Chris Drury

The final report card for the 2022-2023 season belongs to Chris Drury. Drury is graded for everything he did from when the Rangers were eliminated from the 2022 playoffs through when they were eliminated from the 2023 playoffs. It’s a clear timeframe, as the moves he should be graded on impact the 2022-2023 season, not the upcoming 2023-2024 season. So anything this summer is off the table. The final move is Filip Chytil’s contract extension.

Reviewing all moves made by Chris Drury

Again for the sake of this post, we have a specific time frame we are looking at. Let’s summarize the moves made for the 2022-2023 season:

  • Rookie signings: Adam Sykora, Talyn Boyko, Bryce McConnell-Barker, Brett Berard
  • RFA signings
    • Vitali Kravtsov: 1 year, $875k
    • Sammy Blais: 1 year, $1.5 million
    • Gustav Rydahl: 1 year, $750k
    • Julien Gauthier: 1 year, $800k
    • Libor Hajek: 1 year, $800k
    • Ryan Carpenter: 1 year, $750k
    • Kaapo Kakko: 2 years, $2.1 million cap hit
    • Filip Chytil: 4 years, $4.4375 million cap hit
  • UFA signings
    • Jaro Halak: 1 year, $1.6 million
    • Louis Domingue: 2 years, $775k cap hit
    • Vincent Trocheck: 7 years, $5.625 million cap hit
    • Jimmy Vesey: PTO, 1 year, $750k, 2 year extension, $800k cap hit
    • Ben Harpur: 1 year, $750k, 2 year extension, $787k cap hit
  • ¬†Trades
    • Alex Georgiev: Traded Georgiev to Colorado for 2 3rd round picks and a 5th round pick
    • Patrik Nemeth: Traded Nemeth, 2025 2nd, and conditional 2024 3rd to Arizona for Ty Emberson (cap dump)
    • Nils Lundkvist: Traded Lundkvist to Dallas for 2023 1st round pick
    • Ryan Reaves: Traded to Minnesota for 2025 5th round pick
    • Vladimir Tarasenko/Niko Mikkola: Acquired in exchange for Sammy Blais, 2023 1st/3rd round picks
    • Tyler Motte: Acquired for Julien Gauthier, 2023 7th round pick
    • Vitali Kravtsov: Traded to Vancouver for William Lockwood, 2026 7th round pick
    • Patrick Kane: Acquired for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks
    • Gustav Rydahl: Traded to Colorado for Anton Blidh
  • Waivers
    • Lost Jarred Tinordi on waivers
    • Lost Dryden Hunt on waivers
    • Acquired Jake Leschyshyn on waivers

This is a lot to process, and believe it or not Drury was rather active last season. There are clear wins and clear losses. No GM bats 1.000, so instead of focusing on perfection, let’s focus on how these deals worked out.

Signings were mostly fine

There were no clear wins or losses in the rookie and RFA signings, as these are pretty straight forward due to the current CBA. We can argue that the Blais contract was steep given his ACL injury, but it’s moot at this point. The Chytil contract is a big win, especially if he supplants Trocheck this year for the 2C role. It would have been nice for Kakko to get more than a bridge deal, but the cap was a problem, both self made and impacted by Covid.

The UFA signings are what they are. I’m not going to lose sleep over Harpur’s contracts. Usage is on the coach, contract is on the GM. Both were fine since they can be buried. The big one was Trocheck’s contract, and it’s the years that are eye popping. Seven years is a lot, and the NMC through the first three years isn’t great. But it’s a moveable deal once that NMC becomes a modified NTC in year four.

Ryan Carpenter didn’t work out as the 4C, but again a contract like that can be buried. It was a low risk move. Halak had a slow start, but was mostly fine as a backup goalie. He was a bit too expensive for the position though.

Of the RFA, UFA, and rookie signings, the wins were Chytil, Kakko, and Vesey, and they were big wins. The L’s were Harpur, Blais, and Halak (mostly due to the cap hit). He missed small, but won big with Chytil and Vesey.

Something to note: Contract length and these no-trade/no-move clauses were player bargaining chips more than cap hit the last few years, almost entirely due to the flat cap. Since players couldn’t get more money due to the financial implications of Covid, they got other reassurances. Not Drury’s fault necessarily, so worth noting.

The overall goal is to win big and miss small. Drury did that, but it does take some mental gymnastics to get there.

Trades were a mixed bag

The Rangers had to trade Georgiev, Nemeth, and Lundkvist. The big L here is Nemeth, as Chris Drury needed to attach a 2nd round pick to make that contract go away. That signing simply didn’t work out, even if we saw what the goal was at the time. Three years was a lot for Nemeth. But Drury recouped most of the picks with the Georgiev and Lundkvist trades.

The Ryan Reaves trade was needed from a cap perspective, and the fact the Rangers got anything for him is a win. However that trade did leave the Rangers without one of their key voices in the locker room. As we saw, that hurt them last season.

The non-Kane trade deadline moves were fine as well. Drury didn’t give anything of value up, aside for that 1st rounder to St. Louis, but you have to give to get in this league. All of the moves here worked out, and before the Kane trade, it was clear the Rangers¬† just needed a 4C to balance out the lineup.

The big L for Drury was everything needed to land Patrick Kane. The trade itself, acquiring Kane for 3 non-first round picks at 25% of his salary, is fine. But the gymnastics needed to land him really set the Rangers back. They played without 18 skaters for a week, putting more strain on their big minute players.

Kane himself was fine and his production was actually on par with expectations. But the drama leading to the trade, followed by the roster shakeup needed –notably putting Barclay Goodrow at center, which is not ideal– left the Rangers with another hole at the bottom of the lineup. Kane was a luxury, not a necessity.

Overall body of work was fine, but flawed

Looking at each move in a vacuum, Chris Drury was fine last year. Even if you look at the overall strategy, it was fine. The Rangers tried many different wingers in the top six before acquiring both Tarasenko and Kane. Did none of the others work? Or was it a disconnect between coach and GM? There’s evidence to suggest that both Kakko and Lafreniere would have been fine in the top-six, and perhaps only one of those blockbuster trades was needed.

It’s tough to grade Chris Drury on his 2022-2023 performance because of a multitude of factors. First and foremost is that disconnect with Gerard Gallant, which significantly impacted roster decisions (Kid Line, 6D, 4C, Leschyshyn, Kane, etc). Good GMs work with their coaches and address on-ice team needs based on the coach’s feedback. Drury did that. But then the players weren’t used properly.

How much of that is on Drury? How much is on Gallant?

The overall theme of what Drury was doing –seeing what worked to start the season, trying stopgaps until the trade deadline, filling the holes as needed– made sense. But garbage in, garbage out, and the garbage in was how the roster was used on the ice.

The good news is that Drury does appear to be learning on the job. His first offseason was bad. But he’s been getting better with each deadline and offseason. Learning is good.

Grade: B-

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