I will say Ron Francis is the defining player for the franchise, but not necessarily for the more obvious reasons, such as his status as a Hall of Famer and his numerous record holding statistics.
When "The Franchise" signed with Carolina in 1998, there was a message sent around the hockey world that the Hurricanes would step up money wise and sign a legitimate, high quality free agent. It also showed the players of the league that a top notch free agent was willing to take a chance on Carolina. The Ron Francis signing was the first step in legitimizing the franchise at its new location. He turned out to be the best ambassador a club in a non-traditional market could ask for. (Bob Wage)
(Honorable Mention- Rod Brind'Amour and Eric Staal)