Few GMs in the NHL have made more out of other teams’ misfortunes than Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis, and he was back at it again Saturday.
On Friday, the Detroit Red Wings waived several players as part of preparations for the regular season, and among those was 23-year-old Martin Frk.
Entering training camp, Frk was expected to battle for a bottom-six role, but he had impressed early in the pre-season to the point some were considering him a realistic possibility for the Red Wings’ opening night roster. Through five games, he had scored two goals and three points, and his scoring prowess in the AHL looked as though it had carried over to the pre-season.
Drafted 49th overall in 2012, Frk took a while to develop, but the sharpshooting winger had begun to find his game over the past three seasons in the minor league, and he had his breakout year in the AHL in 2015-16, netting 27 goals and 44 points in 64 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
However, the Red Wings won’t be benefitting from Frk’s improvements over the past few campaigns, as Francis has swooped in and scooped up the sharpshooting winger off the waiver wire.
"Martin played well in Grand Rapids last year, and took a step forward in his offensive production with 27 goals in 67 games," Francis said. "He has been a goal scorer at every level.”
With a logjam on the wing, the Red Wings had few options when it came to demotions and Ken Holland made the (potentially unwise) decision to choose veterans such as Drew Miller and Steve Ott over a younger, possibly more impactful player like Frk.
Francis using the waiver wire to nab a player from the Red Wings isn’t an entirely new scenario. In fact, this is the second time in less than two years’ time Francis has made the most of the Red Wings’ roster decisions. He used waivers in November 2014 to scoop up Andrej Nestrasil, who chipped in nine goals and 23 points in his first full campaign as a Hurricane, and Frk is Francis’ second Red Wings castoff turned waiver acquisition.
And using waivers, cap space or the difficult cap or rosters situations of the competition has been a smart and savvy way that Francis has gone about building this club. Taking a look at his trade history shows a GM that knows when to strike and who to strike on.
Beyond the acquisitions of Frk and Nestrasil, Francis used Carolina’s significant cap space to pry promising young winger Teuvo Teravainen away from the Chicago Blackhawks at the cost of two draft picks and taking on Bryan Bickell and Bickell’s contract, which had been tough for the Blackhawks to manage. Prior to that, he used Chicago’s cap situation to land Joakim Nordstrom and Kris Versteeg for a package of prospects and a pick, and in June 2015, Francis used the Vancouver Canucks’ crease conundrum against them and swooped in to scoop up Eddie Lack at the cost of third- and seventh-round picks.
And even when the unfortunate situations have befallen Francis and the Hurricanes, he has managed to turn those into positives by using increased deadline-day prices to land the best return. That has helped Francis turn Eric Staal, John Michael-Liles and Kris Versteeg into two second-round picks, one third-round pick, two fifth-round picks and prospects Anthony Camara, Aleksi Saarela and Valentin Zykov.
There’s no knowing what Frk can do at the NHL or what he could become, but acquiring a 23-year-old who has serious scoring potential without giving up so much as a conditional pick means the move has no risk, and potential to be all reward. And if Francis continues to build this way, he’ll keep pushing the Hurricanes closer to contention sooner than anyone would have expected.
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