Shortly after the New York Rangers ended their 2020-21 season, owner James Dolan decided it was time for a change. He fired president John Davidson and general manager (GM) Jeff Gorton and replaced them with Chris Drury. Shortly after that, Drury made his first move. He fired head coach David Quinn after the Rangers held their annual exit meetings. The rest of the summer, he made some key additions and moves to hopefully turn the Rangers into a playoff team for the 2021-22 season. Here we’ll take a look at the most significant moves and roles that were filled.
Gerard Gallant – Head Coach
The Rangers will be the fourth NHL team Gallant has coached. He has a career record of 274-216-4-51, totaling a .550 combined points percentage with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights. With his last team, the Golden Knights, he was 118-75-20, which is a .601 points-percentage.
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Gallant holds high praise from former teammates and players. Former teammate (Detroit) and former Rangers forward Ron Duguay said, “Gerry had a calming presence in the locker room. But when he competed on the ice, he made a great teammate because you always knew he had your back. You always admire guys that are willing to fight for you and cover for you, Gerry is all about that.” Duguay added, “He knows how to speak to a younger player and knows how to speak to a veteran.” (From ‘Rangers hiring Gerard Gallant as new head coach’, New York Post, 6/14/21).
While Jaromir Jagr, former Ranger and who Gallant coached with the Panthers, said, “He is tough but friendly and he is honest with the players.” Jagr also said, “In my opinion, with the players having so much power, that is the way a coach has to be. You can’t threaten to send players down or take away their ice time. That does not work.” He finished by saying, “You have to be honest with the top guys and create trust with them. You have to be tough but you have to create the [environment] so players want to play for you and will do extra. That’s the way I see it. And that’s the way he is, not only with the top guys but with everyone, no matter who you are.” (From ‘Gerard Gallant is ideal choice to solve star issue that haunted Rangers’, New York Post, 6/15/21).
Gallant was surprisingly fired from the Golden Knights, and all signs point to him being up to the task of leading the Rangers to the playoffs and beyond.
Barclay Goodrow -Forward
A week before the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, the Blueshirts acquired Barclay Goodrow from the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Drury sent a 2022 seventh-round pick to the Lightning for Goodrow. The two-time Stanley Cup winner was set to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA).
The following week Frank Seravalli reported that the Rangers signed the 6-foot-2, 203 pound forward to a six-year $21.85 million deal with an AAV (average annual value) of $3.642 million. That locks up Goodrow until he turns 34. Along with his Stanely Cup experience, which is much needed on the Rangers’ roster, he should lend grit and add depth to the Rangers’ top three lines. He’s a guy that can fit in just about any slot.
Ryan Reaves – Forward
The Tom Wilson incident involving Artemi Panarin at the end of the Rangers’ season was a catalyst for many things. One of them was the signing of Ryan Reaves. Reaves, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound power forward, will add much-needed toughness and fill the Rangers’ huge physical presence need. Most don’t expect Reaves to play in every game. He’s probably looking at playing half of the season.
He’ll be inserted into the line-up when the Blueshirts need that added grit, like against Wilson’s Washington Capitals, or on Oct. 18 against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Kurtis Gabriel. Regardless of what goes down when Reaves lines up across from Wilson and Gabriel, he should be a big part of the Rangers’ success and the style of play they’re trying to capture moving forward.
Shesterkin Signed – Goaltender
Igor, Igor! Fans at Madison Square Garden will be hearing that chant for at least the next four years. Drury inked Shesterkin to a four-year, $22.7 million deal. The 25-year-old Russian-born goaltender has played in 47 career games with the Blueshirts. He has a record of 26-16-3, with a save percentage (SV%) of .921 and two shutouts.
He appeared in about 75% of the games last season, and figures to do the same this season. He finished fifth in the Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year) voting. The sky is the limit for Shesterkin, who has the potential to be one of the best goalies in the league.
Drury’s Grade – A
With these four key moves, Drury’s off-season grade is an A. That may change through the course of the season if one or two of the moves don’t pan out, but on paper, he addressed the Rangers’ biggest need which is grit and toughness, while adding Stanley Cup champion pedigree. He also got his goalie of the future locked down for four years, and added a top-of-the-line head coach who should be able to change the culture and bring the Rangers to the playoffs.