Tag: Ron Francis

2015 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7

Under Pressure: Ron Francis

With two key members of the franchise heading into the final year of their respective contracts, ‘Canes GM Ron Francis is under pressure to make some big decisions in Carolina.

Both Eric Staal and Cam Ward are set to become unrestricted free agents after the 2015-16 season. Both players were first-round picks of the ‘Canes and have spent their entire careers in the Carolina organization.

“We’ve had some conversations with Rich (Curran). When Eric and Cam get back into town, I’m sure we’ll have conversations with them,” Francis said. “I feel pretty comfortable with my relationship with Rich, and with both players that when the time is right and the numbers are right that we can get something done.

“Am I in a hurry to get this done this week or before camp or into the season? I really don’t have a timeframe on it. It’ll get done when it gets done.”

Ward, who went 22-24-5 in 51 appearances last season while posting a 2.40 G.A.A. and a .910 save percentage, is no stranger to being the subject of trade rumors. The 31-year-old expected to be dealt last summer.

“There was a lot of chatter about it last year and I learned a lot from that too,” Ward told PHT in January. “(Last) summer I was really able to take a break mentally and realize that I can only control what I can control – that’s just having fun and enjoying the game of hockey.”

Staal scored 23 goals and 54 points in 77 games last season registering his lowest totals since his rookie season.

“We’ll look at the whole situation and try and figure out what’s best,” Francis said. “As we said from Day 1, it has to make sense for our organization. We always talk about the term of the contract and the money in the contract – making sure we’re not blocking things going forward either.”

In addition to Staal and Ward, Francis will have to make decisions on Nathan Gerbe and Riley Nash up front. The only defenseman set to become an unrestricted free agent is John-Michael Liles while Eddie Lack is also headed into the final year of his contract.

Related: Poll: What should the ‘Canes do with Eric Staal?

Poll: What should the ‘Canes do with Eric Staal?

Edmonton Oilers v Carolina Hurricanes

With captain Eric Staal entering the final year of his seven-year, $57.75 million contract, GM Ron Francis has a big decision to make.

Does he ink the 30-year-old to a new multi-year extension? Or does he deal the former first-round pick in the hopes it returns some scoring help?

Staal is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2015-16 season.

He could be eyeing another significant payday on the open market, especially given what the likes of Jason Spezza got out of Dallas and Ryan Kesler signed for in Anaheim. All three are in their early 30’s.

“We’ll look at the whole situation and try and figure out what’s best,” Francis told the team’s website recently. “As we said from Day 1, it has to make sense for our organization. We always talk about the term of the contract and the money in the contract – making sure we’re not blocking things going forward either.”

Carolina’s offensive woes have been well documented.

If Francis is to deal the former second overall pick, he’ll likely be seeking young forward prospects with offensive upside in return.

Given the youth movement on the blue line, it might be the right time to deal Staal for some youth up front.

OK, time to vote:

Looking to make the leap: Noah Hanifin

2015 NHL Draft - Portraits

Carolina Hurricanes prospect Noah Hanifin is hoping to follow the footsteps of Aaron Ekblad and make the leap to the NHL after being the top defenseman selected in his draft class.

The 18-year-old, Norwood, MA native is going to get every opportunity be in the ‘Canes opening night lineup despite the crowded blue line in Carolina.

“We certainly think with his skating ability and his size, he has the potential to step in and play, but we’re certainly not going to rush him in that regard,” GM Ron Francis told the team’s website recently. “I think if you look at history, a lot of young defensemen take a little longer to develop.

“There have been more and more (defensemen) recently that have been able to step in and not only contribute, but have tremendous success.”

Carolina’s fifth overall selection in the June draft scored five goals and 23 points in 37 regular season games with Boston College last season.

His experience playing against older players while with the Eagles is one of the reasons Francis believes Hanifin will be able to make jump to the NHL this season.

“You look at what he did as a 17-year-old, he jammed in a bunch of classes to make sure he’s eligible for college and at 17 was playing against guys in that league that are 22, 23 and not only held his own, but excelled,” Francis said.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound blue liner believes with a full offseason of training he’ll be prepared for the NHL game.

“There’s a lot of good defensemen here and nothing is guaranteed. I’m going to put in a lot of good work this summer up until camp and I’m hoping I’m going to make it,” he said after signing his entry-level contract. “The pace of the game is going to be a lot higher, but with all the training I’m going to be putting in this summer, if I can continue to get better, I feel that I can go in (to camp) and do OK, do well.”

In order to make the leap, Hanifin will have to beat out some stiff competition. The ‘Canes currently have eight blue liners with NHL experience under contract for next season.

Coach Bill Peters is looking forward to watching the competition.

“What I see is there’s going to be an unbelievable competition on the back end between Hanifin, you’ve got (Haydn) Fleury, you got (Brett) Pesce you got (Jaccob) Slavin and then you’ve got all your returning guys,” Peters said following the club’s development camp. “I think the competition there is going to be very high and we’re just going to give everybody an opportunity and see who takes advantage of it.”

Hurricanes won’t force Hanifin to make immediate NHL jump

2015 NHL Draft - Portraits

Noah Hanifin stands as the sort of defensive prospect the Carolina Hurricanes badly need, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll use him right away.

For every 18-year-old blueliner who weathers the storm of an immediate NHL jump (see: Aaron Ekblad), there are plenty of young players who benefit from more seasoning before they play at the highest level. The Canes seem comfortable taking a patient approach with Hanifin, as the Charlotte News & Observer reports.

“We don’t want to force him in there if he’s not ready,” GM Ron Francis said. “We’ll give him time to develop. I’m certainly not ruling it out, but we want to be careful and make sure we do what’s right for Noah.”

Frankly, the slow-and-steady approach might be wise for both sides. Let’s ponder a few reasons why:

  • Defensive prospects often take years to develop – Again, Ekblad is probably the exception to the rule.
  • The Hurricanes are expected to be mediocre, at best – OK, there’s always the chance that a team might make a surprise turnaround, and there is indeed talent on this roster. Still, most would probably agree that Carolina is in a “transitional” period, and probably won’t make many preseason playoff prediction lists.
  • Bang for the buck – People frequently forget that there are perils when it comes to “burning” years off of entry-level contracts. Why not take advantage of built-in cheaper years for Hanifin?

Those stand as some compelling reasons to allow Hanifin to marinate, but the Hurricanes must also consider the risk of stunting his growth at too low of a level if he is ready for the big time.

And, as you can see from this post, their defense could use all the help it can get heading into 2015-16.

Hurricanes hand Shugg one-year, two-way deal

2010 NHL Draft Portraits

The Carolina Hurricanes signed forward Justin Shugg to a one-year, two-way contract on Sunday.

Carolina shared details about the contract: it would pay $600K at the NHL level and $85K in the AHL. There is also a guarantee of $100K.

Shugg, 23, managed to play in three games with the Hurricanes in 2014-15, failing to generate a point. In 65 games with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, Shugg scored 21 goals and 43 points.

“Justin provides our organization with good depth at forward,” GM Ron Francis said. “He led Charlotte in scoring last season and has improved his offensive production each year since turning pro.”

It’s unclear if Shugg is likely to face more or less time with the Hurricanes in 2015-16. If nothing else, he provides some injury insurance.