Deciding to allow five formerly restricted free agents (RFAs) become unrestricted UFAs by withholding qualifying offers by Monday's deadline, Francis added to an already lengthy list of players set to depart the 'Canes this offseason.
The five non-qualified players—including NHL regulars Andrei Loktionov and Drayson Bowman—will join 10 existing UFAs headed to the open market, which begins Tuesday at noon.
|Carolina Hurricanes' Free Agents|
|NHL Initial UFAs:||Manny Malhotra, Radek Dvorak, Joni Pitkanen, Mike Komisarek, Brett Bellemore, Justin Peters|
|NHL Non-qualified UFAs:||Andrei Loktionov, Drayson Bowman|
|AHL Initial UFAs:||Brett Sutter, Matt Corrente, Nicolas Blanchard|
|AHL Non-qualified UFAs:||Aaron Palushaj, Kellan Tochkin, Tommi Kivisto|
He then told Chip Alexander of the News & Observer a few hours prior to Monday's announcement that he was "teetering on one RFA decision." Evidently, the eventual decision was to part ways.
It's an interesting turn in attitude for the inexperienced GM, who played it safe at the NHL draft over the weekend by avoiding trades and selecting low-risk prospects.
Francis understandably hopes to avoid the too-loyal reputation that plagued his predecessor Rutherford, realizing that changes are unquestionably necessary on a squad that has missed the postseason for five consecutive years.
But have his actions been perhaps too stingy, letting some quality role players slip away from the 'Canes? Such may be the case.
Brett Bellemore proved an unheralded glue piece in the Hurricanes' defense last season, taking over the shutdown role after Tim Gleason's fallout and providing a physical presence essentially nonexistent throughout the rest of the roster.
The 6'4", 225-pound bruiser led all Carolina rearguards with 169 hits in just 64 games, ranking second overall on the team. His 98 blocked shots were the fourth-highest total on the 'Canes, as well.
While far from a flashy playmaker, it's beyond perplexing that Bellemore would be ignored by a team seeking to improve its collective strength in the two areas where No. 73 is most adept—defense and physicality.
Andrei Loktionov finished the season playing some of the best hockey of his career, tallying 10 points in his final 14 games with Carolina after going scoreless in his first six.
The mere 24-year-old center provided an enormous boost to the floundering power play, helping the unit finish the year on an 8-for-28 (28.6 percent) run.
Could the Russian winger, who requested a trade from Los Angeles in early 2013 and may have been disgruntled in New Jersey too, be focused on joining the KHL? Could an injury suffered in May's World Championships, prompting Loktionov's third shoulder surgery of his still-young career, be jeopardizing his 2014-15 availability?
Both answers are unknown, but the Loktionov situation remains confusing in every dimension.
Francis' potentially excessive stinginess extends beyond Bellemore and Loktionov.
Palushaj was a woefully underused asset who played well in the AHL and boasts experience as a former NHL penalty-killing specialist.
Brett Sutter, meanwhile, provided a tough-guy persona during his sporadic call-ups and (as the team's captain) a vital leadership presence with Charlotte.
Roster turnover is far from a bad thing in a franchise drowning in mediocrity like Carolina is at the moment, but there a comes a point where cutting ties evolves from reasonable to imprudent, from necessary to misguided.
Ron Francis and the Hurricanes may have surpassed that point.
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