Multiyear deal signed, Seattle NHL general manager Ron Francis gets to work: 'We've got a blank canvas'

Geoff Baker, The Seattle Times on

Published in Hockey

SEATTLE -- Freshly minted general manager Ron Francis spent part of his introductory news conference Thursday discussing the importance of using any afforded additional time and why he won't immediately hire a coach for this city's incoming NHL franchise.

"I think we're open to hiring the right guy at the right time," Francis told the assembled media members, political figures and hockey community officials at the KEXP gathering space adjacent to KeyArena's ongoing $930 million rebuild. "But I think it's also important for us -- since we've got a little bit of runway here -- to make sure we take our time and go through the process. There are a lot of things that can change in that profession over the next couple of years."

Francis, 56, has certainly learned the value of grabbing additional "runway" in today's ultracompetitive NHL, where the patience level of teams and fans isn't what it used to be. He ran out of afforded time his last GM job with the Carolina Hurricanes when a new owner pulled the plug on Francis the spring of 2018, four playoff-free seasons into a rebuilding plan the Hall of Fame former player felt he'd need at least five for.

It's unlikely he'll get five seasons to build a playoff team here, though Francis said in an interview following Thursday's news conference that it shouldn't take as long to get his plan implemented this time. For one, he added, this city's team should get a variety of established players right away and won't be completely rebuilding with youth like in Carolina.

"I think here we're going to look at it in a lot of different ways," Francis said. "Obviously scouting in the NHL and the American Hockey League for expansion draft players. We're going to be scouting the amateur leagues for players that hopefully can get into our system sooner rather than later.

"And then, I think the city of Seattle has a quality of life that it can offer. The fact there's no state income tax is going to be exciting to free agents. I've really been talking with this ownership group about what they want to do and how they want to keep their players and staff. Word's going to get out that this is a very good place to play and so hopefully we can get that (team vision) accomplished sooner rather than later."

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He should get at least three actual seasons to do that here. Though NHL Seattle did not officially release contract details, Francis is thought to have a five-year deal, the first two of which will be spent preparing for the franchise's October 2021 launch.

And though Francis insisted multiple times he's prepared to work with whatever resources he's given by ownership, he did have "some conversations" on that front before taking the job. With the Hurricanes, he continuously was given one of the smallest budgets in the league to work with.

"We talked about what their vision and what their plan is," he said of NHL Seattle. "And I think this team is going to be in good shape as far as being able to go out and get players -- whether it's free agents or taking on players with bigger contracts because they want to do things right."

And all that should save Francis some precious time he ran out of in his previous gig. He acknowledged the hockey landscape has changed -- referencing a USA Today article from last year on that topic -- and that there's less patience to produce a winner today than when he took the Carolina job in 2014.


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