season), this is a fair comparison for Cody Franson. However, if I’m Gerry Johannson I’m looking at the two-year $4.25 million contract that Kyle Quincey just signed and I’m explaining to the arbitrator that my client has outperformed Kyle Quincey in almost every major statistical category both over their respective careers and last season. And therein lies the rub. How do you reconcile the Kyle Quincey and Jason Demers contracts if you’re the Toronto Maple Leafs and/or the salary arbitrator?

One way to do so would be to recognize that Quincey’s last contract was a two-year deal worth an average of $3.775 million per season, signed by Detroit shortly after reacquiring Quincey from the Colorado Avalanche, where he’d been a valuable and productive player (for a 1st round draft choice and a prospect). Having already established that Quincey was worth nearly $4 million per season two years ago under a lower salary cap, and recognizing that 28 year old defensemen rarely (if ever) take a pay cut and that Detroit is desperate for defensemen, we can see that — statistics aside — Detroit really had no option but to pay Quincey in excess of $4 million to retain him. On that basis, you could argue that the Quincey contract is an outlier as far as comparisons go, and that it should receive relatively less weight as comparator evidence.

However, even if the contract were to receive less weight, I don’t see how it can be completely discounted and for that reason I think you’ll see an arbitrator award Cody Franson a one-year contract carrying a salary between Jason Demers’ and Kyle Quincey’s; likely amounting to about $3.6 to $3.7 million for next season.

For those keeping track, Article 12.10(d) of the CBA provides that a Club can walk-away from an award that reaches the applicable threshold, which was $3.5 million for 2013-2014.  However, the walk-way threshold is tied to the increase in Average Salary in the NHL and therefore rises year-over-year. The NHL has not yet released the Average Salary figure for the 2014-2015 season (which will be the number relevant to determining the walk-away figure for Cody Franson), but if the Average Salary increases in the manner that some have predicted, the walk-away figure applicable to Cody Franson should be an award just shy of $4 million. All of which means that — barring a trade, either before or after the arbitrator renders his decision (the CBA does not restrict such a transfer despite popular belief) – fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs can be virtually certain that they’ll have at least one more season of Cody Franson manning the point on the powerplay.

Elliot is a litigator, media and sports lawyer working downtown Toronto at Bersenas Jacobsen Chouest Thomson Blackburn LLP. He completed his articles at the Toronto office of a national full-service firm before leaving to pursue a media, sports and litigation practice. Elliot currently teaches a negotiation course entitled “Lawyer as Negotiator” at Osgoode Hall Law School, where he graduated in the top 6% of his class, and was a recipient of the McMillan LLP Scholarship. He has written extensively on negotiation, mediation and alternative dispute resolution, and his paper on collective bargaining in the National Hockey League was published in Volume 19 of the Sports Lawyers Journal. Elliot currently represents national level amateur athletes involved in sports related disputes through the Sports Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada. Elliot can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter

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285 comments
mirtle
mirtle

Good post but Kyle Quincey isn't a comparable. He signed his deal as a UFA this summer. 


The problem with some of the other deals as comparables is they eat into UFA years, which Franson's obviously wouldn't out of arb. 


TuckerForPunishment
TuckerForPunishment

So then.  Lets continue to beat the dead horse.


Franson will lead the leafs D in hits and points.  This I'm all but certain of.

Leafbites
Leafbites

Leafs went and got enough right D so they could create a market for Cody, by making it seem like they are only offloading him because they now suddenly have a surplus of righties....he may be drawing some interest, but not from anyone wanting to part with any significant asset for his services, and obviously waiting out this arb hearing. He's gonzo before the season starts for a bag of pucks and a half dozen face stitches. 

Black_Hawk
Black_Hawk

i would just walk away from franson at this point if he gets 4+

Mattmark
Mattmark

If the Flyers or some other team did offer-sheet Franson and we didn't match, what kind of compensation (draft choices?) would come our way?

JMAC17
JMAC17

What do you guys think happens with Gardiner...a bridge deal or a long term deal like Kulikov just signed....


Might be a good play to get Jake singed for 4-5 years at around 4M....bridge deal will lead to a 5-6M deal I would imagine.

.JVR.
.JVR.

Quick question.

Are we still able to trade Franson after his arbitration case is done on Monday?


From what I can remember, if the team had filed, they wouldn't be able to trade him, but because he took them to arbitration, they are still able to trade him (and walk away if the award is over $3.5 million)

.JVR.
.JVR.

I'd be alright with Franson for another year somwehere in the middle of what the two sides reportedly want.


Maybe $3 million for next season, but there is no way he's gonna resign here after the way he has been treated since his arrival.

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

Elliot might be interested in Franson's court case. Not sure if he has any access to the facts of the case other than what's been printed in the newspapers. It's a BC case, looks like it falls under BC's ICBC health care plan somehow. More pro bono projects for Elliot.

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

The part of the Franson car crash lawsuit I found interesting was:

"Franson claims the accident continues to have negative financial consequences on his career, in particular on his ability to negotiate a salary as a restricted free agent based on a broader body of work within his first three entry years."

BruceHines3
BruceHines3

While the Leafs have thrown stupid money at Grabovski, Liles, Finger, Clarkson, and others in the past they seem to show little respect to Franson with each contract negotiation. I don't get it. I'd rather have him on the team than any of the aforementioned.

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

Cody Franson alleges in lawsuit that car crash injury cost him a year in the NHL: Vancouver Sun from last May

"Former Vancouver Giants defenceman Cody Franson has had his bid for a trial by judge only dismissed and is scheduled to appear in court in Vancouver on June 16 in front of a jury.

