The new NHL franchise in Seattle is set to name former Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis to the same position with the as yet unnamed team. The news was first reported by Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.
Francis was the general manager of the Hurricanes from 2014 to 2018, when he was first reassigned to the position of president of hockey operations and then left the organization abruptly in April 2018. The departure was characterized by the team as a contract termination, but Francis remained under contract to the Hurricanes in some capacity until June 30 of this year. Baker reports that the Seattle braintrust, including owner Jerry Bruckheimer, managing partner David Bonderman and CEO Tod Leiwicke, asked for and received permission from the Hurricanes to speak with Francis prior to his contract expiring.
Following his 2005 retirement, Francis held a variety of jobs in the Hurricanes’ hockey operations department, including a stint as an assistant coach under Paul Maurice. He eventually ascended to the general manager’s office in 2014, when Jim Rutherford stepped down from the position.
During his nearly four years as Hurricanes GM, the team never made the playoffs, but Francis remained patient as his plan to build the team through the draft proceeded apace. His draft picks included a heist of Sebastian Aho in the 2015 second round and first-round selections of the likes of Noah Hanifin and Martin Necas. He had plenty of misses as well, none more costly than the four-year contract bestowed on Scott Darling that quickly went sideways and forced the Hurricanes to trade Darling in June to the Florida Panthers at the eleventh hour to avert what seemed to be an inevitable buyout.
Famously, Francis never made a trade that included NHL players on both sides during his tenure. That’s not to say he was totally inactive; his acquisition of Teuvo Teravainen as the sweetener to take on Bryan Bickell’s contract was his high point as GM, and he found himself in the unenviable position of trading Eric Staal in 2016.
Francis will join Seattle a full year before the point in the expansion life cycle that George McPhee was hired by the Vegas Golden Knights in July 2016. With more than two years before the team takes the ice, Francis will have plenty of time to craft his front office and hire a head coach. When the expansion draft occurs in the summer of 2021, Francis will have his pick of players who will be made available under the same rules and procedure that the Golden Knights stocked their team with in 2017.
Most recently, Francis was employed as a commercial real estate broker with NAI Carolantic Realty in Raleigh. It seems that his midstream career change was short lived, however, as he will jump back into the NHL management arena and prepare to get Seattle ready to join the league two years from now.