John Davidson

Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers
Getty Images

Rangers bet on themselves at Trade Deadline

The New York Rangers were prepared for any which direction the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline could have played out.

Instead of selling off expiring contracts such as Ryan Strome and Tony DeAngelo, the Blueshirts re-signed Chris Kreider to a seven-year deal and shipped Brady Skjei to the Carolina Hurricanes for a 2020 first-round draft pick.

“You have to keep your eye on what the big picture is,” Rangers president John Davidson said shortly after the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline. “You have to make decisions with that in mind. We have a plan, and that’s what we are trying to implement.”

New York has won seven of its past eight games and currently sits six points outside the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While the 2020 postseason seems unlikely, the Rangers are looking to build a winning culture and did not want to trade influential players for the third straight season.

“He is a unique player and very hard to replace,” Henrik Lundqvist said of the Rangers alternate captain. “It’s definitely the right decision to lock him up. I think he is developing to an even better player, more consistent, the type of leader that you need in the locker room.”

From the moment Davidson came aboard last summer, he wanted to prioritize a winning locker room that would help young players mature at an optimal rate.

“We are young and getting younger, we need people that can lead the way,” Davidson said in reference to Kreider. “If it didn’t make sense to us (the dollars), we would have had to move in a different direction.”

The Rangers considered trade offers for Kreider over the last few weeks and NHL insider Bob McKenzie reported he was the No. 1 target for as many as eight teams.

“When you weigh all the options of having him leave vs. keeping him, it became more evident that we wanted to keep him,” general manager Jeff Gorton said.

In order to keep options open, the Rangers moved Skjei’s $5.25 million cap hit to the Carolina Hurricanes. In the short term, Brendan Smith will slide back to his natural position on the blue line, but the organization has several internal options that are almost ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Where do the Rangers go from here?

The Blueshirts will try to compete for a playoff spot but more importantly, they are looking to cultivate a winning identity. That change does not happen overnight and trading significant pieces this time of year over and over again has a cumulative effect.

Losing is infectious and the front office felt this was the time to start turning the ship around.

Kreider has developed chemistry with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. Over the past 14 games, that line has recorded 48 points (24 goals, 24 assists).

While that combination has blossomed into a top unit, Artemi Panarin and Strome have created a strong secondary punch. New York has not reached its final destination, but the front office is installing their plan which will take them on the most direct route to sustained success.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Our Line Starts podcast: Is Hynes the answer in Nashville?

Paul Burmeister, Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp discuss the Predators firing Peter Laviolette and whether new coach John Hynes can boost them into the playoffs. The guys debate if Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can carry the Oilers into the postseason, as well as evaluate a handful of teams on the playoff bubble. Plus, Pierre McGuire sits down with Rangers president John Davidson.

0:00-1:42 Intros
1:42-14:40 Laviolette out, Hynes in for Nashville
14:40-34:30 Pierre interviews John Davidson
34:30-39:40 How far can McDavid and Draisaitl carry Oilers?
39:40-end Evaluating teams on playoff bubble

Our Line Starts is part of NBC Sports’ growing roster of podcasts spanning the NFL, Premier League, NASCAR, and much more. The new weekly podcast, which will publish Wednesdays, will highlight the top stories of the league, including behind-the-scenes content and interviews conducted by NBC Sports’ NHL commentators.

Where you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports

Rangers’ Panarin returns to Columbus the way he left: as a superstar

Aside from no-brainer cases such as Nathan MacKinnon being paid essentially half of his on-ice value (maybe less), it can be tricky to say that an expensive free agent signing is “worth the money.” Especially since the New York Rangers have been worse than their 13-10-3 record would indicate.

So … maybe you’d argue Artemi Panarin hasn’t been worth every dime of his $11.64M AAV, but I believe emphatically that he’s at least justified the hype as the rare superstar to actually hit unrestricted free agency.

Thursday serves as a momentous occasion to consider that decision, as Panarin is playing against the Blue Jackets for the first time in Columbus since deciding to leave for the Rangers. Let’s look at this situation from a few different angles.

Still a superstar

As the headline suggests, Panarin remains a dynamic talent.

Even with a two-game pointless drought coming into Thursday’s game, Panarin has been producing, generating 12 goals and 33 points in 26 games. If Panarin managed to maintain this pace over an 82-game season, he’d set new career-highs with 39 goals, 67 assists, and 106 points.

He might not be able to maintain it. While Panarin’s shooting percentage isn’t totally out of order, his playmaking might cool ever so slightly (his on-ice shooting percentage – a decent way to see if a player’s assists might be a touch inflated – is very high at 15.6 percent, compared to a career average of 10.8).

Even so, if Panarin stays healthy, he’s off to a hot enough start that he might beat his career-high of 87 points.

Most importantly, Panarin is still extremely good, and brings more to the table than just the highlight reel passes and goals.

