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Penguins eyeing Rangers’ Chris Drury for general manager

Sooner or later, the Rangers are going to lose an important front office resource in Chris Drury, and that time might be sooner than previously anticipated if the Penguins come calling.

The Blueshirts’ highly regarded assistant general manager and GM of the AHL Wolf Pack is believed on a short list of candidates in whom Mario Lemieux and the crew are targeting to replace Jim Rutherford, who abruptly resigned as Pittsburgh GM this week.

It is our understanding that the Rangers hierarchy would not stand in the way of Connecticut Yankee’s advancement when and if the Penguins ask for permission to speak to the 44-year-old executive. Our best information is that as of Saturday afternoon, at least, that request had not been presented to Blueshirts president John Davidson.

Rutherford is believed to have resigned because of an internal dispute with ownership — and that essentially means Lemieux — over the direction of the club. No. 66 and PPP partner Ron Burkle are bullish over the prospect of mounting up for another run at the Stanley Cup with 33-year-old Sidney Crosby, 34-year-old Evgeni Malkin and 33-year-old Kris Letang as centerpieces of the effort.

Most outside the organization believe the club needs to replenish an essentially bare cupboard of prospects rather than pushing all of its chips to the middle of the table in a quixotic quest for a title. Indeed, the Penguins could be in a Rangers’ 2016-17 mode, if not 2017-18, though letter dictation is probably not what anyone should expect from Lemieux.

Chris Drury
Chris Drury
Anthony J. Causi

So among the questions: Will the Penguins hire only someone who says what ownership wants to hear, and does Drury believe ownership’s represents the best course for that franchise? There is the overriding question of how much authority the GM would have if Lemieux would be looking over his shoulder.

There is no question, however, that a midseason departure would be disruptive to the Rangers organization. Drury oversees the minor league operation while a trusted confidante of GM Jeff Gorton. He has a say in all decisions. The franchise would miss him. It is obvious, however, that it will only be a matter of time.

That time could be coming quickly.


Libor Hajek is operating under the same two-way NHL contract as Tarmo Reunanen, though the former’s NHL pay is set at $832,500 and the latter’s at $750,000. Each are set to earn the entry-level mandated $70,000 in the AHL.

But because Reunanen was assigned to the Wolf Pack on Jan. 12, he has not been paid a nickel while training and skating with the club in preparation for next week’s start of the AHL season, while Hajek has been paid his full AHL rate because he was assigned to the taxi squad on the same day.

Is that equitable?

It gets even worse for these guys. The PHPA and AHL are about to an agreement under which AHL players would be guaranteed 48 percent of their pay, with a bottom-line minimum of $30,000 through the truncated schedule in which teams will play between 24 and 44 games. Players would get 40 percent if their team’s season is suspended. The entry-level two-way guys would thus make $33,600 for the year … after most of them have not been paid in about nine months.

So let’s say in a couple of weeks the Rangers believe Hajek would be better served by playing games for the Wolf Pack rather than skating and practicing as a taxi-squad guy. He’d go from working on a $70,000 pay scale to a $33,600 rate.

On the same contract!

Obviously this applies throughout the league. Hajek, Reunanen and the Rangers are simply cited as examples.


Then you have what has become the common practice of shuttling players from the NHL roster to the taxi squad in order to save cap space. When high draft with large bonus packages — such as the Rangers’ Kaapo Kakko or the Avalanche’s 2019, fourth-overall Bowen Byram — the saving is significant.

But so are the real pay losses incurred by the player(s). Kakko and Byram are each making $832,500 on the NHL level and $70,000 at the AHL. Accounting for NHL escrow withholding, each player loses just under $5,137.93 per day on the taxi squad. Of course, they are 19 years old, too.

That’s how it is in the season of the pandemic. Perhaps these guys, plus the dozens around the NHL who will be on the taxi-squad yo-yo, should just be thankful they’re not going to the AHL.


So I was listening to our “Up in the Blue Seats” podcast hosted by Ron Duguay and colleague Mollie Walker in which Mike Bossy appeared as a guest. Of course the Rangers passed on Bossy twice in the 1977 Amateur Draft, selecting Lucien DeBlois eighth overall and Duguay 13th before the Islanders nabbed No. 22 at 15th.

This was the precursor of one of Fred Shero’s great lines as Rangers GM/coach, in 1978-79, saying he would rather have Duguay the way he plays than Bossy the way he plays.

Foggy, indeed.

The Canadiens passed on the Quebecer at 10th overall on the advice of scout Claude Ruel, who cited Bossy’s defensive deficiencies. The Habs instead grabbed Mark Napier, who did have three pretty good seasons in Montreal in scoring 40 goals twice and 35 once.

But, say, the Canadiens had selected Bossy. How exactly does he think it would have worked with him coming to a team that had Guy Lafleur entrenched as first-line right wing?

“One of the main reasons I didn’t want Montreal to draft me is because they were sending about 98 percent of their young guys and draft picks to Nova Scotia of the AHL,” Bossy told Slap Shots on Friday. “Honestly, I don’t think I would have gotten a fair chance to make the team unless they put me with veterans in training camp where I could fill the net and not given them a choice.”


Finally, and here I’ve been thinking that the Rangers are just going to have to rig another lottery.

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