The Blackhawks have agreed with veteran defenseman Cody Franson on a professional tryout contract, a source confirmed, which could give them a much-needed boost on the back end of their back end.
Franson, a right-handed shot who turned 30 last month, played 68 games with the Buffalo Sabres last season, posting three goals and 16 assists. He’s been a positive possession player in nine of his 10 NHL seasons, during which he has played in Nashville, Toronto and Buffalo. Franson reportedly turned down actual contract offers for the tryout opportunity with the Hawks, who will have significant cap space once they put Marian Hossa on long-term injured reserve, likely the day after the season opener on Oct. 5.
The Hawks are desperate for help on the blue line after trading Niklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk, and losing Brian Campbell to retirement and Johnny Oduya to free agency. Franson will compete for a spot on the right side of the third-pairing with Czech import Jan Rutta and minor-leaguers Ville Pokka and Erik Gustafsson. While Franson had three productive seasons in Toronto, including 33- and 32-point campaigns, the 6-5 234-pounder is a slower, lumbering skater.
But if he pans out — and there’s no guarantee he will, as previous veterans on PTOs such as Daniel Paille, Jan Hejda and Lubomir Visnovsky haven’t stuck in the past — he’d still be a probable upgrade over any of the other options. Veteran Michal Rozsival, if healthy, is likely to be the seventh defenseman.