Hockey Hall of Fame Honored Member as a player and current Seattle Kraken General Manager Ron Francis was the key cog in what’s considered one of the greatest NHL Trade Deadline moves of all time.
The date was March 4th, 1991 and the Hartford Whalers (now the Carolina Hurricanes) traded Francis, gnarly defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, and another D-man Grant Jennings to the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Zarley Zalapski, center John Cullen and minor league winger Jeff Parker.
With the addition of Francis, who presently sits in fifth place in all-time NHL career points with 1,798, the Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992.
Francis reflected on the events leading up to that first Cup, a 4-2 Final series win over the Minnesota North Stars (now Dallas Stars).
“They (Whalers management) had actually called the week before and told me that they weren’t going to trade me and then the night before the deadline, they called me and told me I was traded,” Francis remembered. “I wasn’t surprised, there was some issues that were going on during the season there that kind of indicated that that may happen … I get a call at nine o’clock on a Sunday night and I’m on a flight at 7 am the next morning, leaving behind my wife who had a C-section and a four week old child. Thank God my mom and dad were in town with my brother to help out, but then three months later, I’m hoisting the Stanley Cup. That doesn’t always work out that way, but certainly for me and my family, that trade couldn’t have worked out any better.”
The club also featured future Hall of Famers Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey, Bryan Trottier, Larry Murphy, Mark Recchi and then rookie and soon to be HHOF’er (if he ever stops playing pro hockey back in the Czech Republic) Jaromir Jagr. Francis was the key, final piece of the puzzle.
The Penguins won the Stanley Cup Final again in 1992 with a four-game sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks. Francis had 17 points in that first Pittsburgh playoff season and 27 the next in three fewer games. (24 GP in 1991, and then 21 in 1992).
Paying It Forward With Kraken
The deadline experience stuck with Francis. As a player and as an NHL and Kraken manager, he empathizes with what players go through leading up to the NHL Trade deadline, particularly in this day and age of endless rumours.
His way of treating the situation is a reflection of an impressive manner in managing the Kraken. He’s obviously familiar with the impact potential trades and actual transactions have on players and their extended families.
“My philosophy is to try to be as honest and open as you can, and have sort of those conversations with your players, that maybe rumors or speculation out there aren’t true,” Francis points out. “If that’s the case, I try and have conversations with my players. If I’m lucky to do something (actual trade discussions), and they’re involved, I may have those conversations as well. It doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen, but at least, I think if you’re open and honest with your players, that’s the best that they can ask for, and they may not respect or agree with your opinion, but at least they can respect your honesty in the situation.”
Francis decided to stand pat as the deadline hit, keeping the current Kraken’s identity and chemistry in mind, but also holding on to other prospects and Kraken draft picks for future development or maneuvers.
The Kraken are fast approaching a playoff berth in just their second season, presently riding a three-game win streak and sitting in 3rd place in the NHL’s Pacific Division.