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Blues president John Davidson agrees to contract buyout

ST. LOUIS - John Davidson, who spent six years rebuilding the St. Louis Blues as president of hockey operations, is leaving the team.

Davidson, 59, and the team agreed to a buyout of his contract, which has three years and approximately $6 million remaining on it. Terms were not disclosed Friday.

"We would like to thank JD for his commitment and dedication to the Blues organization over the past six seasons," team Chairman Tom Stillman said. "He has been instrumental in revitalizing the Blues franchise and has built a strong foundation for our organization, which will ensure the club's success well into the future."

Davidson was hired by the previous ownership group, led by Dave Checketts, on June 30, 2006, to revitalize a franchise that had seemingly become disconnected with its fan base. The Blues were fresh off a last place finish in the NHL (21-46-15) coming out of a lockout year in 2005, and Davidson instantly became the face of the Blues' franchise.

Still, the Blues have been forced to reduce costs after reportedly losing $20 million a season ago. Stillman, who led a group in purchasing the team from Checketts this past summer, had to make concessions.

"There's no animosity at all," Davidson said. "When you see new ownership purchasing pro sports clubs, there's always going to be change. Tom and I have had a number of discussions. It took a while, but we found some common ground with our discussions ... we chatted about expenses and contracts and we just came to a conclusion that my contract would be a burden on the club."

Davidson, fresh from his television analyst job with Madison Square Garden, was faced with a tall task when he first came to St. Louis.

Seven years later, the Blues were among the league's best a season ago by building from within, and fans began to come back.

"His savvy, his connections, his ability to connect with people is remarkable," Blues captain David Backes said. "He'll still have that wherever he goes or whatever endeavour he finds next. It'll be big shoes to fill for whoever tries to jump in them. The position that we're in now compared to when he got here the year before me and since I've been here, it's been phenomenal. It's definitely been aided by his work, his efforts ... not just the work he does around the arena but it's heartfelt with all the work he does with the animal rescue stuff. He's got the same sort of jungle running around his house that I do. It's sad to see him not be part of the Blues and the St. Louis community anymore, but a great man and hopefully we can find somebody that can pick up the slack."

The team went from 30th in the NHL in Davidson's first season to finishing with the second-most points in the league last season (109) before bowing out in the second round of the playoffs to eventual champion Los Angeles. During his tenure, the Blues made two post-season appearances (2009, 2012), won the 2011-12 Central Division championship, and experienced a revival in the community that saw their average attendance rise from 12,520 (30th) in 2006-07 to 18,809 (9th) in 2011-12.

Davidson, who was a goalie during his playing career, was a first-round pick of the Blues in 1973, where he played for two seasons before being traded to the Rangers. He would finish out his abbreviated career there before moving over to the Rangers' broadcast booth for the next three decades.

"There's a lot of guys that learned a lot from JD," said Blues defenceman Alex Pietrangelo. "It's tough to see a guy like that go. He's the one that brought me here. I know there's a few guys that have been here since he's been here, so it's a bit of a change for us.

"Any time you develop a relationship with somebody, it's tough to see him go, whether it's a player or someone in management."

Davidson said he's still undecided on what he wants to do but he does have that burning desire to stay in the game from a management perspective.

"I leave all doors open," he said. "I sit back and wait for the phone to ring."

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