MONTREAL -- An NHL general manager’s work is never done, and Rangers president and GM Chris Drury will probably be working the entire time he is in Montreal this week for the NHL Draft, which runs Thursday and Friday at the Bell Centre.
But during the first round of the draft Thursday, the NHL will take time to recognize whoever was chosen as the winner of the Jim Gregory Award, given to the league’s GM of the Year, as voted by the league’s 32 GMs as well as a panel of league executives and broadcast and print media. And Drury, who just finished his first season as the Rangers’ GM, is a finalist, along with Joe Sakic of the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, and Julien BriseBois, of the runner-up Tampa Bay Lightning.
Lou Lamoriello of the Islanders won the award in each of the last two seasons.
Drury took over as president and GM of the Rangers in May 2021 after the shocking firing of president John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton. Drury, a former Rangers captain, had been the assistant GM under Gorton, and had been part of the management team that executed a four-year organizational rebuild, an operation he completed when he guided the Rangers to the playoffs this season for the first time since 2017.
Upon taking over as GM, Drury fired coach David Quinn and replaced him with Gerard Gallant, who was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as the league’s Coach of the Year. He added the final pieces of grit the team needed in the form of two-time Stanley Cup champion Barclay Goodrow and enforcer Ryan Reaves, and signed No. 1 center Mika Zibanejad and defenseman Adam Fox to contract extensions.
At the trade deadline, Drury brought in four new players – forwards Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano and Tyler Motte and defenseman Justin Braun – who helped the Rangers advance to the Eastern Conference Final, where they pushed the two-time defending champion Lightning to six games.
Drury won’t have much time to bask in the glory of his success if he wins. The Rangers don’t have a pick in Thursday’s first round, and only have four picks in the seven-round draft. But Drury has some maneuvering to do to put the roster together for the 2022-23 season. Priority No. 1 is to figure out who will be the second-line center behind Zibanejad. Ryan Strome, who’s held the job most of the past four seasons, is an unrestricted free agent, as is Copp.
Drury also will be looking to trade backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev, a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who carries a $2.65 million qualifying offer in order for the Rangers to retain his negotiating rights. He’ll have to work quickly on that as free agency begins next week.
Drury also needs to re-sign restricted free agent forward Kaapo Kakko, the No. 2 pick overall in 2019 who is coming off an injury-marred season, but had a solid playoff showing before being a surprise scratch for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final against Tampa Bay.
Gauthier deal official
The Rangers on Tuesday officially announced the re-signing of forward Julien Gauthier, who had been set to be a restricted free agent. The website CapFriendly reported last Friday that Gauthier had been signed to a one-year, one-way contract for $800,000.