Ever since Glen Sather stepped down from his post of President of Hockey Operations for the New York Rangers early last month, John Davidson – who holds the same title with the Columbus Blue Jackets – has been one of the top names in consideration to replace him. Davidson, a former NHL goaltender, spent eight seasons with the Rangers and has maintained strong ties with the organization, even serving as a broadcaster for some time. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks wrote earlier this week though that this is more than just a matter of familiarity and opportunity; he believes Davidson is a “lock” to accept the job and further news would seem to indicate that his presumption is true.
Davidson last played for the Rangers in the late 80’s and has worked in the front offices of both the Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues since his playing days ended. Yet, Brooks believes that Davidson has maintained interest in returning to New York after all these years and in fact has an out clause in his contract allowing him to leave if offered a position with the Rangers. Brooks believes that the official offer is imminent now that Columbus has been eliminated from the postseason. Brooks also adds that getting the new president situated as soon as possible is important, as the Rangers have ample draft capital and salary cap space that they need to use wisely this off-season. Davidson could be a key piece for GM Jeff Gorton and company to sway Blue Jackets free agent Artemi Panarin, or perhaps Matt Duchene or Ryan Dzingel, to join the club this summer. Brooks also states that one of Davidson’s first duties would be to replace the coaching staff for the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack, who were let go at the end of their season.
Following the release of Brooks’ article and other mounting rumors, the Columbus Dispatch’s Brian Hedger reached out to the man himself for comment and got a short, but somewhat revealing answer. Hedger asked Davidson for any reaction to the speculation that he was joining the Rangers and the veteran executive said “Right now, I’m working for the Blue Jackets and that’s where it sits.” It doesn’t provide much detail, but Davidson’s response is also far from a denial. “Right now” he remains a Columbus employee, but that could soon change.
On the Blue Jackets’ side, The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline writes about what Columbus will do if Davidson departs, although it seems more like a “when” than an “if” at this point. Portzline feels that the Blue Jackets will make every attempt to keep Davidson, but that the “emotional pull” toward New York may be too much and the team would not stand in the way of a move. The options in the wake of a Davidson departure would be to make an outside hire, promote from within, or spread Davidson’s responsibilities to other. Blue Jackets Assistant GM Bill Zito is a popular name on the executive market and this could be a prime opportunity for Columbus to ensure he does not leave by promoting GM Jarmo Kekalainen to the President role and making Zito the GM. Portzline also mentions former players and current team executives Basil McRae and Blake Geoffrion as internal names who could move up. One way or another, Columbus will have to make some changes to the front office this season and soon, as they have a crucial off-season ahead of them.