The announcement yesterday that long-time New York Rangers president Glen Sather would be stepping down from his hockey operations role has opened up a vacancy that will be highly valued by many. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks writes that former Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman could be one of a number of experienced players or executives with their eye on the job. Yzerman notably left his post as Tampa’s GM prior to this season and many have speculated that he would be moving on to a new team and new title this off-season. Much of that speculation has centered around his former club, the Detroit Red Wings, but Brooks believes the top job in New York would also be a desirable destination. While Brooks cites several sources, he also stops short of confirming Yzerman’s interest in the job, saying that he simply “is amenable to being wooed” and would not “necessarily accept an offer if one were to be presented.” Nevertheless, the prospect of Yzerman joining the rebuilding Rangers, who are both a popular free agent destination and a well-stocked farm system, is intriguing. Yzerman has a track record of success with the Lightning and Team Canada and could be a major asset in turning the Rangers around in short order.
- Brooks also names current Columbus Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson as a candidate to make a lateral move over to the division rival Rangers. In fact, Brooks names Davidson and Yzerman as the two favorites to replace Sather at this point. Other possible candidates include Rangers legend and Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, another long-time Ranger and current radio analyst Dave Maloney, and the recently retired Brad Richards. Brooks believes that the Rangers will work quickly to name a new president, citing Sather himself as saying the team hopes to make the hire by at least the start of free agency, if not by the NHL Entry Draft.
- Two exciting Pittsburgh Penguins prospects are getting a taste of the pro game for the remainder of the season. The AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins announced that forward Jordy Bellerive and defenseman Calen Addison have been signed to amateur tryout offers and have joined the team. The Lethbridge Hurricanes teammates saw their junior season end in the first round of the WHL playoffs, but are now on to a new challenge. Bellerive, 19, was undrafted but signed as free agent with the Penguins ahead of the 2017-18 season. He has since posted 175 points in 139 games over back-to-back tremendous seasons. The Lethbridge captain is arguably the Penguins’ top forward prospect and the team will be interested to see how he looks in the minors. Meanwhile, Addison may be Pittsburgh’s top defense prospect. The small, but speedy blue liner just completed his second season of near point-per-game production and is developing into the type of puck-moving defenseman that is re-shaping the way the NHL is played. A second-round pick last year, the Penguins spent considerable draft capital on Addison, but have to be happy with his consistent offensive play and the growth of his two-way game.
- Fans of the New Jersey Devils will be fans of the Los Angeles Kings for the final two days of the regular season. While the Ottawa Senators (aka the Colorado Avalanche) have locked up the best odds in the upcoming NHL Draft Lottery, the No. 2 spot is still up for grabs and only the Devils and Kings can claim it. New Jersey, at 70 points with one game remaining, is currently in the third spot, but L.A. has 69 points and two games remaining. Just a single point out of four could be enough to give the Devils the second-best odds at winning the first overall pick. The difference in odds between second place and third place is only 2%, but this year in particular the No. 2 spot has added value. The presumptive top two picks in the upcoming draft, forwards Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, are in a tier of their own. If the lottery yields results matching the final leagues standings, as is statistically the most likely outcome, there is a major difference between drafting second overall versus third. The Devils could move up into one of those top two spots regardless of their finish, but have the best chances with a Kings win on Friday or Saturday as well as their own loss in the season finale. New Jersey just won the draft lottery in 2017, moving from No. 5 to No. 1 and selection Nico Hischier helped fuel the team to a playoff appearance last year. Another elite young talent to pair with Hischier and a healthy Taylor Hall could again make the 2019-20 season a “worst-to-first” scenario for the Devils.