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Seattle NHL expansion team close to naming GM, sources say

SEATTLE — Seattle’s NHL expansion team is close to an agreement with Hockey Hall of Famer Ron Francis to become its first general manager, a person with direct knowledge tells The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the team had not made an announcement.

The expansion Seattle franchise is set to begin play in the 2021-22 season as the NHL’s 32nd team.

After longtime Detroit GM Ken Holland went to Edmonton, adviser Dave Tippett left Seattle Hockey Partners LLC to become Oilers coach and Vegas’ Kelly McCrimmon and Columbus’ Bill Zito got promotions, there was a limited pool of experienced NHL executives to choose from for this job. Francis fits that bill.

The 56-year-old has been in hockey operations since shortly after the end of his Hall of Fame playing career. All of that time has come with the Carolina Hurricanes, including four seasons as their GM.

Carolina didn’t make the playoffs with Francis in charge of decision-making, though his moves put the foundation in place for the team that reached the Eastern Conference final this past season.

Francis had 1,798 points in 1,731 games over 23 seasons with the Hartford Whalers/Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs. He won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992.

Competing for the Cup in the early going will be the expectation for Seattle after the Golden Knights reached the Final in their inaugural season in 2017-18. Francis will have two full seasons to scout the rest of the league before his as-yet-named team’s expansion draft in June 2021.

Francis did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

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