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Cody Franson signs two-year contract with Sabres

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- Defensemen Cody Franson signed a two-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday and said he is eager to join a team that appears to be on the rise.

"Bringing in guys like [Ryan] O'Reilly and [Evander Kane] and a number of the acquisitions they made, and drafting a guy like [Jack] Eichel, it's an organization that's going in the right direction," Franson said at First Niagara Center. "It made my decision very easy to want to be a part of that."

The 28-year-old unrestricted free agent had seven goals and 36 points in 78 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nashville Predators last season.

Franson was acquired by the Predators from the Maple Leafs in a Feb. 15 trade. He had one goal and four points in 23 games with Nashville, which decided not to re-sign him.

"I have nothing but good things to say about Nashville," Franson said. "They're a great organization and a great city and great fans and a great place to play, but unfortunately it wasn't a good fit this time around. They brought me in having three kinds of guys to work the right side and play the power play, and that's one of the things I try to take a lot of pride in. I went from playing an important role in Toronto to more of a depth role in Nashville and it was a big adjustment. It just wasn't quite the right fit and we agreed to part ways and now here I am."

Sabres general manager Tim Murray said he views Franson as a top-four or top-five defenseman in Buffalo and expects him to be part of the first power-play unit.

"He'll certainly help us on the power play with his shot; his ability to move the puck," Murray said. "He's a skilled defenseman. Obviously [he has] a big body (6-foot-5, 213 pounds) that we know he's not a crasher and banger and that's not what we signed him for, but he's got some range. He's got a long reach and it does take some space to get by him if you're going to get by him defensively.

"We've got a coaching staff here that I've talked long and hard about a player like him and using him in the right situations. Certainly the 41 games at home, quality of competition and the right situations, offensive zone starts and all those types of things, but we think that he's a perfect fit for those situations."

Out of Franson's 169 NHL points, 67 have come on the power play, including 14 goals. Franson joins a defense that includes Josh Gorges, Zach Bogosian and 20-year-old Rasmus Ristolainen. Franson is one of four right-handed shooting defensemen on the roster, along with Bogosian, Ristolainen, and Mark Pysyk.

"They tried to put me on the left when I first got into Toronto [in 2011] and I struggled with it. I'm hoping I'm on the right side," Franson said. "I haven't talked to the coaching staff about what they're thinking for pairings or anything like that yet. We'll make it work as we go."

Even though Franson was second in the NHL in 2013-14 with 282 hits, that's not the kind of game the Sabres want from him.

"I would like to sit here and say he's a complete defenseman and he's going to excel at all aspects of the game, but what we want him to excel at is at moving the puck, skating the puck, and shooting the puck," Murray said. "Whatever he does after that, to me, is a bonus because we have some guys that are hard to play against, we've got some guys that are good defensively, block shots. So I think he adds to the mix that we have on the blue line."

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