By most underlying numbers, Panarin is more or less the same player: a dynamic offensive presence who doesn’t seem to hurt his team defensively. Maybe you can chalk that up to the notion that the best defense is to not have to play defense because you have the puck all the time, but either way, he’s remarkable. Check out the past three seasons of his heat maps via Hockey Viz’s Micah Blake McCurdy:

(As a reminder, lots of red and a positive number up top, in the offensive side is great, and not lots of red and a negative number in the bottom [defensive] half is also great. So, basically, Panarin ruled and still rules.)

Via the Point Hockey’s stats, Panarin is tied with Mathew Barzal for the lead in offensive zone puck possession (1:12 per game) and Panarin’s 72 completed passes to the slot ranks fourth overall.

At this point, it’s not about if Panarin is still an elite player, but where he ranks among the cream of the crop.

Not downplaying the meaning of the game

Plenty of people involved with the Rangers acknowledge that Thursday’s return to Columbus means a lot to Panarin. Panarin himself admitted as much on Wednesday, as the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports.

“I’m pretty excited. It’s not going to be a regular game for me,” Panarin said. “It’s going to be a different game, I’m going to try to show the best I can.”

Via The Athletic’s Rick Carpiniello (sub required), current Rangers and former Blue Jackets executive John Davidson believes that Panarin might be a “little apprehensive” about how he’ll be received. Going to the Rangers was basically Panarin’s first full-fledged choice (his options were limited when he came to the Blackhawks from the KHL, and it wasn’t his call when Panarin was traded to Columbus), so here’s hoping that Blue Jackets fans are as understanding as 1st Ohio Battery’s Chris Pennington recommends.

Breadless

So far, it’s been an up-and-down season for Columbus, who have lost two in a row and sit at 11-12-4.

While Sergei Bobrovsky‘s bloated contract and rocky start make his departure seem like a possible blessing in disguise, it’s tougher not to miss Panarin.

In particular, I’ve been curious to see how Pierre-Luc Dubois has fared without Panarin. He’s been glued to Panarin for the first two years of his career, making it difficult to tell just how good he is. (We knew PLD was a very useful player, but a star like Panarin can really shine you up.)

So far … mostly very good. Like Panarin, is heat maps look strong as ever:

With 18 points in 27 games (thanks to a dry spell of one assist in his last five games), Dubois isn’t quite on last season’s 61-point pace, but he’s not so far off, and has a shot at his first 30+ goal season.

Sure, Dubois proving himself doesn’t totally soothe things for a Columbus team facing ups and downs, yet it’s something they can hang their hat on as Panarin comes back to town.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Devils, Hall to discuss contract; Byfuglien situation remains complicated

The New Jersey Devils and Taylor Hall will continue discussions for a new contract while the team is in Calgary for a game against the Flames Thursday

During a Wednesday appearance on NBCSN, NHL Insider Darren Dreger reported that Hall’s agent, Darren Ferris, made the trip to Calgary to begin negotiations. Dreger did mention that the public should not read too much into the meeting as both sides have had an open dialogue for quite some time.

Dreger went on to say that until this point, there hasn’t been meaningful talk around the parameters of a contract extension. Hall, 27, is in the final year of his deal and will reach unrestricted free agency on July 1, 2020 if he remains unsigned.

The Devils originally acquired Hall in the summer of 2016 when they shipped defenseman Adam Larsson to Edmonton in a one-for-one swap. Hall went on to win the 2018 Hart Trophy as a member of the Devils.

Byfuglien Update

Dreger mentioned that there is no definitive timeline on Dustin Byfuglien’s recovery from surgery and that it could be anywhere from three to four months. The bruising defenseman remains suspended, but Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is stuck in a holding pattern due to salary cap implications if Byfuglien were to return.

If Byfuglien’s camp files a grievance to recoup some of the lost salary, then a complicated situation could become problematic in Winnipeg.

Rebuild in Detroit

The painful start to the season for the Detroit Red Wings might be just the beginning of an excruciating process.

Dreger mentioned during the first intermission on Wednesday Night Hockey that Steve Yzerman’s goal is to draft in premium positions in at least two, maybe three straight seasons. The top priority for the Wings organization will be to scout in both North America and overseas.

The plan is to build a strong foundation through the draft to set the organization on the right path for long-term success.

Rangers willing to listen

As for the Rangers, Jeff Gorton made several attempts to speed up the rebuild this summer when he acquired Jacob Trouba, signed Artemi Panarin and drafted Kappo Kaako. However, the message Gorton is sending to the New York fanbase is patience, according to Dreger.

Additionally, Dreger mentioned that the Rangers will not necessarily be aggressive this season on the trade market, but they are willing to listen if the right ‘hockey deal’ comes along and makes sense in regards to their long-term plan. The franchise wants to create a healthy environment for its young talent to develop in and eventually prosper.

