WILMINGTON, Mass – The Bruins were involved in the Cody Franson derby at points this summer, but they weren’t there at the end when the 6-foot-5 D-man inked a two-year, $6.65 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. Franson went through the summer unsigned as teams shied away while he looked for longer term and bigger money and weren’t sold on the player after he struggled following his trade from Toronto to Nashville.
Still, Franson, 28, posted seven goals and 36 points last season and proved himself a solid, if a bit slow in the skating department, top-4 defenseman that could have stepped into the void left by Dougie Hamilton’s departure. There was certainly grumbling by the message board warriors and Bruins fanatics, who thought Boston should have been willing to pony up for Franson if they’d also been willing to pay Adam McQuaid a contract extension salary of $2.75 million per season.
So, Don Sweeney admitted he was tempted to really pursue Franson once the price came down over the last month after some lofty contract wishes back on July 1, but in the end wanted to get a look at his young defensemen.
That means giving looks to Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid as potential top-4 D-men, and allowing for Zach Trotman, Colin Miller and Joe Morrow to get a legitimate shot at NHL gigs.
“I think this is presenting an opportunity where you go and establish yourself,” said Sweeney of the young D-men right in the middle of competition for NHL jobs. “There’s definitely a little bit of a tug of war going on internally as to whether or not you go out and get a guy that you know can provide what [Franson] can versus a little of the unknown as to what these [younger] players can grow into. But there’s always going to be that, and every team faces that when you have a little bit of transition and age, and you have some young players that are pushing for their own opportunity.
“But you’re always going to have that. You’re going to have that up front, and have that at every position. You want that. That’s the internal competition that as an organization we have to have if we’re going to get better. I’m not going to turn my back on it when I feel like guys are in that position, but if they fall short of that then we have to make an adjustment accordingly.”
Translation: if the young D-men can’t hack it in camp or early in the regular season, the Bruins won’t hesitate to target some of the big name blueliners that might become available, with names such as Dustin Byfuglien or Brent Seabrook.
Trotman, in particular, could be the beneficiary of the Bruins passing on Franson as his size, strength and offensive skill set is very similar to Franson.
The one major difference: Trotman, 25, is three years younger, home-grown and a much more inexpensive player than one of the top free agents on the market. He is on a one way contract, and really took a big step last season with a goal and five points in 27 games while earning top pairing shifts with Zdeno Chara at the end of last season.
That is a pretty convincing sample size that Trotman is ready to be one of those young, offensively capable D-men ready to turn up the transition game for the Bruins and seize the opportunity in front of him with Franson now in Buffalo.