May 15, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers players celebrate as they leave the ice after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in overtime of game seven of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Rangers President and General Manager, Chris Drury addressed the media on Wednesday to close out the season.
“I couldn’t be proud of what our players and coaches accomplished this season,” he said via the Rangers social media feed. “We have a special group in that room. Obviously we’re disappointed we’re not playing right now in the Final, but we want to build on this as an organization.”
Chris Drury’s New York Rangers
Drury was named the President and General Manager last May after the surprising dismissals of John Davidson and Jeff Gorton.
“I really believe in what we’ve accomplished since The Letter,” Drury said after his promotion. “We have a lot of good pieces and it’s an exciting time for the organization. When the season ends, we’re going to take a look at everything and see if we can take the next step and make ourselves a playoff team.”
That started by replacing David Quinn with Gerard Gallant behind the bench, which was likely his best move. The rookie GM received some criticism for trading Pavel Buchnevich to the St. Louis Blues in a cap savings transaction, but appears to be the right decision in hindsight.
The trade and signing of Barclay Goodrow was his best offseason player move. Bringing in Ryan Reaves also helped set the tone for a more physical Rangers team ready to take the next step.
One move that must be talked about more is the extension he gave Igor Shesterkin in the offseason. When the 4-year deal was announced with an AAV of $5.6M, it seemed a bit high for a goalie with just 47 games played under his belt.
After a Vezina worthy season where he posted a 36-13-4 record, led the NHL in GAA (2.07) and SV% (.935), Shesterkin’s contract may be the best value among all 32 teams.
The icing on the cake for Drury came at the NHL Trade Deadline in March by acquiring Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, Tyler Motte, and Justin Braun. It wasn’t necessarily getting those players but the fact he was able to do so without giving up any of his top prospects like Nils Lundkvist or Vitali Kravtsov.
The road ahead
Drury will have his work cut out for him this offseason. He has around $13.5 million in cap space to try re-sign RFA Kaapo Kakko and either UFA Andrew Copp or Ryan Strome.
He will also likely look to free up additional space by either trading or buying out Patrik Nemeth, who has two-years left a $2.5M AAV. This must be done in order to properly fill out the roster.
Regardless, the Rangers will be led by their core stars as the youngsters continue to grow.
“The leadership group did a fantastic job this year,” he said. “Not just the players with the A’s on their sweaters. You don’t get to 52 wins and to the Conference Finals without having terrific leadership.
“We make a big deal out of what an experience this was for the kids, but Artemi, Mika, Kreids, and other players that had been in the playoffs hadn’t been in a number of years. They took strides in knowing and seeing what it takes to get this deep into the playoffs.”
This offseason, Chris Drury’s mission is to keep the heart of this past playoff run together and then accent the lineup with solid low cap moves.
That started with the extension of Kravtsov. If he isn’t traded this offseason, the talented winger could be a huge contributor on the third line.
No longer a rookie GM, Chris Drury has done an excellent job this season. One that should give him consider as General Manager of the Year.