Carolina Hurricanes

Ron Francis Demonstrating Eagerness to Cut Ties with Carolina Hurricanes Players

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  General Manager Ron Francis of the Carolina Hurricanes attends the 2014 NHL Entry Draft at Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images
Mark JonesSenior Analyst IJuly 1, 2014

New Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis is maintaining few loyalties to the players he inherited from Jim Rutherford's previous tenure.

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 Bowmanwill 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
Capgeek.com, NHL.Hurricanes.com

Francis told reporters Saturday that the 'Canes would not re-sign Dvorak or Komisarek and would let Bellemore, Malhotra and Peters enter free agency.

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.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  General Manager Ron Francis of the Carolina Hurricanes attends the 2014 NHL Entry Draft at Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

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.

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 18:  Brett Bellemore #73 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 18, 2014 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

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.

WINNIPEG, MB - MARCH 22: Andrei Loktionov #8 of the Carolina Hurricanes shoots the puck down the ice during first period action against the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre on March 22, 2014 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The Canes defeated the Jets 3-2. (
Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images

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.

 

Mark Jones has been a Carolina Hurricanes featured columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.

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