Rangers News & Rumors: Gallant Out As Head Coach & More

On May 6, the New York Rangers and head coach Gerard Gallant mutually agreed to part ways. The news came five days after the Rangers’ elimination from the 2023 Playoffs on May 1 by the New Jersey Devils in seven games.

On May 2, speculation emerged about the future of Gallant as head coach. According to a tweet from TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Rangers were reportedly interested in hiring former NHL head coach Joel Quenneville to replace Gallant. Let’s take a look at what their decision to move on from their head coach means for the club in the latest edition of Rangers News & Rumors.

Gallant and the Rangers Agreed To Part Ways on May 6

On May 3, Gallant expressed disappointment with the media following questions about his job security. He commented, “I’m coming in here off what I think were two excellent years. We had one bad week and it cost us. If I can’t stand by my record, what I’ve done, then I think there’s something wrong. I can’t believe I have to answer some of these questions about me getting let go, getting fired, brought up by the media. Disappointing.”

Gerard Gallant New York Rangers
Gerard Gallant, Former Head Coach of the New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On May 4, reports emerged of an argument between Rangers president/general manager (GM) Chris Drury and the coaching staff following one of the Rangers-Devils contests (most likely Game 4) in the first-round series. According to Elliotte Friedman on the May 3 episode of the 32 Thoughts Podcast, the NHL insider mentioned he heard, “After one of the games there was a huge argument behind closed doors and everybody could hear it. The coaches and management were frustrated with the way it was going and everyone could hear that tempers boiled over.” It was clear that following this news that Gallant and Drury may have not been on the same page and that a head coaching change could occur.

Candidates To Be the Next Rangers Head Coach

According to Larry Brooks of The New York Post, according to an NHL official, Quenneville has not been cleared for an NHL return. The Rangers have elected not to pursue the matter with commissioner Gary Bettman, the sole arbiter of the matter. After being mentioned in rumors, Quenneville will not be in consideration for the head coaching job (from ‘Rangers’ search won’t include Joel Quenneville, plus look behind Gerard Gallant’s exit’, New York Post, 5/6/23).

Related: NHL Rumors: Bruins, Rangers, Wild, Kings, Penguins

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Peter Laviolette and the Washington Capitals agreed to mutually part ways on April 14 while the Calgary Flames fired Darryl Sutter on May 1. Both of them could each receive interviews with management about the Rangers’ head coaching vacancy. Bruce Boudreau, who the Vancouver Canucks fired on Jan. 22, is another individual with previous head coaching experience.

Kris Knoblauch, the head coach of the Rangers’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, will be considered for the position by Rangers GM Drury. Under Knoblauch, the Wolf Pack have reached the Atlantic Division Finals of the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs and will play the Hershey Bears. They defeated the Springfield Thunderbirds in one of the Atlantic Division first round series before beating the Providence Bruins in the Atlantic Division Semifinal.

Could the Rangers Move On From Some of Their Young Players?

In the aftermath of the Rangers’ underwhelming postseason, it is possible the club moves on from at least one of their younger players during the offseason. They agreed to a four-year, $17.75 million contract extension with Filip Chytil on March 29 that begins in 2023-24. Aside from him, the club has a few players whose futures with the organization are in question. Brooks wrote about the regression of the ‘Kid Line’ during the playoffs and defenseman K’Andre Miller struggled in the first round as well.

Miller and Alexis Lafreniere are both restricted free agents this offseason. Kaapo Kakko received a two-year bridge deal with the Rangers on July 28, 2022, and will be a restricted free agent following the 2023-24 season. It is possible one or two of the trio is traded this summer. Lafreniere did not have a point during the Devils series while Kakko has not been consistent enough offensively during his tenure with the club. Based on what the Rangers could receive in return for their younger players, Brooks mentions that Miller would give them the most value in a trade followed by Lafreniere (from ‘Kid Line likely to pay price for Rangers’ playoff failure, roster construction’, New York Post, 5/2/23).

Alexis Lafreniere New York Rangers
Alexis Lafreniere, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Rangers do not offer the best opportunity for young forwards such as Lafreniere and Kakko to get steady minutes in the top six due to the more experienced players the club is already committed to. If they hire Knoblauch as their next head coach, perhaps his experience coaching younger players with the Wolf Pack may help with the progressions of both of them. Still, both young forwards may benefit from a change of scenery at this point to rebuilding teams where each could have a bigger role offensively.

With the Rangers looking for a new head coach, they find themselves in a familiar position as the new coach that is hired will be their third in six seasons since Alain Vigneault was let go on April 7, 2018. Firing a head coach may not solve the problem entirely as they clearly have roster concerns with their lack of production at even strength during the first round of the 2023 Playoffs.

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