Franzen—also known as the Mule—has great hands and size, but at 33 years old, a legitimate question is: Are his best days behind him?
Franzen, currently placed on the IR as of Feb. 16 with a hip injury, has started the season very well with nine points in 12 games. He's been using his size to get to the front of the net, but is that enough? Looking at his shots per game, he's only averaging 2.25, which is down from his career average of 2.67. With his size and skill set, Franzen should at least be getting four or five shots per game on net.
Franzen has a reputation for his strong play in the playoffs, starting when he had 18 points in 16 games during the 2008 playoffs—helping the Red Wings capture the Stanley Cup. For his career, Franzen has 73 points in 88 playoff games, but he has struggled the last two postseasons. In 2011, he had only three points in eight games, and last postseason had one point in five games.
The worry is whether Franzen can regain his magical scoring touch in the playoffs or whether he will disappear and not use his body to drive to the net like he used to a few years back.
I strongly believe that Franzen has not played as aggressively since he tore his left ACL in Oct. 2009. Because of his age and the abuse on his body that his style of play invites, expectations of him should be lowered. Now is the time for the Red Wings to seriously entertain thoughts of trading him for a young star defenseman.
According to Capgeek.com, under the new CBA, Franzen's most valuable asset to the Red Wings is his salary-cap hit of $3,954,545 through the 2019-20 season. His contract, which was signed in 2009 under the old CBA, allowed the Red Wings to take advantage of a loophole that lowers the actual cap hit. This is now prevented under the new CBA agreement, which was agreed upon in January 2013.
Would Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman be interested in Franzen, knowing what he could bring in playoff experience to a young, talented team? Picture Franzen playing next to Steven Stamkos—I think Yzerman would love to see that become a reality.
Could the Red Wings attempt to pry defenseman Victor Hedman from the Lightning? While additional players may need to be included on both sides, it's worth a call and would greatly benefit two playoff contenders.
Hedman, who is 22 years old, would be a great successor to Nick Lidstrom and would be welcomed in Hockeytown with open arms.
Hedman is just one defenseman that the Red Wings could look into acquiring for Franzen, as I'm sure that several teams would want a playoff-tested veteran with a low cap hit.
Now is the perfect time for the Red Wings to strike in trading Franzen, since his productivity could wane in future years and he could start to lose his appeal to other teams. I strongly believe the Red Wings are still playoff contenders, as they can definitely retool on the fly, and Franzen can help them avoid rebuilding altogether.
*Statistics are as of Feb. 16