by John McCauley
March 9, 2004
(TORONTO) -- Add two more Stanley Cup rings to the Toronto Maple Leafs' jewerly collection.
GM John Ferguson decided Tuesday morning that hall-of-famer Ron Francis would be a superb addition to his club. Carolina Hurricanes' GM Jim Rutherford then asked his captain if he would waive his no-trade clause to go back to his Ontario roots and play for the team he cheered on as a child.
Needless to say the answer was yes. Francis was clearly excited about coming to a team with a legitmate shot at winning it all and possibly ending the 37-year Cup drought for the Toronto faithful he was once part of.
He arrived in Toronto just in time to see his new mates defeat the Florida Panthers, 5-0, at Air Canada Centre. It was definitely a whirlwind day for the 41-year-old vet.
"Around 10 o'clock this morning was the first I heard of it." Francis told the media horde. "Certainly when I heard Toronto I was very excited. As a kid growing up in Ontario I always followed the Leafs. I was a Dave Keon fan and had the pleasure of rooming with him my first year in the league."
Francis will wear his familiar No. 10 Thursday night against the team he won his championships with, the Pittsburgh Penguins. His role on the Leafs is not yet set and he will skate Wednesday with a few combinations to see where he may fit best.
Coach Pat Quinn has plenty of choices considering the 29 players the Leafs currently have on their roster. Wade Belak, Mikael Renberg and Darcy Tucker are on the injured list, but aren't considered to be long term. Clarke Wilm injured his groin in the win and may be added to that list. Tie Domi will be unavailable while serving the second game of his two-game suspension.
Francis is likely to have a third or fourth line assignment with plenty of power play time.
"I think he'll fill in really well with us," said Quinn. "His minutes compared to what he did say five years ago are down, but we'll check what the optimum time is for him."
The day wasn't completely about Francis. Ferguson also acquired Calle Johansson and Chad Kilger
"We're pleased how this turned out. This is the group we're going to move forward with and compete with," said Ferguson.
Francis is the key as far as Ferguson is concerned though.
"We couldn't have found a better fit for our group. He's a leader, good at faceoffs, can play on the powerplay, he's just a smart two-way player." Ferguson said.