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Francis Previews Free Agency

Canes GM discusses trades, roster moves and more

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

Free agency opens on Saturday, July 1 at noon, the finale, of sorts, in the National Hockey League's most frantic two weeks of the offseason.

Between an expansion draft, the 2017 NHL Draft, Prospects Development Camp and a number of trades and signings in between, Carolina Hurricanes Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis has remained a busy man in that stretch.

Prior to the free agent frenzy, Francis spoke with the media on Friday to address his most recent trade, which sent goaltender Eddie Lack and defenseman Ryan Murphy to Calgary, what he hopes to accomplish lineup-wise in the near future, his outlook on the Charlotte Checkers and more.

Video: In the Room: Ron Francis

On trading Lack, Murphy and a 2019 seventh-round pick to Calgary for depth defenseman Keegan Kanzig and a 2019 sixth-round pick

"It's a good opportunity for [Lack]. It didn't work out as well as probably both sides hoped here, but we still think he's a good goaltender, and this gives him an opportunity to do that. He was very appreciative of the time here and the opportunity we gave him moving forward. In Ryan's case, he came in with high expectations. Just over the year, some of the other kids we drafted got in front of him and he wasn't really getting a chance. He's still a young player and deserves an opportunity to resurrect his career somewhere else, and that's what we tried to do with him in the deal."

On free agency

"We're having a lot of conversations. Once the gates open tomorrow, we'll get a better indication of whether our conversations are valid or not. … Hopefully we can get some things done."

On if the team has reached out to Justin Williams or Jaromir Jagr

"We have had conversations with Justin, as well as numerous other ones, as well. … I have not had conversations with Jags at this point, no."

(Bonus Rod Brind'Amour quote on Justin Williams: "I've been pushing hard to get Justin. I love the guy. You look at what he brings to the team - he's not going to get 30 (goals) or 80 points, but what he does or could do for us in this locker room is what we need. He'd be a great addition if we could get him. … He'd be welcomed back for sure.")

On trying to add pieces to the roster

"I'd say we're looking at everything. It's been a long, busy summer. Going into the draft we had numerous trade talks on different players, trying to move picks for players."

On finances and payroll

"I've run different scenarios by [Peter Karmanos]. Some of them certainly aren't cheap options, and every time I've talked to Pete, he's said, 'If you think it makes our team better, you have my blessing to go ahead and do it.' That's not been an issue at all."

On where Martin Necas will play next season - with HC Kometa Brno in the Czech Republic or the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League

"Historically I try to stay out of that. I think either option is a good option. The Saginaw team picked him, and they spent some time giving a presentation to him on what they would do for him and how they would help him. That's a good option if he chooses that. He'd learn the North American rink and have more games on his schedule. If he goes back to the Czech Republic, he's going to play on a line with Martin Erat, be a No. 1 center and play 20 minutes a night against men, so that's going to help him develop as well."

On goaltending in Charlotte

"I think (Alex) Nedeljkovic and Callum Booth will be there. I do think we'll still look at possibly trying to sign a third goaltender, somebody with a little bit more experience than those two guys in case we have injuries up top. We certainly want those guys playing, so we'll see who battles it out. … The one guy who doesn't will probably go to Florida just so he's playing games rather than sitting around watching."

On Mike Vellucci taking over head coaching duties in Charlotte

"I was happy when Mike said he wanted to do that. He knows our prospects extremely well. He's been a great coach in the Ontario League for a long, long time, so he knows how to coach. … I'm extremely confident he'll do a good job with our young prospects."

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