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Francis Previews Busy, Flexible Summer Ahead

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Ron Francis and Director of Amateur Scouting Tony MacDonald met with the media in Raleigh on Thursday to preview the 2016 NHL Draft. The discussion also shifted to various other matters, including free agency, the new head coach of the Charlotte Checkers and more. What follows is Francis’ take on it all, and stay tuned for comprehensive draft coverage that’s to follow over the next two weeks.

On Jordan Staal’s exit interview: “We met, and everything was real good, real positive. I think a little bit of his frustration was that the team was playing well at the deadline, and we did the things that we did. He said he understood it, and he’s excited about the direction we’re going in, the young players we have and what the future looks like. Everything was real positive. Nothing I’d be concerned about based on our meeting.”

On a new contract for Victor Rask, who is a restricted free agent: “We are in talks, yes.”

On Cam Ward’s future: “I think we’ll make a decision fairly soon in that regard. When we look at Cam, part of my job is making sure I go through the meetings with my pro (scouting) guys and assessing what’s out there in the free agent market and then talking to all the other GMs to see which goaltenders may or may not be available and for the ones that are, what the price is. As I sit here today, do I want to give up a first-round pick for a goaltender that may have a year or two left on his deal and then we lose him, an older guy? Not really the plan I’m looking for. Cam takes a lot of criticism, but Cam from December to the end of the year was one of the top five goaltenders in the league in goals-against and save percentage. I think there’s some merit to revisiting that as we move forward.”

On adding Eddie Lack and James Wisniewski last year and if there could be more draft-day trades made this year: “There’s a lot of chatter, and whether we can get what we want done remains to be seen. But certainly there’s a lot of talk at this point.”

On talk around the league about potential roster moves: “For me, this has probably been one of the busier summers, chatter-wise, for me.”

On the development of defensive prospect Haydn Fleury: “He’s made some huge strides. He played in the Memorial Cup and was arguably one of the better D in that tournament. He got to go play in the World Junior Championships for Canada. I talked with the people there after, and they said he had made tremendous strides from the previous year to this year, both on and off the ice in his leadership capabilities. We think he’s progressing extremely well.”

On the hire of Ulf Samuelsson as head coach of the Charlotte Checkers: “Ulf is a personal friend of mine. I’ve known him for a long time. I know he’s always had the passion to be a head coach. … We think we got ourselves a heck of a head coach there. He’s very detailed, very determined, very driven. I know that he’ll work extremely hard to make our prospects and that organization very successful. … He was at the top of my list, so when we got him, that was the end of our discussion.”

On having available cap room and the flexibility within: “I always term [July 1] as a very dangerous day. I’m not opposed going into free agency and spending to get the right guy. … Going out and giving a 32-, 33-, 34-year-old a six-year contract at a lot of money, that probably doesn’t fit for what we’re trying to build. But if the right guy is there at the right term and money, we’re in a position this summer where we can do that. We’re looking hard at that as an option to fill our lineup.”

Michael Smith
MICHAEL SMITH is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.

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