The Carolina Hurricanes are moving general manager Ron Francis to a new position and will conduct a search to replace him, the team confirmed Wednesday night
Francis will remain with the team as president of hockey operations, but his replacement as general manager will report directly to new owner Tom Dundon.
The decision was first reported in The News & Observer Wednesday evening.
Tom Dundon finalized the deal to buy the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 11, 2018, and shared his thoughts on why he decided to buy a hockey team, why the Hurricanes and how improving the fan experience will be his top priority.
“Since I took control of the team, I’ve had a good chance to be around and assess the operations,” Dundon said in a statement. “There are a lot of good people working in the organization, but I feel that a change in direction is needed when it comes to hockey personnel decisions.
“Ron is a smart and talented hockey man. I am glad that he will continue to be a part of the team, serving in this new role.”
In a telephone interview later Wednesday night, Dundon said he would let his statement speak for itself, but he did want to get a greater diversity of voices on the hockey side.
"We're just trying to break up the hockey stuff," Dundon said. "We're undermanned there. We could stand to continue to evolve, in a good way, to get more throughout."
As for the timing, Dundon said, "I'm not the kind of guy to wait around."
Francis was not immediately available for comment Wednesday night.
The Carolina Hurricanes formally introduce Thomas Dundon, a Dallas billionaire, as the team’s new majority owner during a press conference Friday, Jan. 12, 2017 at PNC Arena.
Francis, 55, was promoted to general manager in 2014 when Jim Rutherford retired and was tasked with a major rebuilding of the franchise. The team failed to make the playoffs in each of his first three seasons as GM and appears unlikely to make the postseason this season. The Hurricanes are 130-130-53 since Francis became GM.
The Hurricanes appeared primed to make a leap forward this season, but Francis' choice of Scott Darling as the Hurricanes' new No. 1 goaltender has been an abject disaster and two of his other offseason acquisitions – Marcus Krueger and Josh Jooris – were waived last month. Jooris was later traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a minor deal.
The Hurricanes went into Wednesday's games four points out of the final playoff spot with 15 games to play.
A Hall of Fame center who had two stints with the franchise, first with the Hartford Whalers and then with the Hurricanes, he is the team's all-time leader in goals (382) and points (1,175). He served as an assistant coach and assistant general manager before becoming general manager.
Dundon purchased a majority interest in the team from Peter Karmanos in January.
“I think he’s been involved in everything," Francis said last month. "I think he’s a kind of guy who wants to try and learn and understand as much as he can, and have a say in things he thinks might make us better. I think that’s great. I think discussion is always valuable.”
Francis oversaw the buyout of Alexander Semin and the departure of captain Eric Staal and used first-round picks to draft Haydn Fleury, Noah Hanifin, Jake Bean, Julien Gauthier and Martin Necas. He also traded for current leading scorer Teuvo Teravainen and drafted the team's best young player, Sebastian Aho, in the second round.
On the eve of the start of NHL free agency, Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis discussed possible signings, the trade of goalie Eddie Lack and Ryan Murphy and other potential trades on June 20, 2017 at PNC Arena.
But the failure of the Darling acquisition, coming after Francis earlier chose Eddie Lack unsuccessfully for that role, and the team's failure to progress this season, led Dundon to make a change. Francis also signed center Victor Rask to a six-year, $24 million contract extension, but Rask has been one of the team's most disappointing players and is a candidate for a buyout this summer.
Francis also failed to make a significant player-for-player trade in his entire four-season tenure.
Head coach Bill Peters remains in place, as do the scouting and analytics staffs Francis bolstered.
The decision by Dundon to make the management shuffle was made the day after one of the Canes' worst losses of the season, a 6-2 beating by the Minnesota Wild.
In an interview last month, Francis was asked about his impressions of Dundon after his first month as owner.
“He’s passionate,” Francis said. “He’s energetic. He wants everything, from on the ice to off the ice, to make it first class and something our fans are proud to be associated with.”
Soon after taking over as majority owner, Dundon said he would be evaluating everyone’s job performance. Francis was asked if that included the general manager’s job.
“If he said everybody, it’s everybody,” Francis said.
Staff writer Chip Alexander contributed to this story
Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock