The New York Rangers are off to their best start since the 2016-17 season with 14 points in their first 10 games. This is also Chris Drury’s first year on the job as the team’s President and General Manager.
As a child growing up in Connecticut, Drury grew up a fan of the Blueshirts and longed to play for them one day. That dream did come true in 2007 when he signed as a UFA and was subsequently named the captain of the team.
Unfortunately, his career with the Rangers ended abruptly when knee injuries forced him to retire at the age of 34. Drury’s passion for the game led him to management in 2015. He climbed the ranks of the organization serving as Assistant GM since 2016 before his promotion this season.
While it is way too early to judge Chris Drury as the head of the organization, he’s already had a tremendous impact on the immediate future of the team. Let’s quickly look at what can be deemed Good, Bad, and Uncertain so far.
Chris Drury: The Good
Hiring Gerard Gallant: The choice of the veteran coach seems like a good one out of the gate. Hard to deny when the Blueshirts are 6th in the NHL for total points. Gallant seems to have the team believing in itself and finding ways to win. A stark contrast to the way close games turned out last season.
Acquiring Ryan Reaves: The big enforcer has been limited this season due to injuries but the impact he’s had in the locker room is undeniable. His mere presence whether in or out of the lineup seems to be giving the team a boost. When he’s in the lineup the Rangers are an imposing and physical force.
Extending Igor Shesterkin: Drury wisely locked up the 25 year-old to a four year deal worth $5.66M. He’s an elite goalie that may change the way the game is played. That contract will look even better if he wins a Vezina this season or next. Shesty is 5-1-2 with a stellar 1.85 GAA and .943 SV%.
Extending Mika Zibanejad: Getting Mika to take less than the projected $10 million he was likely to get on the open market was a win in and of itself. Zibanejad signing for $8.5 million is great for now, but may be problematic when he hits around 33 in year 5 of the 8 year deal.
Extending Adam Fox: Locking up the reigning Norris Trophy winner for 7 years was technically a hometown discount. Remember, the Avs gave Cale Makar $9M for six years, so that extra year at just another $500K against the cap was a win.
Trading Pavel Buchnevich and getting back Sammy Blais: Don’t get me wrong, I like Blais but he’s not Buchnevich. The Rangers are very much missing Pavel on the first line and PK this season. While I understand it was a cost cutting move for cap space, he could’ve signed and traded him for a better return during the season. The team has over $7 million in unused cap space so it was possible. Buch signed in St. Louis for $5.8M.
Handling Vitali Kravtsov situation: This one is a big mess and it feels like Drury learned nothing from the Lias Andersson situation, where he was the GM of the Wolf Pack. Drury loaned Kravtsov to the KHL in the hopes of getting something better than a 2nd round pick for the former 9th overall selection in 2018. From what I’ve been told it’s unlikely that Kravtsov will play for the team again.
Signing Barclay Goodrow: Personally, I am huge fan of the signing of Goodrow. The 28 year-old is just the kind of player the Rangers needed. He is currently on the team’s first line which speaks to his versatility but also is concerning because Alexis Lafrenière doesn’t seem ready to take on the role. Barclay has three goals and four points in 10 games, which is great. Why is this in the uncertain column? His $3.46M for six years may not look good when some RFA’s need to be signed soon.
Ryan Strome’s future: Another big uncertainty is what to do with Strome? Can you re-sign him and if so what ramifications will that have? Can you afford not to keep him considering how thin the team is down the middle? Drury also can’t let Strome walk for nothing. Like I said, a lot of uncertainty here.
Kaapo Kakko’s next contract: The current cap system actually makes you root against Kakko having a big season. That way Drury can sign him cheap and not worry about an offer sheet. How he handles this contract will decide exactly if its a good or a bad soon enough.
Once again, it is very early in Drury’s tenure to pass any definitive judgment. To be fair, he has a lot more good than he does in the bad column early on.
He stated from the beginning that he wanted to reshape the bottom six and he’s done that. Drury is also not interfering with Gallant’s handling of the team. In particular, allowing Gallant more time to decide on a captain or if he wants one at all.
Has he had some missteps? Yes! The handling of Buchnevich and Kravtsov are red flags for me. They could be an indication of how he may handle other similar situations/players. But again, it’s too soon to know for sure.
Jack Eichel saga is over (thankfully)
Today’s rumors has some juicy tidbits about the fallout and process. Read more.