Each day from now until July 1, the day free agency begins, Sarah Baicker and Tim Riday will profile some of the NHL's top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.
Cody Franson, defenseman
Last team: Toronto Maple Leafs
2013-14 cap hit: $2 million
Blessed with incredible size and a rocket shot, Franson is one of the more intriguing restricted free agent defensemen out there. He's capable of running power-play units and moves the puck very well. But consistency and defensive awareness have proved to be issues for the towering blueliner over the past few seasons. He was given a bigger role by the Maple Leafs in 2013-14 as he averaged nearly 21 minutes per game. He finished the season with five goals and 33 points, but was a team-worst minus-20.
Franson, who was selected in the third round of the 2005 NHL draft by the Nashville Predators, was part of Canada's 2007 World Junior Championship gold medal team in Sweden and helped the Vancouver Giants of the WHL claim the Memorial Cup that same year. He spent two seasons in Nashville before being traded to Toronto in 2011. The Maple Leafs reportedly have teams interested in acquiring Franson, but would prefer to re-sign him.
Franson has the size and the shot to make him appealing, but I don't see the Flyers bring in another ex-Leafs defender at this point. Like Luke Schenn, Franson can be too slow to react in his own zone, and the Flyers are in need of defensemen who are quick in front of Steve Mason, able to think fast and make smart decisions and passes out of the zone. Aside from all that, if Franson doesn't re-sign in Toronto (though I think he will), he'll be after a long-term deal and likely a raise. Add in his injury history, and I'll pass.
The Leafs are going to have a busy summer. They have a bunch of UFAs and RFAs looking for new deals and around $22 million to play with, according salary information site CapGeek.com. If a team swooped in and sent an offer sheet to Franson, would the Leafs immediately match it? Not necessarily. Toronto, much like the Flyers, does need to improve its defense, but the team has some other holes to fill as well. If Franson was offered a sizable pay raise, the Leafs might let him walk and use their cash elsewhere.
Where does that leave the Flyers? Franson would give the orange and black some much-needed size on the back end, but I have some concerns. Franson has already had one major hip surgery and was hounded by the injury through parts of last season. His defensive-zone coverage needs work and he is sometimes slow to react on the fly. He does have outstanding offensive ability, but I would be hesitant to offering him a long-term deal.