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Hurricanes agrees to terms with head coach Maurice; Francis promoted @NHLdotcom

RALEIGH, N.C. - The Carolina Hurricanes knew they wanted Paul Maurice back after he led them to the Eastern Conference final. Keeping his staff intact was important, too.

The team said Monday it has agreed to terms on a three-year contract for Maurice, who took over at mid-season and helped the team return to the playoffs for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006. Also, the team said Ron Francis would return as associate head coach and take on the title of director of player personnel.

Assistant coaches Kevin McCarthy and Tom Rowe will remain on existing contracts, while Tom Barrasso - who completed his second season as goaltending coach and director of goalie development - also will take the title of assistant coach.

That staff helped the Hurricanes shake out of a slow start and become one of the NHL's hottest teams over the final two months of the regular season. Then came a deep playoff run - which included a pair of Game 7 road victories - that charged up a fan base and helped the small-market franchise turn a profit for the first time since '06.

"Once we got into the playoffs ... it became more and more obvious that Paul and this coaching staff was respected by the players, and they had bought into what was being taught to them and that this was the staff I had hoped we could go forward with," team president and general manager Jim Rutherford said in a news conference.

Maurice, 41, replaced Peter Laviolette - the man who replaced him five years earlier - in December. The coach said there wasn't much doubt that he'd be back after the playoff run.

"I don't think there was necessarily a doubt that we were both interested in working together," Maurice said via teleconference. "But we just both wanted to make sure it was as good as we though it was and it turned out to be."

Maurice is the franchise's winningest coach and led the team to the 2002 Cup finals in his first stint with the team. He was fired in December 2003 and replaced by Laviolette, who led the team to the first major professional sports championship in North Carolina history.

Francis, a Hall of Fame player, joined the coaching staff when Maurice was rehired after working in the front office.

In this year's playoffs, Carolina stunned New Jersey with a pair of goals in the final 80 seconds to win Game 7 of the first-round series. Then the Hurricanes beat top-seeded Boston with Scott Walker's overtime goal in another Game 7 on the road.

Eventual Cup champion Pittsburgh swept the Hurricanes in the conference final.

Rutherford said the staff contributed to the improved play of winger Chad LaRose and defenceman Anton Babchuk, and goaltender Cam Ward benefited from Barrasso's instruction about what it means to be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

Rutherford also said the team benefited from having Francis available to work with players on a daily basis, specifically mentioning star forward Eric Staal. But he didn't want to pull Francis away from his work developing young players in the organization, adding that Francis occasionally won't be on the bench because of other job responsibilities.

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