John Davidson resigned as president of hockey operations of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday after the New York Rangers requested and received permission to talk to him for a similar position.
Davidson has been long considered the heir apparent to Glen Sather as Rangers president, a move that could become official before the day is out. He spent parts of eight seasons as a Rangers goaltender and was a TV analyst for them for almost a decade.
Columbus owner John P. McConnell said the possibility of Davidson “returning to his roots in New York, where he spent three decades as a player and broadcaster, is an extraordinary circumstance for him and his family.”
Davidson has been with the Blue Jackets the past seven seasons, helping turn an NHL also-ran into a regular playoff contender. Columbus won its first playoff series in this spring.
“He helped us forge a winning culture based on preparation, hard work, accountability and honesty,” Blue Jackets President Mike Priest said. “He set the tone and hired talented people that put in place a plan to build the Blue Jackets through the draft and player development with the end goal being a team that could compete and have success at the highest-level on a yearly basis.”
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McConnell said in 2011 that Davidson was the perfect person to lead Columbus’ hockey operations department, and seven years later believes he was correct. The Blue Jackets made the playoffs in four of Davidson’s seven seasons.
“He joined our team at a very difficult time and led a transformation that has resulted in consistent winning and appearances in the Stanley Cup playoffs,” McConnell said. “J.D. is a man of great character and compassion and I completely understand his interest in the unique opportunity before him.”
Davidson was immediately thought of as the top candidate to replace Sather when the longtime executive shifted to an advisory role. He’ll likely oversee New York’s hockey operations department while Jeff Gorton remains general manager.
This is the first domino to fall in an uncertain off-season for Columbus, which went all-in at the trade deadline and could have as many as four prominent players leave in free agency.
General manager Jarmo Kekalainen takes over Davidson’s job as alternate governor, but it’s uncertain what title he’ll assume. It’s possible he’ll become president of hockey operations responsibilities, with Bill Zito promoted from assistant general manager.