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Francis heading to Toronto
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Old 09 Mar 2004, 07:53 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Francis heading to Toronto

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Carolina captain Ron Francis waived his no-trade clause and was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

The 41-year-old Francis, in his 23rd season, ranks fourth in NHL history in career points and second in assists.


The Hurricanes received the Maple Leafs' fourth-round draft pick in 2005.


Francis said Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford began talking to him about waiving his no-trade clause Monday, and he told the team he was willing to consider a move Tuesday morning.


By early afternoon, the deal was done.


"Certainly, they've got a good team and hopefully I can find a little niche to sort of help them out," Francis said. "I certainly know a lot about that organization and I'm looking forward to trying to help them."


In 68 games this season, Francis has 10 goals and 20 assists. In 1,719 career games, he has 546 goals and 1,242 assists.


"It really wasn't important to me what we got," Hurricanes president and general manager Jim Rutherford said. "Quite frankly, if we didn't get anything for Ron Francis at this point to accommodate him ... that would've been fine with me. I told Toronto once Ron had said he would go that I'm not going to hold them up or squeeze them hard on a trade."


Francis is moving to the team he rooted for while growing up.


"Every kid grows up dreaming of playing for them," Francis said of the Leafs.


With the uncertainty surrounding the NHL's labor situation, Francis said he wanted to make a final run at a Stanley Cup.


Toronto is fourth in the Eastern Conference with 86 points. The Maple Leafs also recently acquired Brian Leetch from the New York Rangers, another franchise player, as they prepare a push for the Stanley Cup.


Francis started his career with the Hartford Whalers, before being traded to Pittsburgh in 1991. He played on back-to-back Stanley Cup championship teams with the Penguins.


He returned to his original franchise for the 1998-99 season after the Whalers moved to Raleigh and became the team's captain and elder statesman, known affectionately as "Ronnie Franchise."


He reached the Stanley Cup finals with the Hurricanes in 2002, but Carolina lost to the Detroit Red Wings.


Carolina missed the playoffs last season.


This season, the Hurricanes are 12 points out a playoff spot with 14 games remaining.


Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said there is no way to know how the team will react to the trade of their captain.


"For the most part, I don't think motivation will be an issue," he said. "It hasn't been all year. I think it's an opportunity for different people to step up. There's some veteran players, there's also some players coming up."


Francis said he will always have fond memories of the Hurricanes' 2002 run to the finals.


"I don't think I've ever seen such a passionate display by sports fans for this team," he said.

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