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Blackhawks’ possible interest in Cody Franson makes a lot of sense

Franson could be invited to training camp, which would be a smart move by Chicago.

Detroit Red Wings vs Buffalo Sabres Photo by Tom Brenner/ Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks don’t have a lot of options left to improve their roster before next season, but they could invite free agent defenseman Cody Franson to training camp if he’s still available by then, according to 670 The Score’s Jay Zawaski.

Presumably how this would work is that Franson would sign a professional tryout contract for camp, and if both sides decide it’s worth moving forward together for the season, they’d sign a contract right after Marian Hossa is placed on long-term injured reserve.

That way, the Blackhawks would be able to use cap space freed up with Hossa’s LTIR status to add Franson to the roster without issue. Assuming he’d take a salary of around $2-3 million like he has over the past four years, it’s something Chicago could easily do if the steps came together.

It would also be a smart move for a team that’s not exactly stacked on defense right now. Franson wouldn’t necessarily be a game-changer, but among the options left on the open market, he’s the best available.

Franson has size (6’5, 224 pounds), the right-handed shot the Blackhawks need, and a track record of driving possession everywhere he’s been. Two of Chicago’s spots on the right side of its defense are already locked up with Brent Seabrook and Connor Murphy, but the third one is up for grabs with Ville Pokka and Jan Rutta among the contenders.

Neither of those players seems like a sure thing, so adding Franson would be a good way for the Hawks to hedge their bet. It would also give the team better depth to handle a potential injury, something that could really hurt an already thin defense at this point.

Everywhere he’s been, Franson has had a positive impact on possession. He’s never had a negative Corsi Relative at 5-on-5, according to Hockey-Reference. Last season with a bad Sabres team, he posted a 50.7 percent 5-on-5 Corsi, which was 5.2 percent higher than when he was on the bench. This despite taking more zone starts in the defensive end than the offensive end.

Franson is also not a bad point producer at even strength. He posted 0.9 points and 4.5 shots on goal per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play last season. For example, that’s better than Seabrook, who was at 0.8 and 3.8, respectively. If he got a bit of power play time, too, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Franson break the 30-point threshold.

And in October, there won’t be a ton of options for the Blackhawks to improve their team with Hossa’s LTIR cap space. Yes, they could just use it down the line and try to swing big before the trade deadline, but GM Stan Bowman’s track record there isn’t exactly glowing. Being able to get Franson without giving up anything but a bit of cap space would be a relatively low-risk move that could help stabilize a defense that’s in transition without Niklas Hjalmarsson.