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Ron Francis Happy With Roster - For Now

Carolina's general manager addressed the media in his annual "first day of free agency" press conference

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

On a day that saw most of the best free agents on the market get the longer contract terms they wanted, the Carolina Hurricanes stayed the course and did not get involved spending any big money.

As a matter of fact, they took steps to save some.

The Canes brought in forwards Viktor Stalberg, (1 year, $1.5 million) and Lee Stempniak, (2 years, $2.5 million each year).  While both of these signings might seem insignificant, they both represent upgrades over the skaters they are replacing from last season.

Will they be enough of an upgrade to make the playoffs?  Time will tell.

Other newcomers, Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Bryan Bickell might have something to say about that as well.

In a surprising move the day before free agency,  the Canes also bought out the remaining one year left on James Wisniewski's contract, which saved the team about $1 million.

Ron Francis held a press conference on Friday afternoon and the first question asked was about the logic behind the Wisniewski buy out.  The GM said that with the success of the younger defensemen, James did not seem to fit into that 5 - 6 pairing, so they decided to buy him out.

"We have Ryan Murphy also with some experience and he can possibly fit in there as well."

It would seem from the outside that this is a pure cost savings measure because Wisniewski would appear to be perfect for that role.  Although keep in mind, Haydn Fleury, Roland McKeown, and Trevor Carrick will each be battling for a spot as well.

If they had to, the Canes could always make a trade and bring someone else in and Francis admitted they would keep that door open.

Francis was then asked if he had any offers out there to a free agent who went elsewhere for bigger money.  His reply was no, not to the higher end guys.  Francis reiterated that he will not put himself into a situation where he his unable to re-sign his youth group, (Pesce, Slavin, Lindholm, Rask, etc.) once their entry level or bridge deals expire.

The next question was if the GM felt that he was all set with his forward group, up front.

Francis replied that he has pieces that are ready to go, but there might be a couple of spots available, but he also feels they have young kids who are potentially ready.  It's up to them to come in and grab them.

"I think we look good but we will continue to look at the "D" situation and if there is anything we can do with that differently we will look at that, but that's where we are at right now".

Francis then went on about Stempniak a bit and emphasized how they did their homework on him.  The GM mentioned that 16 of his 19 goals last season were at even-strength.  He seems like a good guy in the lockerroom and has changed his workout regiment, similar to how Francis did later in his career.  They feel the new forward is versatile and will be a good fit.

Regarding the goalie coach situation, David Marcoux will remain as goalie coach, Curtis Joseph is being brought in as a consultant.  He will primarily be working in Charlotte, perhaps 7- 10 days a month to work with the young goaltenders.  He will also be traveling around as necessary to work with the team's goalie prospects in the system as well.

Francis and Bill Peters have been in discussions regarding a contract extension.  Talks are "amicable and progressing at this point."

They are still in discussions with Victor Rask.  Rask's agent has been very busy with some of these higher priced guys, but Francis said they hope to get something done soon.  They have been talking about both longer term and bridge deals.

When asked if he did enough to improve his team, Francis said that they seemed to be close last year but just came up short quite often by losing a one goal game, or in overtime, or in a shootout.  He believes they have added enough skill to improve and get over the hump in those situations.  He also feels the team is now bigger, but has not lost any speed.  He repeated that team speed is important in today's game and he feels the team is even faster now than last year.

He was then asked about Eric Staal's comments saying that the team's system did not fit his style.  Francis said he was surprised at the comment, that the team plays an up-tempo system and that if he was still a player, he would want to play in that type of a system.

When asked about Stalberg's role with the team Francis said that they "have to be careful" regarding Andrej Nestrasil's return.

"He is progressing extremely well so we expect him to be 100%, but this is something we are aware of, so with Viktor we have flexibility. Bill Peters now has the luxury of moving around his forwards in different scenarios if he wants to.  We had trouble sometimes getting our lines back together after a powerplay.  Now I think we will be able to do that better."

When asked if someone like Haydn Fleury could earn a starting role this season Francis said it was possible.  They are certainly counting on a few games from him.

He was then asked if this was Ryan Murphy's "last chance?"  Francis did not answer the question but replied that Murphy is learning, like many younger players with high skill level, how much hard work is needed in the offseason to perform well in this league.  Murphy worked hard last offseason and Francis assumes he is doing so again.

Then I asked about Lack's drop off in production from his time in Vancouver to last season in Carolina.

Francis started off by saying that both goalies started off slowly.  In early December, Bill Peters had a meeting with both goalies and David Marcoux to see what it was that they could change.  After that, both of those guys were dramatically better.    Perhaps it was less games for Eddie, he went from 40 something in Vancouver and that is something they talked about and looked at.

"In back to back situations, we'll lean more on both goaltenders.  Maybe it was just getting comfortable in his surroundings.  But certainly we still feel he is a good goaltender."

It sounds like they are starting the season with the same goalie tandem from last year.  Both might feel like they have something to prove.

The entire interview is below.