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Chris Drury bows out of star-studded Panthers GM search

Chris Drury is a rising star who soon enough will be an NHL general manager. But it won’t be next season.

Slap Shots has learned the Rangers’ assistant GM has withdrawn from consideration for the vacant spot in Florida following an initial interview with the Panthers’ upper management conducted the week of Aug. 16. The Connecticut Yankees fan informed the team of his decision on Friday.

The 44-year-old Drury will enter his sixth year in the Rangers’ front office and fifth as assistant GM. He has become an integral part of the hierarchy that features John Davidson as president and Jeff Gorton as GM. He is also entering his fourth as GM of the AHL Wolf Pack. It was his call last summer to hire Kris Knoblauch as Hartford coach, a move that brought immediate results.

Sources report that another rising star in the industry, Eddie Olczyk, has not only been in for an interview but is expected to be among the finalists for the GM position in Florida that became vacant when the team did not extend the expiring contract of Dale Tallon after the ne’er do well Puddy Tats were bounced out of the qualifying round by the Islanders.

Tallon is now under investigation by the NHL for allegedly using “racially-charged” language while in the Toronto bubble, the news first reported by Florida Hockey Now. Tallon has denied the charge.

The 53-year-old Olczyk, who was a member of the Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup championship team and had a stint behind the bench in Pittsburgh before the age of 40, has been the lead television analyst for NBC’s hockey coverage for more than a decade while holding the same position in Chicago.

He is highly regarded throughout the industry for his acumen, much in the same way John Davidson was before he left the MSG broadcast booth to become president of the Blues in 2006. Indeed, Slap Shots has learned Olczyk had multiple interviews with the Devils for an executive front office position before the team elevated interim GM Tom Fitzgerald into the position on a full-time basis.

Kevin Weekes; Chris Drury; Eddie OlczykAP, Charles Wenzelberg, NBC Sports

Olczyk has a longstanding relationship with Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville, who led the Blackhawks to their three Stanley Cups last decade before moving to Florida last season. Perhaps even more to the point, Olczyk also has a longstanding relationship with club owner Vinnie Viola and his wife, Teresa Viola, through their horse-racing connections and interests.

Slap Shots has been told that Peter Chiarelli, who has been promoted by the NHL for essentially every executive opening that arises, is expected to be among the finalists. Scott Mellanby is another remaining in the mix for a second interview. Kevin Weekes, who began his NHL career in Florida in 1997-98, is also considered a legitimate candidate for the job following the initial round of interviews.


In the parlance of the west (and of Glen Sather, too), “Giddy up.”

For Slap Shots has learned that cost-cutting measures in Arizona — now where have any of us heard that before? — have cost the universally well-regarded John MacLean his job as assistant coach. Johnny Mac, whose No. 15 should have been retired long ago by the Devils, served in that position for three years in the desert after joining head coach Rick Tocchet’s staff in 2017-18.

The Coyotes, operating under the ownership of Alex Meruelo since he purchased the team in July 2019, also relieved a video coach of his duties. Arizona, bounced out of the first round by Colorado after having dispatched Nashville from the qualifiers, are operating without a permanent GM in the wake of John Chayka’s resignation prior to the postseason.

Steve Sullivan is interim GM of the franchise, which Gary Bettman stripped of its second-round draft pick in the 2020 draft and first-round selection in 2021 for its egregious violations (under Chayka) of the league’s combine testing policy.


No, the NHL is not seriously contemplating opening next season under multiple bubbles until coronavirus-related restrictions are eased to allow fans in buildings across the league and to permit ease of transportation across the U.S.-Canadian border.

The cost would be exorbitant. Managing two bubbles briefly containing 24 teams that became 16 within two weeks is expected to come with a price tag of perhaps between $75 million and $100 million. The same protocols and testing would presumably be required within four bubbles that would house 31 teams for months.

In addition, it is difficult to believe the NHLPA would sign up for months on end of being away from their families in order to shuttle between hotel rooms and rinks after dozens/hundreds just had been there and done that.

 

There is, however, a possibility the NHL could temporarily realign for 2020-21 to form a Canadian Division in which the seven clubs — Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver — play exclusively against each other.

And though the league currently is holding to its schedule to open camps on Nov. 17 and begin a full 82-game season on Dec. 1, several sources have indicated that is unrealistic.

A late December or January start of a truncated schedule — the league does not want to extend next season into July, let alone August — where fans are permitted to attend games in meaningful numbers is probably the NHL’s best-case scenario for 2020-21.


Friday’s announcement that the Garden would be converted into a polling place for the 2020 election came in the wake of an agreement between NBA players and the league that its arenas would be used for that purpose.

But Slap Shots has learned that Garden CEO Jim Dolan had initiated talks with the Board of Elections weeks ago and an announcement was originally scheduled for next week.

MSG will be open to 60,000 assigned, eligible voters on the Nov. 3 election day from 6 a.m.-9 p.m. and will also be open for early voting from Oct. 24-Nov. 1 at varying hours.

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