All the fun hockey court cases seem to have BC ties. One came across my radar today – Cody Franson is suing some guy as a result of a car accident in July of 2008. In the course of his reasons on a motion to strike, the judge laid out Franson’s theory:
The plaintiff’s action is for damages arising from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident on July 18, 2008. At that time, the plaintiff was in the second year of a three-year Entry Level two-way contract with the National Hockey League (NHL) and the American Hockey League (AHL), and was in training camp preparing for tryouts for the Nashville Predators. It is alleged that as a result of the injuries he sustained, the plaintiff was not able to follow his training program and was unsuccessful in his bid to gain a spot on the Nashville roster in September 2008 for the 2008-2009 season. Instead he played in the AHL, earning $62,500 instead of NHL wages of up to $500,000 as well as bonuses. He was successful the following year and played in 61 NHL games for Nashville in the 2009-2010 season. In 2010, the plaintiff signed his second contract with the NHL, this time as a Restricted Free Agent, and he earned a salary of $800,000. In subsequent contracts, his salary increased to $1.2 and then $2 M.
Basically, Franson’s arguing that he didn’t make the team because he couldn’t train in the summer of 2008 and that he’s sustained losses as a result in the form of contracts that are lower than they’d otherwise be. One of the defence arguments will be that Franson didn’t make the Predators in 2008-09 because he wasn’t good enough, regardless of how much he trained. Let’s look at the Preds defence, shall we?
Oof. That’s not exactly a plaintiff’s dream. Two Canadian Olympians and a US Olympian, all of whom have received Norris votes. Franson wasn’t called up at any point during the season, which (keeping in mind I know nothing about his injuries) makes it kind of hard to suggest he was all that close to cracking the roster. Franson played 76 out of 80 games for the Milwaukee Admirals and put up a pile of points, so he couldn’t have been that injured.
Just looking at the ages of Nashville’s defence and their salaries (and knowing what we know about Nashville’s willingness to bury salary in the minors), four spots were gone pretty much before camp opened: Suter, Weber, de Vries and Hamhuis. Zanon basically had two full seasons with the Preds at that point and it’s hard to see them sending him down, even if the money wouldn’t have been that outrageous. That’s five spots gone, with those guys dressing basically every night.
What remains, therefore, are the sixth spot and the seventh spot. Looking at Nashville’s roster, it seems that they basically used Kevin Klein as the 6D, with Ville Koistenen drawing in whenever one of the top six was injured. I assume, given his age, that Klein was out of waiver exemptions. In any event, Franson played behind him the next year and when Denis Grebeshkov was acquired, he briefly lost his spot, gaining it back when Grebeshkov was injured before sitting out the final games of the playoffs.
If you’re the plaintiff’s lawyer then, you’re probably basically left to argue that the Predators would have kept Franson as a seventh D instead of Koistenen if he’d been healthy for camp. Now, that’s a very difficult argument to make because Franson’s injuries weren’t severe enough to keep him from playing 95% of an AHL season and, presumably, if the Predators wanted Franson on the team, they would have called him up at some point. It seems far more likely that they thought a young defenceman needed to play a boatload of minutes that they couldn’t give him.
Now, we have no idea what the evidence will be. For all we know, David Poile and Barry Trotz are going to be called as witnesses and will give evidence that they would have taken Franson if he was in better shape but decided to punish him. On the surface though, it seems like a very tough case to me. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out.Email Tyler Dellow at email@example.com