Johnny Oduya

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Report: Blackhawks sign Franson to PTO

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Two years ago, Cody Franson didn’t get a contract signed until Sept. 10,  finally inking a deal with the Buffalo Sabres.

On Thursday, with the summer once again almost completely over and one week remaining until training camps open up, the 30-year-old defenseman signed a professional tryout with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, which added that Franson turned down offers from other clubs in favor of this opportunity with the Blackhawks.

Playing on a two-year deal worth a total of $6.65 million for the Sabres, Franson had three goals and 19 points in Buffalo last season. He had 17 points the previous season.

With the losses of Brian Campbell, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Johnny Oduya, there has been significant change to the Blackhawks blue line throughout this offseason.

That said, there will be competition for spots on defense.

Prospect Gustav Forsling looks to maintain a full-time position on the roster after impressing during camp and splitting his time last season between the NHL and the minors. Same goes for Jan Rutta, who has spent the last few years playing professionally in the Czech Republic before he made the decision to come to North America.  He signed with Chicago in June.

Looking to make the leap: Thomas Chabot

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This post is part of Senators Day on PHT…

Thomas Chabot spent a brief time in the NHL last season, before he was reassigned to junior in November.

His debut included just over seven minutes of ice time against the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 18, and he was on the ice for two goals against. After his brief time in Ottawa, the 2015 first-round pick had another strong year in junior with the Saint John Sea Dogs, with 45 points in 34 games during the regular season and 23 points in 18 playoff games.

He was most impressive, however, for Team Canada at the World Juniors. His puck-moving abilities were instrumental in helping lead Canada’s offensive attack and he finished the tournament with four goals and 10 points in seven games.

It was just another part of a productive year from the left-shooting blue liner, who turned 20 years old in January.

Now, the Senators will look for Chabot to take another step in his development. He’s eligible for both the NHL and AHL this season.

Not including Chabot, Ottawa currently has seven defensemen signed for next season, with $19.85 million committed to that position, per CapFriendly. The club wanted to expose Dion Phaneuf in the expansion draft but he ultimately didn’t waive his no-movement clause. Instead, the Senators were left to expose Marc Methot, who was not only selected by Vegas but then traded to Dallas.

During the period of time in which Senators general manager Pierre Dorion was contemplating asking Phaneuf to waive his no-movement clause, he spoke highly of Chabot, saying he could challenge for a roster spot when training camp opens.

He previously stated that Chabot was, “…arguably the best defenceman outside the NHL right now,” according to TSN in April, when the injury-plagued Senators were looking into calling up Chabot.

An offseason signing that may impact Chabot’s situation is the addition of veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya at one year for $1 million.

“We know, through the course of last year, that defencemen are always at a premium,” Dorion told the Ottawa Citizen recently.

“Does this mean (Chabot) starts in Belleville? We don’t know. There’s a chance we could start with eight defencemen or seven defencemen.”

Plenty of opportunity on revamped Blackhawks defense

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For almost a decade, Niklas Hjalmarsson was a mainstay on the Blackhawks’ back end, quietly providing some of the most effective defense in the league.

But with Hjalmarsson in Arizona now, traded to the Coyotes for the younger-though-less-proven Connor Murphy, it remains to be seen how Chicago’s blue line will roll out next season.

In addition to Hjalmarsson, the ‘Hawks also bid adieu to Brian Campbell, Johnny Oduya, and Trevor van Riemsdyk this offseason.

Add up all the good-byes, and that’s a lot of minutes to replace.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we’re going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” head coach Joel Quenneville said, per CSN Chicago. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

The way it looks right now, the top four will be comprised of Keith, Seabrook, Murphy, and Michal Kempny. That’s two left shots — Keith and Kempny — and two righties — Seabrook and Murphy.

Read more: After major changes, Bowman thinks Blackhawks are in ‘good spot’

The bottom pairing, though, is anyone’s guess. Newly signed Czech defenseman Jan Rutta is in the mix. But so too are Jordan Oesterle, Gustav Forsling, Ville Pokka, Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg, and possibly even Luc Snuggerud.

Once training camp starts, it’ll be up to those young players to prove themselves.

“Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more,” said Oesterle, whom the ‘Hawks signed July 1. “I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Veteran Michal Rozsival is also under contract for next season. However, he turns 39 in September, and with all that youth champing at the bit, the Blackhawks will be hoping they won’t need him much, if at all.

Chicago’s defense in 2016-17, ranked by total time on ice

Sens ink veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya to one-year deal

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The Ottawa Senators have added some depth to their blue line, as they’ve signed Johnny Oduya to a one-year deal that comes with a base salary of $1 million.

Interestingly enough, Oduya can earn another $1.25 million in performance bonuses (games played, time -on-ice, playoff bonuses), per the Sens’ Twitter account.

The 35-year-old started last season with the Dallas Stars, but he was traded back to the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 28.

Oduya finished the 2016-17 season with two goals, seven assists and a minus-4 rating in 52 games. He also played in all four the Blackhawks’ playoff games (he had no points and a minus-3 rating in the postseason).

The Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft, and they didn’t replace him with a free-agent signing until now.

As of right now, Ottawa has Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf, Cody Ceci, Mark Borowiecki, Chris Wideman, Fredrik Claesson and Oduya on the back end (only Phaneuf and Karlsson are under contract beyond 2017-18). Top prospect Thomas Chabot could also make the team with a solid training camp.

The Stars are winning another offseason, but will the results follow on the ice?

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“Watch out for the Dallas Stars this season” is a sentence you have probably heard — or maybe even said! — once or twice every summer for the past five years.

It is because if there is one thing the Jim Nill era has been known for in Dallas since he took over as the team’s general manager, it is big, franchise altering, blockbuster moves pretty much every offseason.

The list is an extensive one.

In 2013 it was Tyler Seguin in what has turned out to be a laughably one-sided trade with the Boston Bruins and the hiring of coach Lindy Ruff.

In 2014 it was Jason Spezza (in another laughably one-sided trade in Dallas’ favor) and Ales Hemsky.

In 2015 it was Patrick Sharp (another steal), Johnny Oduya and Antti Niemi.

Coming off of a 50-win season he took last summer off in the blockbuster moves department but has jumped right back in this summer by getting pretty much every major free agent and available player under the sun. So far he has acquired Alexander Radulov, Ben Bishop, Martin Hanzal and Marc Methot with Ken Hitchcock returning to run the show behind the bench.

They have, once again, created more buzz for what might be coming this season.

They are not shying away from that buzz, either.

As nice as all of that sounds, there is definitely cause for some skepticism here because in previous years the results on the ice have not always matched the preseason hype that comes with all of their major moves.

They have made the playoffs twice in the past four years, topped 92 points in the standings just one time during that stretch, and have managed to win just a single playoff round.

Will this current group of additions produce a different ending and actually justify all of the praise and hype?

For Nill’s sake, it better because there is going to come a point where simply winning every trade and topping the summer’s “winners” list isn’t going to be enough.

The Stars have two more years of Spezza before his contract expires, two more years of Seguin at a below market rate before he really cashes in with a mega contract and they just invested $75 million over the next seven years in three players (Radulov, Bishop, Hanzal) that are all already 30 years old.

Given all of that you have to think these next couple of years are the window for the Stars to make some noise.

The ingredients, for the most part, are there.

Seguin and Benn are as good of an offensive duo as there is in the league and the type of cornerstone players a team needs to win, and one of them is still signed at a bargain rate. Plus just added Radulov into that mix.

There is no doubt injuries and goaltending played havoc on their season a year ago, so simply having a healthier season with some fresh blood might help. And if they get the Vezina Trophy finalist version of Bishop that will certainly help fix the goaltending mess that has plagued this team for a few years now.

It’s understandable that there is hype and excitement after so many big additions and a new direction behind the bench.

But we have seen this movie before, and it’s not like all of these moves are completely foolproof. Given the season Bishop had last season and his recent injury history there has to be some concern as to what he is going to be capable of this season. Hanzal is a nice player and Radulov was the best forward on the open market, but again, they are all on the wrong side of 30 and that always brings a risk with long-term contracts.

What I am trying to say here is: The best way to approach this Stars team should be with cautious optimism. There is reason to believe they can re-write the script this season, but until they actually do it there should still be a little doubt as to how good they will actually be.