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Rangers fire president Davidson, GM Gorton

Drury named replacement for New York, which failed to qualify for playoffs

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

The New York Rangers fired president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton on Wednesday.

Chris Drury was named president and GM. He was promoted to associate GM on Feb. 5 after he was assistant general manager since Sept. 2, 2016.

The Rangers (26-22-6), who were eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention Monday, are fifth in the MassMutual East Division. The top four teams in the division qualified for the postseason.

"We want to thank 'JD' and Jeff for their contributions to the organization," Rangers owner James Dolan said. "They are both great hockey professionals who worked hard for the Rangers, however, in order for the team to succeed in the manner our fans deserve, there needs to be a change in leadership.

"Chris is a very sought-after executive and a strong leader, who has proven himself to be one of the top young minds in hockey. We are confident he will effectively guide the team to ensure the long-term success we promised Rangers fans."

New York did not qualify for the playoffs for two seasons from 2017-19 after announcing it was going into a rebuild. The Rangers were among the 24 teams to play in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers as part of the NHL Return to Play Plan and were eliminated in three games by the Carolina Hurricanes in the best-of-5 series.

"We had normal meetings this morning and then obviously word got out what had happened," New York coach David Quinn said after a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals. "I've got so much respect for Jeff and JD. It's sad but, unfortunately, it's a tough part of sports. Everybody here feels for them. That being said, it's an unbelievable opportunity for Chris, and we'll do everything to support him. It's been a tough day, but it's the unfortunate part of sports."

Video: Dan Rosen talks about the Rangers' front office

Davidson was hired as president on May 17, 2019, after holding that job with the St. Louis Blues (2006-12) and Columbus Blue Jackets (2012-19).

The Rangers were 63-49-11 in 123 games (.557 points percentage) with Davidson as president. They were 66-75-23 in 164 games (.473 points percentage) from 2017-19.

"We're all surprised. I certainly was," Quinn said. "Talking to the players, they certainly were as well. Again, these decisions are made. It's the hard part of sports."

Gorton had been Rangers GM since July 1, 2015, after he was assistant GM under Glen Sather. He worked for the Rangers since 2007 and was GM when they hired Quinn on May 23, 2018.

"As far as how I feel about Jeff, I've known him for a long time and he gave me this incredible opportunity," Quinn said. "I enjoyed working with him every day. He became a very close friend. He'll certainly land on his feet, that's for sure. He's a [heck] of a hockey guy and a great person, as is JD. And we all felt good about what we've done up to this point."

Quinn was asked if he wonders where he stands with the organization.

"Listen, this is pro sports, and when you sign up for a job like this, and I certainly understood it when you get in the NHL, every day anything can happen," he said. "That's how I go about it. I don't think anything further than that. All I thought about was Jeff and JD and how I felt for them.

"… At the right time myself, Chris and Mr. Dolan will certainly sit down and talk about every aspect of the organization, and coaching will be one of them."

Drury played four seasons for the Rangers from 2007-11 and was captain for the last three of those seasons. He was hired by New York as director of player development in 2015.

"Chris and I have always had a great working relationship," Quinn said. "We've known each other a long time as well, and we certainly see a lot of the same things in the game of hockey. We've got a great deal of respect for each other. Not only do we have a great personal relationship, we've got a great working relationship."

Video: Eliotte Friedman on Rangers firing President, GM

Drury filled in as an assistant when Quinn and his staff were unavailable while in the NHL COVID-19 protocol March 17-28.

"From my experiences with JD and 'Gorts', they're both great people," Rangers forward Ryan Strome said. "Gorts obviously traded for me, so I'm thankful for him for making me a New York Ranger. They've been a privilege to work with. It's a tough day. At the same time, I think [Chris] is a great hockey mind. Getting to spend some time with him this year, especially when he was on the bench with us and getting a little bit closer with him this season, has been a good experience for me talking with him and seeing what he's been through and his knowledge of the game. We'll move forward here, finish these games up ... do our best, do our exit meetings, and see what happens in the summer."

The Rangers announced they were going into a rebuild with a letter to their fans Feb. 8, 2018. They traded captain Ryan McDonagh and forwards Rick Nash and J.T. Miller prior to the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline.

Since then, New York bought out the contracts of goalie Henrik Lundqvist and defensemen Dan Girardi and Kevin Shattenkirk; traded defensemen Marc Staal and Brady Skjei, and forwards Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello; and fired coach Alain Vigneault following the 2017-18 season, replacing him with Quinn, who is in his third season.

Prior to the 2019-20 season, the Rangers acquired defensemen Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba in trades; signed unrestricted free agent forward Artemi Panarin to a seven-year, $81.5 million contract; and selected right wing Kaapo Kakko with the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

The Rangers re-signed left wing Chris Kreider to a seven-year, $45.5 million contract last season and selected left wing Alexis Lafreniere with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

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