Report: Former captain might keep playing

Former Carolina Hurricanes captain Ron Francis has turned down the team's offer of a front-office job, according to a (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer report Tuesday.

The team had offered Francis, who was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in March after six seasons with Carolina (and a cumulative 16 seasons with the franchise), a position working with young players in the Canes' system. The team made the offer in July, also indicating that it didn't want the 41-year-old center back as a player.

Francis told the newspaper Monday that he hadn't entirely ruled out playing and that he would have turned down the offer even if he weren't still considering suiting up.

"I haven't made any decisions about what I want to do, but if I decide to play, then obviously I can't take the job," Francis told the News & Observer. "And if I don't play, I don't think the timing is right to step in there."

Francis and his family live in Raleigh, home of the Hurricanes.

He is a free agent and, with the collective bargaining agreement expiring Sept. 15 and no guarantee the 2004-05 season will start on time -- or at all -- isn't feeling pressured to decide whether to play, he told the newspaper.

"Until something happens, we're all sitting here waiting," Francis said.

If he does return to the ice, Francis could reach a career milestone or two. He is third all-time in games played with 1,731, 37 behind leader Gordie Howe and 25 behind Mark Messier. The player known as "Ronnie Franchise" also is second only to Wayne Gretzky in all-time assists (1,249) and is fourth in goals (549) and points (1,798).