The Chicago Blackhawks have completed what may be the worst kept secret in the league, by moving Marian Hossa to long-term injured reserve and signing Cody Franson to a one-year deal worth $1MM. Franson was technically in camp on a professional tryout, but those around the team had long guessed that he had a handshake deal in place to sign after the season was underway.
Franson will come in to help a defense that has more questions than ever for the Blackhawks. After trading away Niklas Hjalmarsson this offseason, the team will be relying on several inexperienced players to fill out the pairs behind Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. Franson, with his 527 games played in the NHL has more league experience than Connor Murphy, Michal Kempny, Jan Rutta and Jordan Oesterle put together, making him a welcome sight for coach Joel Quenneville.
Still, Franson doesn’t come without his faults. During his time with Nashville, Toronto and Buffalo, Franson has garnered a reputation as an excellent puck-mover and powerplay quarterback that has trouble keeping up with speedy forwards and can sometimes find himself floating out of position in his own end. He’s seen the most success when sheltered with offensive zone starts and an easier matchup, something that he may not be welcome to in Chicago. While Keith will certainly take the toughest matchups on a nightly basis, Franson will likely be given his fair share of responsibility at both ends.
With Hossa going on LTIR (joining Michal Rozsival and Jordin Tootoo) and Franson signed, the Blackhawks now have several million dollars in cap room to play with this season. Alex DeBrincat and Gustav Forsling have been recalled for the season opener, eating into that cap space, but the team will still have a chance to bolster their defense corps in-season. It won’t be easy for the usually powerhouse Chicago franchise, but with a forward group that still boasts some of the very best players in the league, they certainly can’t be counted out.