According to reports, unrestricted free agent Cody Franson is choosing between four teams: Chicago, Edmonton, Vancouver, and San Jose. Many of those on social media welcome the idea of Franson joining a Chicago blue line that appears particularly thin. It’s true that question marks abound when it comes to the blue line.
Duncan Keith is a sure bet, at least for a year or two more. Brent Seabrook will be solid but won’t set the world on fire. Conner Murphy has the potential but hasn’t proven he’s a first line defenseman. From there, more questions and a lot of youngsters. Thus, bring in veteran defenseman Cody Franson, most recently with the Buffalo Sabres.
Franson has shown in the past that he is an offensive defenseman who can put up some nice offensive points. In the 2012-2013 season, Franson scored 29 points. The following year he tallied 33 points, and in 2014-2015 he scored a career high 36 points. Franson is also known as a guy who can run the point on the powerplay and can move the puck. On the surface, he looks like a guy who could help the Blackhawks.
While Franson may help marginally now, it is not worth signing him to a one-year deal only to take away valuable minutes from a younger defenseman with potential. Three years ago, Franson looked to be an emerging legitimate offensive defenseman; however, in 2015-2016, Franson scored 17 points and followed that total in 2016-2017 with 19 points. Further, Franson lacks speed. He is a big player at 6’5” 224 pounds but will be unable to add the speed that the Hawks so desperately lacked last season when they were bounced from the playoffs. At age 30, that is unlikely to improve.
If the Blackhawks sign Franson now, one, or more, of our youngsters will miss valuable ice time next season. Michal Kempny- 26, Gustav Forsling- 21, Jan Rutta- 26, Ville Pokka- 23, Erik Gustafsson-25 and Jordan Oesterle-25 deserve a chance to play and Blackhawks coaches need to assess performance. If not, the Hawks will be in the same position next season with a lot of question marks on defense.
Michal Kempny will likely see a lot of ice time possibly on the second line with Brent Seabrook, and Gustav Forsling looks to see time on the third line as well. The interesting one in this group is Jan Rutta. He is a very similar player to Franson; he’s big with a mind for the offense. The difference is that he’s faster and younger.
Could Franson help the Blackhawks? Probably. Would his contribution be great enough to delay the development of a Forsling or Rutta? No. Let this one go. Focus on using the Hossa money once the LTIR kicks in in October. The Blackhawks need to transition with younger players while trying to keep the Cup window open.
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