Cody Franson calls waivers and AHL demotion ‘extremely frustrating’

This isn’t what the defensemen envisioned after waiting all summer to sign with the Blackhawks.

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Cody Franson called it “very frustrating” that he went unclaimed on waivers and found himself stuck in the AHL not long after playing with Duncan Keith, reports The Daily Herald’s John Dietz.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Franson said. “I was playing with (Duncan Keith) for 20 minutes a night. Then you get a fluke injury, you take a few weeks to come back and all of a sudden they don’t know where you slot in. ...

”I can’t lie that I was hoping to get picked up and go to somebody that wanted me. All I can do now is go out there and try and play hard and hope for the best.”

Franson, 30, signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Blackhawks in early October after joining the team on a professional tryout contract the previous month. He had turned down offers from other NHL teams in order to pursue an opportunity in Chicago.

At times, it seemed like that was working out as Franson earned minutes next to Keith and on the power play. However, he lost his spot following an injury in December, and once he returned, he struggled to carve out a spot with the emergence of Jordan Oesterle.

So the Blackhawks put him on the market free for the taking to the other 30 teams. This clearly bothered Franson, who was ready at that point to move on with a new organization.

“The first sensation that went through me was, ‘Did they just not want me anymore? Could they not have traded me?’ ” Franson said. “You kind of have that sense of ‘What just happened?’ Like they’re literally just trying to get rid of me. You get that sense that there’s no value.”

It’s understandable that Franson isn’t happy here. He’s a nine-year NHL veteran who has put up good underlying numbers in a lot of different stops, yet the 31 NHL teams basically said this month that even on a $1 million cap hit, they don’t have room for him right now. That’s gotta feel like a slap in the face given how Franson waited all summer to take the gig in Chicago.

Particularly because his performance didn’t demand a demotion. The defenseman put up seven points and a team-best 59.9 percent even strength Corsi in 22 games. Yes, he was playing an offensive-minded role, and that made him an odd man out once Keith-Oesterle starting getting more of those assignments, but it’s still surprising that the other 30 teams similarly felt there was no room.

When Oesterle was the one being benched, apparently Franson went out of his way to offer the defenseman support.

“Going through it with Frannie kind of calmed me down a bit,” Oesterle said. “Maybe if I was by myself I would have read into more things than I should have. ... He was a voice in my ear and (gave) me a little pick-me-up now and then whenever I needed it.”

To a degree, you gotta feel for Franson. He’s absolutely good enough to be in the NHL. There are tons of blue liners in this league who, for whatever reason, have earned confidence of coaches in a way Franson never could. Don’t be surprised if he’s traded soon now that another team could assign him to the AHL after a trade (even if that’s still not gonna make him too happy).