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Need defense help? Cody Franson is worth the tiny risk

Pittsburgh Penguins v Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 05: Cody Franson #11 of the Chicago Blackhawks participates in warm-ups before the season opening game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the United Center on October 5, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Yes, it’s true that Cody Franson isn’t perfect. It’s also true that he’s no longer the scoring threat who generated 30+ points twice and neared that mark a few other times.

And, yeah, he’s not the most fleet-footed blueliner either.

You can poke some holes in Franson’s game, which is part of the reason why the Chicago Blackhawks put him on waivers today. Franson is one of those guys who’s generated debate for years, as his stats frequently stand out to those who are analytics-minded.

Even in his limited form, Franson still checks out quite well in 2017-18, at the age of 30.

You can see his strong fancy stats at a glance at Hockey Reference, and also in these persuasive tweets:

There’s a reasonable counterpoint to the worries about speed, too.

That said, Franson did get waived by a Blackhawks team that’s desperate for speed, so maybe he’s really not particularly useful?

Well, here’s where I’d stand as a GM of a team: it wouldn’t hurt a whole lot to find out.

Most importantly, it’s crucial to realize what kind of blueliner we’re talking about here. Ideally, Franson would be a bottom-pairing guy, rather than someone in one of the top two pairings, where a team would suffer far more from whatever flaws a player might have. In some cases, Franson might even be a seventh defenseman, subbing in for injuries or cold streaks.

By that metric, it’s tough to imagine Franson failing to be an upgrade over some of the weaker defensemen on all but the deepest groups. He carries a $1 million cap hit this season, which now counts a little under $500K in 2017-18 ($478,495, according to Cap Friendly), so he’s dirt-cheap, too. Franson wouldn’t cost a lot more than the league minimum, and he’d only take up a roster spot for a team claiming him.

There’s also the Calvin Pickard scenario, as Stanley Cup of Chowder points out; a team might want to work out a trade with the Blackhawks after Franson clears waivers, thus eliminating some of those roster spot concerns.

Franson isn’t going to set the world on fire, but maybe he’d cause fewer fires in his own end than a team’s current defensive options? Considering the premium on passable defensemen in the NHL, one of the other 30 teams should make a point to find out if he’d be a better fit with their team than he’s been in Chicago.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.