RALEIGH, N.C. - Already a Hall of Famer for his time on the ice, Ron Francis is quickly moving up the ranks in the second half of his hockey career.
The Carolina Hurricanes promoted the fast-rising Francis, already the team's director of player development, to assistant general manager on Thursday. He replaces Jason Karmanos, the 33-year-old son of team owner Peter Karmanos Jr., who resigned last week because of personal reasons.
"If you had said this to me last year, that I would be in this position, I would have shook my head and kind of laughed at you," Francis said.
General manager Jim Rutherford said the 44-year-old Francis wouldn't immediately take on some of the business decisions handled by Karmanos because "we don't want to put too much on his plate just yet." Karmanos was in charge of the team's AHL affiliate in Albany, handled some contract negotiations and was part of the front-office team that assembled the Hurricanes' first Stanley Cup-winning team in 2005-06.
"He'll get to that in time," Rutherford said.
Rutherford first discussed the vacancy with the four-time all-star last week over dinner in Columbus before the Hurricanes' exhibition game against the Blue Jackets.
"As I venture into this part of my career, it certainly makes it a lot easier to have somebody with (Rutherford's) kind of knowledge and experience to lean on and learn from," Francis said.
During the past week Rutherford also considered director of pro scouting Marshall Johnston. He has more than 30 years of front-office experience, but lives in Minnesota.
"Once we walked through it as to how the duties would best be filled, this is the conclusion we came to," Rutherford said.
Francis will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 12 after a 23-season career in which he ranked second in league history in assists, third in regular-season games played, fourth in points and 22nd in goals.
"Ron had a great hockey career, he has a great hockey mind and now he will be involved in the day-to-day hockey decisions in our organization," Rutherford said.
Drafted in the first round in 1981 by the former Hartford Whalers, he spent 10 seasons in Hartford before he was traded to Pittsburgh and won the Stanley Cup in 1991 and '92 with the Penguins.
Francis might be best-known for his six seasons with the Hurricanes, who moved to North Carolina from Hartford before the 1997-98 season. He signed with Carolina in July 1998 and helped the Hurricanes reach the Stanley Cup final in 2002.
His retirement became official in September 2005, and later that season a banner commemorating his No. 10 was raised to the RBC Center rafters.
"He's already made huge contributions to hockey in North Carolina, which everybody has followed for a number of years," Rutherford said.