Feb 22, 2015; Buffalo, NY, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Cody Franson (44) during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
The San Jose Sharks acquired and signed their goaltender of the future in Martin Jones on the eve of free agency, thus solidifying one of the key areas general manager Doug Wilson needed to address during the offseason.
Now, the focus shifts to who Wilson can bring in to play in front of Jones. As Wilson talked about after the Jones signing, the Sharks aren’t finished quite yet.
One potential target appears to have emerged for Wilson in right-handed defenseman Cody Franson, who finished last season with the Nashville Predators.
Franson, 27, is an intriguing option who would fit in well with San Jose. Franson, a veteran of 400 NHL games, has 35 goals and 134 assists while averaging 17:32 in ice time. Also, Franson is a power-play option, amassing four goals and 11 assists with the man advantage last season. Franson is a big, puck-moving blue-liner at 6-foot-5 and 213 pounds who could help balance out the San Jose defense corps.
If Franson were to join the fold, the Sharks would have three right-handed defensemen in Franson, Brent Burns and Justin Braun, to pair with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, newly resigned Brenden Dillon and Mirco Mueller. Sign me up for that defense, especially if Wilson can find a way to bring back Matt Irwin as a potential seventh or swing man.
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Franson isn’t the only potential unrestricted free agent who the Sharks should pursue. Other options include Mike Green or Andrej Sekera.
Green, who will turn 30 just after the season kicks off, is an offensive defenseman who’s seen his ice time dwindle with the Washington Capitals. After averaging nearly 24:51 in 2012-13, Green averaged just 19:06 this past season. Despite the decline in ice time, Green is still a productive player as he registered 10 goals and 35 assists a season ago. For reference, that would trail on Burns for points by a blue liner if Green were on the Sharks.
Also, Green still controls and generates offense with a Corsi For percentage of 52.3 percent, good for eighth on the Capitals last season. Green has spent his entire career with Washington and he might not want to spend his last big contract with another franchise who consistently falls short.
Sekera, also 29, would add another left-handed option to the Sharks defensive corps, but would be well worth the investment. The common theme between Franson, Green and Sekera is all are puck-moving defensemen who should help spark San Jose’s offense. The Sharks ranked 22nd with just 142 even strength goals in 2014-15.
Sekera has spent a majority of his career in the Eastern Conference but was traded to the Los Angeles Kings a season ago. By signing Sekera, San Jose could stick it to Los Angeles while improving their team all at the same time. In 486 career NHL games, Sekera has scored 31 goals and 128 assists while averaging 20:50 of ice time and a plus-seven rating.
If Wilson can sign anyone of these potential options, the Sharks would be in fairly decent shape as they head into next year. While many have panicked about Wilson will or won’t do, he’s proven thus far that he will get the men he covets.
With free agency set to begin, Wilson knows this is a big year for him and the franchise. If he wants to reverse the trend from last season, then signing one (or two but that’s highly doubtful) of these defensemen would be a good start for Wilson to begin.