It was a wild week in the NHL and the Tom Wilson saga was just the beginning which culminated in high-profile firings in New York. Did John Davidson feel ‘betrayed’ by New York Rangers owner James Dolan? How much did Glen Sather have to do with the firings of Davidson and Gorton?
There are a lot of question marks this week and a lot of emotional responses from the people behind the scenes, some of which we had to censor to protect our sources’ identity. But you’ll get the point.
Could Kevin Weekes be the next Assistant General Manager of the Rangers? Could Jaro Halak’s time with the Boston Bruins be coming to a close?
The emergence of rookie Jeremy Swayman has apparently caused the Boston Bruins to change course with their goaltending in the present and not-so-distant future.
All that and more in the latest ‘Off The Record’!
1. Davidson Felt Betrayed; Was Sather Involved?
Recently fired New York Rangers President of Hockey Operations John Davidson felt ‘betrayed’ when the team released their now infamous tweet calling for NHL Department Of Player Safety Chief George Parros’ job. A day later, MSG Sports CEO James Dolan fired Davidson and Rangers GM Jeff Gorton.
As many have speculated, it appears Rangers owner James Dolan sought the consult of former President Glen Sather, who still serves Dolan in the shadows as Senior advisor to the owner and alternate governor. According to an NHL management source with close ties to Davidson, speculation traveled fast amongst fellow NHL hockey execs that Sather may have influenced not just the bombastic Rangers’ tweet, which earned them a $250,000 fine, but also the Gorton and Davidson firings with an eye towards bringing Mark Messier into the fold.
That certainly might add context to Messier’s tweet in the immediate aftermath of the firings that called out Gorton and Davidson for not building a tougher roster.
An angry NHL management source unloaded on the Rangers. We’re only giving you half the answer.
Off the record:
“I know JD feels absolutely betrayed, and he should. He got stabbed in the back by an owner who signed off on a rebuild that went a lot faster than planned, thanks to JD and Jeff,” the management source said. “It just makes no sense, and this is why owners need to let the hockey people they hired do their thing.”
The source openly questioned if Sather was involved and was not thrilled with that possibility. Sather, 77, has not been involved in the day-to-day operations of the team since Davidson replaced him as President in 2019.
2. Weekes A Candidate for Rangers Asst. GM
An NHL management source also confirmed to OTR that NHL Network Analyst and former New York Rangers goalie Kevin Weekes is a candidate to replace new Rangers GM Chris Drury in Drury’s vacated Assistant GM post. Weekes could be in line for the AGM position or potentially another position in Hockey Operations/Business.
Weekes was a candidate for the Pittsburgh Penguins GM gig before the Penguins decided on Ron Hextall as GM and Brian Burke as their new President of Hockey Operations back in February.
Also, numerous NHL sources have told my Boston Hockey Now colleague Joe Haggerty that Drury is also considering former Boston University teammates Chris Kelleher and Jeff Kealty for the same position or others in his hockey op’s department. Kelleher is currently the Director of Pro Scouting for the Minnesota Wild, and Kealty is the Assistant GM of the Nashville Predators.
Earlier this year, the Florida Panthers made history by naming Brett Peterson as assistant general manager. It is believed Peterson, who played minor league hockey for several teams, including the famed Johnstown Chiefs of Slap Shot fame, broke the color barrier in NHL management.
Weekes could be the second person of color in NHL management.
Off the record:
“Weeksie is a candidate. I can confirm that,” the source told OTR. “He is actually a pretty hot commodity right now, and if he doesn’t end up with the Rangers, I’d expect him to find a job in NHL management in the offseason.”
3. Is Jaro Halak Done With The Bruins?
Just over two months ago (March 3), TSN NHL Insider Bob McKenzie reported the Boston Bruins were ready to negotiate extensions for both of their goalies, Tuukka Rask and Jaro Halak. Both have expiring contracts.
However, two weeks after the McKenzie report, Halak was put on the NHL COVID Protocol list and had just one start since. It was a forgettable appearance on May 4. He allowed four goals on 25 shots and had a meltdown after surrendering the overtime winner in a 4-3 loss for the Boston Bruins to the New Jersey Devils.
Before his long layoff, Halak had allowed three or more goals in three consecutive starts. While his mediocre play before his COVID bout and his stinker in Jersey didn’t help, the phenomenal start that Boston Bruins rookie Jeremy Swayman’s NHL career has not only made Halak the third-string goalie heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs but likely sealed Halak’s fate in Boston.
Off the record:
“I can tell you that there were some exploratory talks between the Boston Bruins and Halak after McKenzie’s report, but Swayman has changed everything,” an NHL source with knowledge of the situation told Off The Record Saturday. “You could tell Halak knew that was probably it for him with the Bruins [May 4] with that hissy-fit he threw after the OT winner. I know that didn’t go over well with the coach and the leadership group, but they also get his frustration. That being said, talks never materialized again, and that was likely Jaro’s last start with the Bruins unless injuries happen. I would not expect him to be back with the Bruins.”