John Davidson resigns Blue Jackets job to become Rangers president

John Davidson has resigned his post as the Blue Jackets president of hockey operations to assume a similar position with the Rangers, the teams confirmed Friday.

The Rangers made the announcement official a few hours after Blue Jackets president Mike Priest said New York recently sought permission to speak with Davidson, 66, about returning to the team for which he played six seasons.

“The opportunity of rejoining the Rangers organization and returning home to New York, where my family and I have spent so many wonderful years, was one I simply could not pass up,” Davidson said, in part, in a statement.

“Today is the start of a new and exciting chapter in New York Rangers history,” Madison Square Garden Co. chairman and CEO team owner James Dolan said. “John Davidson is one of the premier executives in the National Hockey League. As we continue to build a team that can consistently compete for the Stanley Cup, John’s knowledge of the game and his experience and passion for the Rangers logo make him the ideal choice to oversee our Hockey Operations department. I am thrilled to welcome ‘JD’ and his family home.”

The Athletic described Davidson’s departure, with four years remaining on his contract, “the first shoe to drop in what could be a mass exodus this summer for the organization.”

Davidson had been Columbus’ president of hockey operations since 2012, but he spent six seasons as a player with the Rangers and nearly two decades as a broadcaster.

“When we hired John Davidson in October 2012, I said I thought he was the perfect person to lead our hockey operations efforts,” team owner John P. McConnell said in a statement. “Nearly seven years later, I believe I was right. 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. J.D. is a man of great character and compassion and I completely understand his interest in the unique opportunity before him.”

The Rangers are expected to introduce Davidson at a news conference Wednesday, according to the Athletic, which noted that Davidson spent much of the past year trying to persuade top Blue Jackets players Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin to commit long term to the team, attempting to convince them with the argument that things aren’t necessarily better in a huge city or on the coast.

Now, Davidson is the first to depart.

In New York, Davidson assumes the top hockey operations job for an Original Six team that has missed the playoffs the past two seasons and has reached the Stanley Cup Finals once since 1993-94, its only championship season since 1939-40. The Rangers lost to the Kings in five games in 2013-14 and fell in the Eastern Finals the next season after leading the NHL with 113 points.

As a goaltender for the Rangers from 1975-83, he led them to the 1979 Stanley Cup Finals on an injured left knee and then transitioned into broadcasting, where he was known affectionately as simply “J.D.”

The announcement of Davidson’s move to the Rangers comes the day after Jim Schoenfeld, the team’s senior VP and assistant GM, stepped down from his position.

When Davidson arrived in Columbus the team had made the playoffs once since its inception in 2000-01. Since then, the Jackets have made four playoff appearances and for the first time advanced this year to the second round before bowing out.

“The winning culture that now is entrenched in all of us will continue under the direction of Jarmo Kekalainen, who will now serve as an alternate governor in addition to general manager, and the leaders within our hockey operations department,” Priest said in a statement. “We remain committed to improving on the successes we’ve had in recent seasons with the goal of bringing a Stanley Cup championship to Columbus.”