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Davidson will get resources as president to complete Rangers rebuild

Promised by owner he'll have whatever he needs to bring championship to New York

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- John Davidson's directive and only goal as president of the New York Rangers is to bring a Stanley Cup championship to Madison Square Garden.

He's already been promised all the resources required to get that done.

"[Rangers owner James Dolan] said to me, basically whatever you need you're going to get," Davidson said at his introductory press conference at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. "Try to do it and go get it. I just was so happy to hear that because that's the attitude you need to have when you're trying to build a championship team here in New York."

 

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Davidson witnessed how it was done and what it meant for the city in 1994, the last time the Rangers won the Stanley Cup. At that point he was in the middle of his Hall of Fame broadcasting career, calling Rangers' games on MSG Network with Sam Rosen.

Now he has 13 years of experience as an NHL executive, six as the St. Louis Blues' president of hockey operations (2006-12) and seven in the same role with the Columbus Blue Jackets (2012-19). His experience allows him to have patience, which he plans to use in New York.

Davidson said his first challenge is to assess everything in the organization, but it doesn't sound like he expects to make any drastic changes.

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General manager Jeff Gorton will continue in his job. David Quinn will return for his second season as Rangers coach. Davidson spoke glowingly about the two of them and the jobs they have done in advance of his arrival.

"I'm not a guy who walks in with a hand grenade," Davidson said. "I don't do that. I want to go see what everybody does. I want to see who they are, what they do, what their roles are on the bus and just try to find a way to make everything better. They have a game plan. They've been sticking to their game plan and that's a good thing."

Davidson plans to add his experience and expertise in a job that seems perfectly suited for him given what he means to New York and the Rangers.

He previously spent 28 years in New York, including parts of eight seasons as a Rangers goalie (1975-83) and the rest as a full-time broadcaster on MSG Network from 1986-06.

He left 13 years ago to pursue his career as an executive.

Davidson helped draft or acquire nine of the 20 players who are expected to be in uniform for St. Louis against the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

He helped build the Blue Jackets into the team that swept the Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lighting in the Eastern Conference First Round this season and then challenged the Bruins in the second round before losing in six games. It was the first time Columbus advanced out of the first round.

Now the pull of city and his ties to the Rangers have him back in New York.

"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," Davidson said. "I would never have left Columbus. It's just this is a unique opportunity at a very unique time."

The Rangers haven't made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2017, but they are in the middle of a rebuilding project that began more than 15 months ago, and by all accounts they're ready to accelerate the process to become playoff contenders as soon as next season.

They have the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, which will be held June 21-22 in Vancouver, meaning they're likely to select United States-born center Jack Hughes, the top-ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Registry, or Finland-born forward Kaapo Kakko, the top-ranked European skater. The New Jersey Devils have the No. 1 pick.

The Rangers also have the No. 20 pick in the draft, which will give them seven first-round picks since 2017.

That's in addition to what they have on the NHL roster, including veteran goalie Henrik Lundqvist and center Mika Zibanejad, who had 74 points (30 goals, 44 points) this season. They're also expected to have plenty of salary cap space this summer.

"The one thing I do see here is the culture," Davidson said. "I think that coaching staff has done a good job with that. They play hard, they play the game the right way and they're demanding of that. If you want to play for the Rangers, this is how it's going to be. If you don't have that proper leadership and culture within the locker room itself it becomes hard, and it's awfully hard to change it. It looks to me that they're well on their way in that area."

Video: John Davidson's Message for Rangers Fans

Davidson said he will sit down with Gorton and the rest of the staff to get to know everyone better and to pick brains. He'll do that soon.

Davidson said his idea of a working relationship between the president of the team and the GM is to be "married at the hip.

"I'm not going to sit here and say he's going to have every call on everything, but he is the general manager, that's his job," Davidson said. "If he wants my advice, I'll be happy to help, but he's got his seat on the bus and he's going to do his job. Coaches are the same way."

He said he views his role as being "the soul of the franchise.

"You want to make sure this franchise carries itself well, as it always has," Davidson said. "This is an Original Six hockey club. There's only six members. It's pretty special and I want to continue with that special attitude toward this franchise. It's the New York Rangers."

It's his team. It's home.

"Dreams do come true," he said.

Photo courtesy: New York Rangers

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