Home sweet home: NHL execs flock back to familiar franchises

NEW YORK (AP) — Martin Brodeur has been back with the New Jersey Devils for eight months and only walked by his statue once. It’s harder to avoid his banner hanging from the arena rafters.

Brodeur returning to the place he spent the majority of his career sparked a recent run of executives going home to work for organizations they’re synonymous with. Steve Yzerman last month went back to Detroit as Red Wings general manager. In the past week, John Davidson became New York Rangers president and Mike Modano went back to his Minnesota playing roots as Wild adviser.

Yzerman, Davidson and Modano don’t have to avoid statues but do have to balance being beloved by their respective fan bases with the new pressure of succeeding in the front office. There are plenty of recent examples of fan favorite homecomings that didn’t work out: Pat LaFontaine in Buffalo, Ron Hextall in Philadelphia, Trevor Linden in Vancouver, Ron Francis in Carolina and Patrick Roy in Colorado are among them.

Still, the lure of going home is always strong.

”All the things with my banner in the rafters and my statue, this is what I did as a hockey player, but now I’m trying to leave my mark in a different way,” Brodeur said. ”I came back because I care about the success and the fans and the area. Regardless, you still feel the pressure because you want to do well. I’m a proud guy. I’m investing my time in this organization and I want to see them do well.”

While Brodeur and Modano are business-focused now, fellow Hockey Hall of Famer Yzerman and Hall-honored broadcaster Davidson are right in the fire of trying to rebuild proud franchises into championship contenders.

Yzerman won the Stanley Cup three times as Red Wings captain and is back in Hockeytown after eight years as Tampa Bay Lightning GM and another as an adviser. His family still lives in Michigan, he was tired of commuting and he considers the link to his playing days ”irrelevant” in undertaking this challenge .

”What I did as a player is done,” said Yzerman, who will work in the shadow of his No. 19 banner. ”I can’t do any more, good or bad. It really has no bearing on whether I’m a good general manager or not. I have a job to do.”

Davidson understands he has a tough job ahead to try to deliver the Rangers’ first title since 1994. After 13 seasons in St. Louis and Columbus gave him executive experience, parts of eight seasons as a Rangers goaltender and two more decades as team broadcaster before all that drew him back.

”I was here 28 years in a lot of different areas and that makes it a whole lot easier,” Davidson said after his introductory news conference Wednesday. ”I wouldn’t have left Columbus had I not been here originally and had a sense of home, a sense of people welcoming myself and our family back. …. It’s just this is a unique opportunity at a very unique time.”

When Davidson and wife Diana walked the streets of New York on Tuesday night, she turned to him and said, ”Doesn’t this just feel like we didn’t leave?” Thirteen years after leaving the broadcast booth to embark on a journey that has made him one of hockey’s most respected executives, he felt the same way.

Davidson was welcomed home like a conquering hero.

”There’s a lot of good feeling because John is a beloved person here in New York,” longtime broadcast partner Sam Rosen said. ”He was loved when he was a player, he was loved as a broadcaster and people now respect that he’s been a lead executive in the National Hockey League for more than a decade.”

Minnesota is in Modano’s blood after he was the North Stars’ first overall pick in 1988 and played there until the team moved to Dallas in 1993. Post-retirement, Modano spent three seasons as a Dallas Stars adviser, and while this isn’t the same franchise he played for, he’s excited to get back to where his NHL career started.

”It’s always been obviously a real sentimental thing for me, an emotional thing for me to start my career in Minneapolis and St. Paul back in the North Star era,” Modano said Thursday. ”I have a lot of fond memories with fans and friends and everybody involved in the hockey community there.”

Modano will work with owner Craig Leipold, who heralded the Hall of Fame center as ”an important part of our hockey culture in this state.”

The same is true of Brodeur in New Jersey after he backstopped the Devils to the Stanley Cup three times. His job as executive vice president of business operations is about as far away from the pressure cooker of tending goal as Brodeur can get, and it follows three hands-on seasons as Blues assistant GM.

”I went from my playing career right into hockey operations as an assistant GM, so the pressure and the day to day operations was always big,” said Brodeur, who sold his old house to Devils coach John Hynes and rents while traveling back and forth to St. Louis. ”You figure from the first day I walk into the NHL to last year, for me, every game, you get the mood swings, you got everything. I was kind of looking forward to kind of sit back and just kind of look at the big picture instead of the daily grind. It’s been a great change for me and for me family to be able to handle that.”

Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch, who won the Cup with the 1994 Rangers and returned as an adviser, isn’t worried about the heavy expectations on Davidson or Yzerman to make the most of a second act.

”Steve Yzerman, John Davidson – any of these people that are in these positions that are successful, they put the pressure on themselves to be successful and to have a positive impact,” Leetch said. ”As much as there is outside pressure from media and the big city and fans, it’s really internal.”

AP Hockey Writer Larry Lage in Detroit contributed.

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports