Rangers GM has busy to-do list in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS — Unlike most visitors to Sin City, Chris Drury’s to-do list here doesn’t include casinos, nightlife nor checking out the latest Elvis impersonator. No, this is a business trip for the New York Rangers general manager. And Chris Drury is nothing, if not all business, especially this time of year.

Drury leads the Rangers top brass into Vegas for the 2024 NHL Draft, which takes place Friday and Saturday at Sphere, which, coincidentally, is owned by his boss, James Dolan.

With the decision makers from all 32 teams in the same city, Drury will be able to focus on the present as well as the future this week, as he works his plan to get the Rangers over the hump and into Stanley Cup contention again next season.

Let’s breakdown the latest Rangers news and what Drury will try to accomplish in Las Vegas.

Related: Patrick Kane linked again to Rangers ahead of 2024 NHL free agency

Chris Drury’s to-do list for Rangers in Las Vegas

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Here are four things Chris Drury must focus on here in Vegas this week before NHL free agency begins Monday.

1. The 2024 NHL Draft

Let’s begin with the obvious, the reason the Rangers general manager is out here in the 110-degree desert heat. The Rangers have four selections in the 2024 NHL Draft, including No. 30 overall in the first round.

Considering New York is without a pick in the second and third round, there’s extra pressure to land a bonafide prospect in the first round. Since pick No. 30 is far down the food chain, there’s talk that Drury could trade up in the first round, perhaps packaging Kaapo Kakko with that No. 30 overall pick to land a better prospect. If they don’t move up, the Rangers must nail it at No. 30 because they don’t select again until near the end of the fourth round. New York has single picks in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.

Drury held tight to New York’s first rounder at the trade deadline, and the Blueshirts fell short in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with middling trade acquisitions Jack Roslovic and Alex Wennberg. So, yeah, there’s pressure on the Rangers and their GM to get it right in the first round.

2. Speaking of Kaapo Kakko …

Since, we mentioned Kaapo Kakko, it should be noted that if Drury wants to trade the 23-year-old forward, now’s the time to do it before teams fill out their rosters in free agency. That’s not to say the Rangers couldn’t trade Kakko at any point this summer, it’s just that now is probably preferable.

If the Rangers do move on from Kakko, will it be to move up in the first round of the draft, as mentioned, or will it be part of a good old-fashioned hockey deal?

Of course, Drury may not want to trade Kakko at all, and is content, especially at a $2.4 million salary next season, to give the former No. 2 overall pick another whack at it on Broadway. Drury’s no dummy, he knows he’d be selling low on Kakko if he trades him now.

3. Explore trading Jacob Trouba

You can bet that Drury has been wrestling with the possibility of either trading captain Jacob Trouba or buying out the final two seasons of his contract. The trade option has been more of mental exercise to this point because Trouba has a no-move clause in his contract, so Drury couldn’t discuss a possible trade with another team. But that officially changes July 1. Then Trouba’s contract switches to a 15-team no-trade clause.

Per Arthur Staple of The Athletic, the Rangers have asked for that list of teams already, though Trouba can always wait until right before MOnday to submit it. But it appears that Drury wants the list now so that he can see what is, or what is jot, possible when it comes to trading Trouba and the two years the defenseman has remaining on his contract at $8 million per.

If Drury can get that list in advance, the sooner he can pursue a trade, and move from a hypothetical situation to a real one.

4. Determine what it will cost to re-sign Ryan Lindgren

It would behoove Drury to know what it will cost the Rangers to re-sign defenseman Ryan Lindgren, a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. You’d think they want Adam Fox’s partner back, but if Lindgren is seeking a big raise from his previous $3 million average annual value or wants a heavy long-term deal (he can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2024-25 season) then Drury has a big-time decision to make. Sign Lindgren or move him.

It’s been reported that the two sides are talking and not far apart on the dollars. That’s the best-case scenario for Drury, who’d also like to have cost certainty with Lindgren before the July 1 free-agency bonanza begins. The GM needs to know what his free-agent budget looks like. And having Lindgren locked up or, at worst, at least having a good idea of what the cost of retaining the 26-year-old is, will be crucial to doing business on the open market beginning Monday.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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