Chris Drury to thank for New York Rangers success

The New York Rangers stand at 24-9-1 with one more game remaining to close out the calendar year of 2023. They’re also in their third straight year of expected cup contention based off their regular season performances under President and General Manager Chris Drury.

Promoted to the position on the 5th of May in 2021, following the fiasco of a COVID-shortened season. The Rangers had one of the most talent-heavy lineups in the league, yet they were incredibly soft, and were in desperate need of an identity.

Drury immediately got to work by hiring a veteran coach Gerard Gallant, trading potential salary issues, and talent for much-needed grit. While some of his moves early on were harped on due to skepticism and fan loyalty to players, it is now clear that Drury is the perfect man for the job in New York.

Most importantly, Drury has managed to keep the Rangers consistently in playoff contention throughout his early tenure as GM, while not risking the team’s future to do so. He has managed this impressive feat all while sneaking in some of the league’s best and most useful players efficiently within the restrictions of the salary cap.

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Key Chris Drury Trades

NHL: New York Rangers at Winnipeg Jets
Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Drury started off his tenure as GM with a few controversial decisions, beginning with moving on from budding star Pavel Buchnevich following the 2021 season. Traded to St. Louis in exchange for a promising Sammy Blais, and a second-round pick, fans were rightfully vocal with their disapproval. Luckily, his first move at the helm did not define what was to come.

He would make up for this unfortunate move during his first season in-charge, at the trade deadline. In Drury’s two trade dealines as Rangers’ GM, he did a terrific job in acquiring very useful pieces or simply big name players with little to no cost.

In 2022, Drury picked up a sniper in Frank Vatrano, a utility-knife forward in Andrew Copp, and a reliable defenseman in Justin Braun while not giving up the kitchen sink to do so. The largest asset lost in that season’s deadline was a first-round pick, which was only given up because the Rangers made the conference finals that Spring. Many Rangers fans would consider that lost asset worth-it after seeing the team gain valuable playoff experience. The 2022 run, impossible without the players Drury had acquired, was a first look at this current core’s magic and potential.

During his second deadline, Drury managed to pick up two of the most prolific pending UFA’s while only giving up the lower of two first-round picks to St. Louis in exchange for Vladimir Tarasenko. Not to mention, the second of the two picks was acquired from Dallas in exchange for D Nils Lundkvist, who currently does not hold a regular spot on the Stars’ roster. Drury would also manage to get some value in exchange for a struggling Vitali Kravtsov, in order to clear up space and money for Patrick Kane at the 2023 trade-deadline.

Free Agency

Drury has used free-agency to his benefit in his time as GM of the Blueshirts, even with little money to work with. In 2021, Drury would sign two-time Stanley Cup champion Barclay Goodrow (after acquiring his rights) to a lengthy deal to bolster the team’s identity, depth, and poise. The numbers of this deal are not pretty when looking at it today, but Drury would again prove his intellect in the free-agency moves to come.

More specifically, with minimal cap space at hand, Drury would fit extensions for Alexis Lafreniere and K’Andre Miller in with other terrific signings in the 2023 offseason. Drury would then sign Erik Gustafsson, Blake Wheeler, Jonathan Quick, Tyler Pitlick, and other useful depth pieces for next to nothing. Between these efficient signings and terrific trades, Drury’s ability to get the job done regardless of cap space cannot be overlooked.

Draft Picks

Another notable aspect of Drury’s tenure as GM, would be his ability to retain young talent while still acquiring big name players to assist the team. Don’t forget that Drury managed to acquire stars Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane in the same deadline, while staying under the cap, and not giving up a blue-chip prospect, such as Brennan Othmann. The 20-year-old could very well be a massive piece of the Rangers’ future.

Hanging on to valuable assets such as 21-year-old rookie Will Cuylle and 23-year-old depth D Zac Jones didn’t hurt either. Keep in mind, it was also Drury’s team that selected young stud Gabriel Perreault 23rd overall in the ’23 draft, a pick that many within the community see to a be a steal

Coaching Staff

Drury and his team can also boast that they hired a coaching staff that has led this Rangers team to a great start. Head coach Peter Laviolette seems to be the perfect man for the job thus far, keeping the buzzing Blueshirts at the top of the standings. Perhaps it is also assistant coach Michael Peca to thank for the team’s terrific special teams, and potent faceoff percentage. This coaching staff can also boast the league’s best power play percentage, as the Rangers simply look lethal when they take the ice for each man-advantage.

While the season is only a third of the way through, Drury hired the perfect coaching staff and made the right moves to keep this team in contention, and right now, they’re looking like the team to beat in ’24.