Beloved former goaltender and TV color man John Davidson is returning to the Rangers as the club’s president, succeeding Glen Sather, who stepped down from the position last month.
The Rangers announced Friday that Davidson, who had been president of hockey operations for the Columbus Blue Jackets, has agreed to be their new president. He is expected to be introduced at a Madison Square Garden news conference next week.
“John Davidson is one of the premier executives in the National Hockey League,’’ Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan said in a news release. “John’s knowledge of the game and his experience and passion for the Rangers logo make him the ideal choice to oversee our hockey operations department. I am thrilled to welcome ‘JD’ and his family home.’’
Davidson, 66, spent seven years as the Blue Jackets’ president of hockey operations. Before that, he spent six years in the same position with the St. Louis Blues. He was always the Rangers’ top target to replace Sather — the only target, really, once Steve Yzerman became the Detroit Red Wings’ general manager — after Sather announced in early April that he would be stepping down.
The Rangers had to wait until Columbus was eliminated by the Boston Bruins in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs before they could request permission to talk to Davidson.
Early Friday afternoon, the Blue Jackets sent out a news release saying that the Rangers had asked for permission to talk to Davidson and that he had resigned his position with Columbus after being granted that permission to speak to them. A couple of hours later, the Rangers made their announcement.
“I am excited and humbled to be named the president of the New York Rangers,’’ Davidson said. “The opportunity of rejoining the Rangers organization and returning home to New York, where my family and I have spent so many wonderful years, was one I simply could not pass up.’’
Davidson joins the Rangers at a pivotal time. They announced in February 2018 that they would rebuild, and the club has been sellers at the last two NHL trading deadlines, shipping away captain Ryan McDonagh and mainstays Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes, among others, in exchange for prospects and draft picks.
Now, after winning the second pick in the draft lottery, the Rangers have an opportunity to speed up their rebuild.
Presuming the Devils take American Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick, the Rangers would get the opportunity to select Finnish forward Kaapo Kakko, who has been the biggest sensation at the World Championships this month.
Taking Kakko — or Hughes, if the Devils take Kakko — could prompt the Rangers, led by GM Jeff Gorton, to move aggressively this summer by diving into the free-agent market or dealing prospects and/or draft picks for NHL-ready players.
On Thursday, the Rangers announced that Jim Schoenfeld, a senior vice president and assistant general manager had stepped down from his position, which suggests Davidson might look to bring in a lieutenant to assist him as he gets reacquainted with the organization.
Dave Maloney, currently a radio analyst for the Rangers, is expected to be in the mix for a position in Davidson’s circle of advisers. Maloney was the captain of the 1978-79 Rangers team that advanced to the Stanley Cup Final against Montreal. Davidson was the goaltender on that team, and he and Maloney are great friends.