Maurice expected to remain with Canes

Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford will address the media today; Ron Francis is expected to return to front-office job.

Staff writerMay 17, 2011 

— While no official announcement has been made, the Carolina Hurricanes are expected to retain Paul Maurice as head coach next season.

At the same time, associate head coach Ron Francis is expected to give up his coaching position and return to a full-time front-office job with the organization. The Hurricanes' director of player personnel, Francis served as assistant general manager before going behind the bench in December 2008 when Maurice replaced Peter Laviolette as coach.

Hurricanes president and general manager Jim Rutherford will address the media today at 11 a.m. The news conference will mark the first time he has publicly discussed the team since the Canes ended the season April 9 with a 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning that kept Carolina out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Maurice has one year remaining on a three-year contract he signed after the 2008-09 season. The Hurricanes reached the Eastern Conference finals that season but has missed the playoffs the last two seasons.

The Canes face some tough decisions on players due to become unrestricted free agents on July 1 - forwards Erik Cole, Jussi Jokinen, Chad LaRose, Cory Stillman and Patrick Dwyer; and defensemen Joni Pitkanen and Jay Harrison. Pitkanen, who earned $4.5 million last season, was the Canes' highest-paid defenseman and could demand more in the free-agent market, which could leave his future with the Hurricanes in doubt.

It's expected, however, that the Canes will look to re-sign Cole before July 1. The team also could announce a long-term deal for center Brandon Sutter, a restricted free agent.

The Hurricanes also are expected to look to bring in an experienced goaltender to back up Cam Ward, who started 74 of the Canes' 82 games last season. Justin Peters played in 12 games last season - eight starts - as Ward's backup, finishing with a 3-5-1 record and a 3.98 goals-against average.

The Hurricanes had a losing record in 2009-2010 but closed this season with a 40-31-11 record, falling one victory short of qualifying for the playoffs.

Memorial service set: The Hurricanes announced Monday that a memorial service for RBC Center building superintendent Donnie MacMillian will be held on Tuesday, May 24, at 7 p.m. MacMillian, who died Thursday at 52, had been with the Hurricanes' organization since 1993.

The service will be held at the RBC Center and will be open to the public.

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8945

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