Canes ink Francis

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Ron Francis is going home. Well, sort of. He is returning to the same franchise he played for ten years.

The Carolina Hurricanes signed Francis, the ninth-leading scorer in NHL history to a four-year, $20.8 million contract.

Francis played for the franchise, which was then the Hartford Whalers, from 1981 to 1991 before being traded to Pittsburgh in one of the worst trades in modern NHL history.

"When you trade a franchise player like Ron Francis and end up with nothing for him, it takes a long time for the franchise to recover," Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said. "Quite frankly, we're just at the point now where we're starting to recover."

Along with Francis, Hartford sent defensemen Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings to Pittsburgh for center John Cullen, defenseman Zarley Zalapski and winger Jeff Parker. Francis and Samuelsson helped the Penguins to win back-to-back Stanley Cups, but Hartford/Carolina has failed to make the playoffs for the last six years.

The Hurricanes and the Buffalo Sabres had been bidding for Francis. The Penguins, who claim to have lost $37.5 million the last two seasons, did not make an offer.

"He's obviously a world-class, Hall of Fame player," Hurricanes right wing Nelson Emerson said. "Just watching him over the past few years, it seems like whoever plays with him has a great season."

Francis, 35, must be happy with the deal. Four years from now he will be 39 making $5 million a season, will he still be playing on the same level? Only time will tell if this deal will kick-start the Hurricanes or if it follows the footsteps of the trade that sent Francis away in 1991.

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