The greatest hits as the GM of the Carolina Hurricanes
1. Drafting a young forward from Finland with the 35th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft
What was a Joni Pitkanen scouted selection, it goes without saying that selecting Sebastian Aho in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft was one of the better moves the Carolina Hurricanes’ franchise has made in recent years.
While he didn’t make the jump to the NHL right away, it wasn’t long before he made his presence felt. Starting off on the wing, he slowly transitioned into the Canes’ number one center full time under Rod Brind’amour.
Excelling in the role, he has set new career highs offensively each and every season without compromising anything on the defensive side of the puck. Robbed of his first 40 goal campaign this season, it won’t be much longer before he becomes more of a household name around the league.
2. Stealing Turbo from the Chicago Blackhawks
Easily the best trade-in Francis’ tenure as General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes was absolutely robbing the Chicago Blackhawks of Teuvo Teravainen.
Taking advantage of a cap starved Hawks team, the Hurricanes traded a 2016 second-round pick and a 2017 third-round pick to Chicago on June 15th, 2016 in exchange for a 22-year-old Teravinen and a cap dump in Bryan Bickell.
Since that trade, Turbo has blossomed into an elite two-way weapon for the Canes. Spending a lot of time with Aho on the Hurricanes top line, the two have become a deadly combination.
3. Signing Slavin and Pesce to long term extensions
Back in 2017 Carolina managed to lock up two massive pieces of their defense core to long term team-friendly deals. Their deals were offset by a year which smartly gives the team some cap flexibility down the line.
Since signing a seven-year, 5.3 million per extension mid-July, Jaccob Slavin has gone on to become one of the best shut down guys in the entire league. An NHL All-Star this year, there is no question that his contract is one of the biggest bargains in the entire league.
Brett Pesce signed a six-year, 4.025 million per extension on August 1st, 2017. A major piece to the defensive core, Pesce is also one of the biggest bargain deals in the entire league. To have these two guys locked up for a combined 9.3 million per year is insane seeing that guys like Karlsson, Doughty, and Subban are making well above that on their own.
4. Bringing back a fan favorite day one of free agency
July 1st, 2017 the Carolina Hurricanes managed to bring back long time fan favorite and three-time Stanley Cup Winner Justin Williams back into the fold. Signing a two-year deal at the time, this move signified that the team was tired of losing and was ready to finally take that next step forward.
Although he wasn’t officially the captain, it was clear that he was the guy running the ship. A tremendous mentor to a young roster, he brought his wealth of experience and knowledge to a team desperate for a culture change.
Since then, the Hurricanes have managed to crawl their way out of mediocrity and have made the postseason in back to back years for the first time in forever. While he is in the back half of his NHL career, bringing him back was one of the better moves made by Ron Francis.
5. Commitment to a plan
Now, this last one was a bit of a positive and a negative (which we’ll get into in a second).
When he took over as General Manager he talked about being patient, having a plan, and building things properly from the ground up. Not one to hit the panic button or make a knee jerker move, he committed to his plan throughout his four-year tenure.
Hurricanes fans owe a lot to what he did manage to build. It is no secret that the foundation was set and most of the core was put together during his time in the front office. Unfortunately, however, there were just a few things he did or didn’t do that led to his dismissal.