9:00pm: The Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker relays word from multiple sources that Francis will be hired and an announcement is expected this week. Baker adds that Francis will be given a multi-year contract “described as midrange in terms of other NHL GMs.” He also believes that Francis will be given full say on the hiring of the coaching staff and front office staff and may even have input on the team’s naming decision.
8:30pm: Many expected the Seattle expansion group to name their general manager this summer, with less than two years to go before the 2021 Expansion Draft. A large assortment of names have been in consideration for the position over the past year or so. In fact, the job seemed destined to go to now-Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett at one point. The new leading candidate? Former Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman writes that Seattle is closing in on selecting Francis as their inaugural GM and feels that an announcement could becoming within days. The team has not confirmed the rumor at this time.
Francis, of course, was a Hall of Fame player who won two Stanley Cups and was a four-time All-Star in 23 NHL seasons with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins. Francis, an elite defensive forward and skilled play-maker, averaged better than a point-per-game on average over a whopping 1731 career games, including three 100+ point seasons. After retiring in 2004, Francis transitioned into a front office role with the Hurricanes in 2006 and eventually worked his way up to GM in 2014, a role he served in until he was fired last summer.
During his tenure in Carolina, Francis was criticized for making too few impact trades, bringing in hardly any impact players due to what many perceived to be a an over-hesitation to take a risk. Francis also showed similar hesitation on the free agent market and failed to improve his team externally, as the Hurricanes did not make the playoffs during his time as GM. However, the team is now reaping the benefits of his ability to draft and develop, as evidenced by a largely young and homegrown group making a run to the Eastern Conference Final this season. If the Seattle group is focused on Francis, it is likely that they value his ability to find value in the draft and to build a strong pipeline, a key factor for any upstart expansion franchise. Francis may also fare differently in adding talent, via expansion draft, trade, or free agency, with a clean slate, comfortable funding, and substantial leverage over his competitors, many of whom will look to swing deals to protect their assets in the expansion draft process.
Francis’ understanding of the game from his stellar playing career and his experience in the GM role make him a strong candidate for the Seattle position. How it all works out though, should he be the final selection, will be determined by how he handles the tricky situation of the expansion draft, and relevant trades, and his first entry draft and free agency in 2021.