Extension: Kraken keeping GM Ron Francis through 2026-27 season

2021 NHL Expansion Draft

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JULY 21: General manager Ron Francis of the Seattle Kraken attends the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft at Gas Works Park on July 21, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Kraken is the National Hockey League's newest franchise and will begin play in October 2021. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)Photo: Getty Images

After a record shattering season that lifted the Seattle Kraken into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a damage-inflicting run against the Western Conference into May, the architect of a Pacific Northwest-based wrecking ball now officially has more work to do. 

That architect would be Kraken general manager Ron Francis, officially granted a multi-year contract extension through the 2026-27 season, announced by the team on Wednesday. 

Francis credited the Kraken ownership group, off the bat, in a Wednesday afternoon news conference at Kraken Community Iceplex.

"They've never said 'no' on any request to try to do something that makes the players have the best opportunity to be successful," said Francis. "In doing so, you're creating an environment the players want to be playing in, and wanting to come to Seattle and play for the Kraken."

"From day one they've bought in with what we're trying to do and haven't wavered in their support."

Kraken co-owner Samantha Holloway pointed out fast-track results under the watchful eye of Francis, that got them to within nine wins of a Stanley Cup title.

"In just our second season we not only made the playoffs, we were serious contenders," said Holloway.

"He's been here working diligently and tirelessly to build our hockey organization from the ground up with integrity and a vision for the future."

Francis, 60, originally pledged at his introductory news conference four years ago about an expedited build, and fulfilled that promise. Four years ago, the Kraken had no head coach, no roster, and even no team name. They brought in Francis just one year after the expansion Vegas Golden Knights made the Stanley Cup Final. Expectations, fair or unfair, would swarm the birth of NHL hockey in Seattle. 

Now, after lengthy resume which has been spent as a player and executive with the Hartford Whalers and Carolina Hurricanes, there is a long runway laid out for this possibly to be Francis' final stop in his career, potentially with groundbreaking results in the Pacific Northwest.

"Hopefully this is where this man finishes his career," said Kraken chief executive officer Tod Leiweke.

As an architect moves, the long work follows. Francis is no exception, who Leiweke said went right back to his desk for the next orders of business the exact day after the Kraken season ended in a game seven loss to Dallas in the second round on May 15.

It was the finish line in a chapter of a remarkable rebound season.

Following a bumpy expansion year that left the Kraken in the Pacific Division basement, they orchestrated a 19-win and 40-point turnaround, largest in NHL history by a second year expansion team. Francis’ hire, head coach Dave Hakstol, steered the good ship Kraken into uncharted waters, the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where the team bounced the defending champion Avalanche in seven games then pushed the Dallas Stars to seven games in the second round. 

All of that was done under the roster that Francis built over a course of two seasons: second overall pick Matty Beniers, who will likely win the Calder Trophy next month, last summer’s trade of Oliver Bjorkstrand (who scored two goals in game seven in Denver), and free agent additions such as forwards Jaden Schwartz, Andre Burakovsky, goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Martin Jones, and defenseman Justin Schultz. 

While the Kraken didn’t experience the immediate boom off the expansion draft that Vegas received, key pieces remain intact as part of a Kraken core that will carry over into 2023-24 with raised expectations. Jared McCann, swiped from Toronto, scored 40 goals for the first time in his career this year, also in the first of a five-year extension offered by Francis last season. Defensemen Vince Dunn, from St. Louis, and Adam Larsson, from Edmonton, formed an unbreakable pair on the back-end that played together all season, was heavily responsible for logging heavy minutes, and opened the doors for Dunn’s career year with a 14-goal, 64-point season. 

Veteran forwards Yanni Gourde (Tampa Bay) and Jordan Eberle (New York Islanders) played a significant role down the stretch, and Francis practically earned the “waiver claim of the year” award by getting Eeli Tolvanen from Nashville for nothing, discarded by the Predators then ripping through with an 18-goal season with the Kraken. 

Francis’ work at the trade deadline has shaped the organization with differentiating activity across two seasons. Last year, he shipped out veterans Mark Giordano, Calle Jarnkrok, Mason Appleton, and Jeremy Lauzon for draft picks, and avoided the high-price market this season which kept a tight dressing room together, and a cupboard of prospects and draft picks stocked for what will be, by consensus, one of the more deeper drafts coming up next month in Nashville. 

That put everything into perspective for Francis, who said his goals and ambitions haven't changed.

"We want to be a successful organization," said Francis. "We want to win championships. We're going to continue until we accomplish that."

The Kraken currently are positioned to select four times in the first two rounds, and have high-end draft picks such as forwards Shane Wright, Jagger Firkus, and defenseman Ryker Evans playing in the minors as part of the Coachella Valley Firebirds, who have reached the AHL Western Conference Final. 

Francis, who skated in 1,731 career NHL games as a Hall of Fame forward and captured a pair of Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, previously worked in the Carolina Hurricanes front office where he played a pivotal role in their modern day ascension. 

With the Hurricanes, Francis drafted current standouts such as centers Sebastian Aho, Martin Necas, defenseman Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, and traded for forward Teuvo Teravainen. 

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content