New York Rangers GM Chris Drury addresses core, offseason: ‘Nothing’s off the table’

You’re about as likely to get Chris Drury’s ATM password as you are to get concrete information about the New York Rangers from the team’s general manager, who usually avoids media chats. Drury did talk to some reporters on Friday to wrap up another successful but not complete Rangers season, the team’s third with Drury in charge.

We can parse the meaning of his words as best we can but there were very few specifics — understandable given we’re less than a week from the end of the Rangers’ playoff run. The heavy lifting has yet to begin, if there’s even going to be much of that coming off a Presidents’ Trophy and a second run to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final in three years.

Here are five things we noticed from Drury’s call:

The core is not untouchable

Drury could have shut down any talk of moving one of the 11 Rangers who have been here at least four seasons — and you can throw Barclay Goodrow, Vincent Trocheck and Braden Schneider in with that group too — but his mantra of “we’re always looking for ways to improve” took on a slightly different meaning when asked directly if the Rangers are hoping to add to the core this offseason or willing to move someone from that core to make the team better.

“To me, nothing’s off the table,” Drury said. “We’re trying to reach the ultimate goal here. We’re in the middle of that process now, trying to figure out what’s next and what can we do to be better … There’s different ways to get where you want to go.”

Further to that, Drury also said this: “I do believe in our players individually. We have a lot of really good players here. A lot of players had great seasons, a number of them have been very good Rangers for a long time. Now’s the part of the job to figure out if this group collectively can get us to where we want to be. That process is already underway and will continue throughout the offseason.”

Fans who seek core change to this Rangers group can take heart in one aspect of Drury’s tenure: The lack of sentimentality he’s brought to this stressful gig. The 55-win season was mentioned on this call but so was the GM’s disappointment with the finish — that also presumably extends to ownership. So the focus is not to revel in a very good season but to figure out how to take the next step up, which almost certainly involves not running it back.

The search for RW1 continues

Drury said he didn’t want to list off all the players who have tried to fill the slot on the right side with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad over the last three years. That’s probably because he’d need some flashcards to remember all their names.

The GM did say the Rangers are “looking at a lot of different options — some internal, some external, whether it’s through trade or free agency.” Probably safe to say Jack Roslovic, Drury’s last-minute fill-in at the trade deadline, isn’t going to be the guy there.

But there are some intriguing names that could hit the market on July 1, led by Jake Guentzel, who was the big deadline fish that got away from the Rangers. Guentzel will likely command too much term and cap hit to be a viable Rangers option but there are others, including Tyler Toffoli, Jake DeBrusk and Jonathan Marchessault to name three. Martin Necas and Nikolaj Ehlers are both believed to be on the trade market too.

So those internal candidates may take a backseat.

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Coming off a disappointing season, Kaapo Kakko is an RFA this summer. (Sarah Stier / Getty Images)

Not done with Kakko yet?

In pointing out what a difference an offseason can make, Drury noted that Alexis Lafrenière turned in a very strong 2023-24 after his no-point 2023 playoff and some talk that the Rangers were listening to trade offers on the 2020 No. 1 pick. The GM shot that report (posted on this site) down and Lafrenière looked like a different player this past season.

Kaapo Kakko is now in a similar spot, albeit now with four mediocre seasons under his belt. It’s too early in the offseason to know whether Drury is listening on Kakko trade offers and it’s highly unlikely that the Rangers would get anything of real value back for the 2019 No. 2 pick who tallied 19 points in the regular season and two in the playoffs, so he may still be here when camp rolls around.

“He’s still a 23-year-old player,” Drury said. “Just like with Laf and (K’Andre Miller), all these young players that come into the system, (Will) Cuylle, (Matt) Rempe, we try to do everything we can to help them with their development. I think Kaapo’s a real good young player. He had some injury trouble this year, missed some time. We’re going to continue to try and find everything we can do to help him reach his potential.”

Internal preferences for some size and snarl

There will always be free agents available who bring a bit of sandpaper to the lineup but Drury has focused some drafting and a lot of development on making his team bigger and tougher. Cuylle and Rempe are the best examples of that, but Adam Edstrom also looks like a candidate for a roster spot next season, 6-foot-7 center Dylan Roobroeck (2023 sixth-round pick) turns pro coming off a standout year in Oshawa and Brennan Othmann and Brett Berard, the two most skilled forward prospects in Hartford this past season, both play with an edge for smaller guys.

“That’s an area where we have some good internal candidates,” Drury said. “Physical play in the regular season and physical play in the playoffs, especially as you advance, are two different animals.”

That’s a not-so-subtle reminder to some of the Rangers’ skilled core players that, even though they went far this season, there’s still more fight needed to get all the way.

Contract talk? Not today

Drury wouldn’t say whether he’s prioritizing the pending RFAs he has in Ryan Lindgren, Schneider and Kakko over players with a year left on their deals whom he can talk extensions with after July 1: Lafrenière, Miller and, of course, Igor Shesterkin.

If there are long-term deals to be made with the latter trio you’d think that gets done quicker, given the size of those deals in years and dollars. Schneider’s second contract likely will be a two-year bridge based on Drury’s recent history with his young players coming off entry-level deals; Lindgren and Kakko both have arbitration rights, so those may go a bit longer into the summer, if Drury wants to bring one or both guys back.

(Top photo of Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad: Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)

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