Franson is seeking compensation from a vehicle accident in July 2008 which, Franson alleges, kept him from making the NHL’s Nashville Predators that fall.

He earned $62,500 with the Predators farm team, the Milwaukee Admirals, in 2008-09. His NHL salary would have been $500,000.

Franson claims the accident continues to have negative financial consequences on his career, in particular on his ability to negotiate a salary as a restricted free agent based on a broader body of work within his first three entry years.

Franson, a native of Salmon Arm, applied to have the case heard without a jury because, he argued, the issues required prolonged examination of documents, a scientific investigation and are intricate and complex.

Justice Barbara Fisher disagreed, stating in rher reasons for judgment that, “it is my view that a jury is capable of assessing this kind of evidence and determing the issues arising from it ...”

Franson, 26, made the Predators the following season after the accident, playing 61 NHL games in 2009-10 and earned $500,000.

He became a restricted free agent and signed a contract with Nashville in 2010 for $800,000.

After the 2010-11 season he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he earned $1.2 million and then $2 million this season.

He is again a restricted free agent.

Franson won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2007 world junior championship and then was part of the Vancouver Giants Memorial Cup championship team that spring.

http://www.theprovince.com/sports/Former+Vancouver+Giant+alleges+lawsuit+that+crash+injury+cost+year/9844409/story.html?__federated=1

BrandonCheema
BrandonCheema

If hes leading in hits , that just means the other team ha ps the puck way more

I think gardiner could surpass him this year in points

.JVR.
.JVR.

@Black_Hawk

Fucking Gorges!!


Would be quite pumped about our defence right now if we were able to ice the following next season:


Gorges   -   Phaneuf

Rielly   -   Robidas

Gardiner   -   Polak

TOHockeyNut
TOHockeyNut

@Dewy Keon Hogturd I don't think so. I just think it's a negotiating tactic to try and settle for over 3 or have the arbitrator award in that area.

To me Nonis did low ball at 2 mil and that is a negotiating tactic as well.


Look at Frason's history defensively speaking.


He couldn't earn the trust of Wilson and was quite often a healthy scratch.

He played fairly well on the third pairing with Mark Fraser being sheltered during the shortened season.

He was then given a more prominent role last year playing against tougher competition and did not do so well.


So would you pay him as a top 4 D? IMO No.

Would you pay him as a 3rd pairing D? IMO No.

Because he has the offensive ability especially on the power play IMO he should be paid somewhere in between the 2.

TOHockeyNut
TOHockeyNut

@JMAC17 A long term deal would be ideal I agree, but that is why we probably won't see any deal announced for Jake until after Franson and Reimer are settled and Nonis has a better idea of the CAP situation.

Mattmark
Mattmark

@JMAC17 An affordable long-term deal with Gardiner would be ideal, even if Leafs subsequently decided to trade him.  (Of course, the hope would be that he plays so well a trade becomes unthinkable.)

Optimustic
Optimustic

@.JVR. Yes, if he was to get an offer sheet, then he couldn't be traded for one year.

DeclanK
DeclanK moderator

@Xxxxxnew

He linked the court case in the article. 

"...on-going legal challenges in his home province."

peterbleafs
peterbleafs

@Xxxxxnew He is right, immaterial information as it pertains to the Leafs today.  Dont care.

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

I don't think I really knew about Franson's car crash and injury.

DWCMLHS
DWCMLHS

@DeclanK I don't get this guy. "Advanced stats" (hate that term) are useful, and have great predictive value, but simply looking at possession numbers to judge players, ignoring the role that they play, is downright reckless. On an individual level, a player's role has a huge impact on their possession numbers. Franson would almost certainly have far worse possession numbers in Phaneuf's role than Phaneuf does. Most of the hardcore stats guys understand this. Hopefully we don't get the chance to see that assumption proven right or wrong, though.  

.JVR.
.JVR.

@Optimustic

I believe he'll be an UFA next summer, so no chance of an offer sheet.

mtommy
mtommy

@Optimustic @.JVR. Yes, but if it's unlikely the leafs are going to match then teams won't bother giving an asset and wait for him to hit the market. The only option I see is he walks or he stays and we flip him at  deadline.

Pent_House
Pent_House

@Ze_theLeafsFan @Xxxxxnew He was injured apparently during the summer which stopped his training, and he came to camp in his 2nd season not prepared and played in the AHL that year, then the next year made the NHL 

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

First time I heard of it. All I know is what I saw in the link below the story.

DeclanK
DeclanK moderator

@Xxxxxnew It's linked to in the article. "...on-going legal challenges in his home province."

.JVR.
.JVR.

@TOHockeyNut

That and the fact I believe the deadline for offer-sheets was July 5th.

Can't remember where I saw that, but I remember reading it.

TOHockeyNut
TOHockeyNut

@.JVR. @TOHockeyNut I don't think that there is any date deadline for offer sheets on RFA that are unsigned and where arbitration was not chosen. Didn't Calgary Offer sheet ROR in September?

.JVR.
.JVR.

@TOHockeyNut

Not too sure, but I'm sure I read something saying that the July 5th deadline had passed for offer sheets to be submitted.

It was news to me, as I always thought a RFA could sign an offer-sheet anytime before they signed, unless they elected for salary arbitration.

Cloud09
Cloud09

@.JVR. @TOHockeyNut That July 5th deadline is if arbitration was selected. A RFA not going into salary arbitration can still sign an offer sheet. 

.JVR.
.JVR.

@Cloud09

Thanks for clearing things up man.


So, July 5th is basically the deadline to file for arbitration.