It has now been over two weeks since Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon has relieved franchise legend Ron Francis of his general manager duties.
In case you missed it, the Hurricanes technically “re-assigned” Francis within the organization by promoting him to the position of president of hockey operations.
But, what is technically a promotion is really a demotion, despite the flowery job titled. It’s clear that Dundon wanted Francis out, but because Francis is such a legend in Carolina, outright firing him was not an option. By promoting Francis and keeping him within the organization, Dundon can save a bit of face while still giving the team a new direction. So far, however, there’s no indication of who might replace Francis as the Hurricanes new GM or what the team’s timeline is for finding a replacement.
"Since I took control of the team, I've had a good chance to be around and assess the operations," said Dundon in a prepared 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."
Last week Sportsnet analyst Elliotte Friedman reported that Dundon had set his sights on four current assistant GMs and one former assistant GM. The men in question, Tampa Bay Lightning assistant general manager Julien Brisebois, Nashville Predators assistant general manager Paul Fenton, New Jersey Devils assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald, Los Angeles Kings assistant general manager Mike Futa and former Vancouver Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman.
This week, one by one, almost each candidate has dropped out of the race. First Julien, then Futa, then Fitzgerald… the reason? Cash.
"Apparently Carolina is not showing the money," Friedman’s Sportsnet colleague Nick Kypreos said. "I’m told in the ballpark of $400,000 a year, that’s where that job will start, and there’s just no way that they can attract good hockey people, credible people, experienced people, to take that salary.”
"Now whether or not it’s a lesser role still remains to be seen,” says Kypreos, “but it’s an nonstarter for many of the established that we’ve heard that are out there and that have shown interest."
Interesting. That “lesser role” comment is intriguing. Could the Hurricanes’ next GM act essentially as an assistant to Dundon himself? It’s no secret that Dundon is good friends with Dallas Mavericks (NBA) owner Mark Cuban, who operates his franchise in a unique way. Cuban himself makes player personnel decisions for his franchise… could Dundon be planning a similar management structure for his team?
Regardless, it's clear that Dundon and the Hurricanes aren't comfortable with their GM search playing out so publicly.
“It got very public. Everybody kind of knew who was being interviewed, who was being contacted, and who was pulling themselves out of the race. And what Carolina has done is decided to go underground,” Friedman reports. “They talked yesterday internally and decided they didn’t like how much of this was public. And while they’re saying that the GM search has been suspended, I don’t necessarily believe that’s the case."