June 29, 2011
"As a kid, this was the team. Where I'm from, there's nothing bigger, better than the Rangers. Watching them win the Cup, I was a little bit older, but coming to Madison Square Garden, Brian Leetch, you name it, this was the place." — Chris Drury, July 2, 2007.
Chris Drury(notes) achieved a childhood dream when he signed with the New York Rangers. The subsequent four years have either been a cautionary tale about being careful about one's wishes or about the perils of big-ticket contracts — in this case a regrettable five-year, $35.25 million deal after Drury left the Buffalo Sabres — to players in their prime.
After a false start earlier this month, Larry Brooks of the NY Post broke the news Wednesday morning that Drury will accept a buyout from the Rangers and become an unrestricted free agent, opting not to fight the process with a medical exemption under the collective bargaining agreement for his ailing left knee.
From the Post:
The Rangers, meanwhile, will be cap-charged approximately $3.717 million for the buyout this season and $1.667 million next year, though the obligation for 2012-13 could be erased pending negotiations of a new labor agreement. Because Drury had a no-move clause in his contract, he was able to elect not to go on unconditional waivers preceding the buyout.
"It was a great honor and privilege to be a New York Ranger for the past four years, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to fulfill that childhood dream," Drury said in a statement that was sent to The Post by e-mail. "The Rangers are a first-class organization with great people in the hockey, public relations, team services and community relations departments.
"I would also like to thank Ranger fans. They always inspired me to do the best I could in whatever role I was asked to play."
There's no question Drury gave all on the ice, playing through injuries and playing several roles for the team that defied the prestige of his base salary. But his production went off a cliff with the Rangers.
His goals-per-game average before the Rangers was 0.307; with the Rangers it was 0.235. His points-per-game average before the Rangers was 0.739; with the Rangers, it was 0.572.
Still, Rangers fans like Scotty Hockey are using this decision — which is a financially positive one for the team, no doubt — to defend a lamented player's legacy:
Sure, Drury's tenure as a Ranger was not a good one. But the proud man, a winner throughout his career prior to his time in New York, is headed off Broadway as a loser. While being handsomely compensated, the guy lost his job and it was not for a lack of effort on his part. That is the one thing - when all is said and done - that can be said about Drury as a Ranger: he never gave it less than everything he had. And for that we should pause before delighting in his dismissal.
Drury isn't retiring, yet at least. There's a notion that the nostalgia movement from ownership in Buffalo will draw him back to the Sabres. When healthy, he's clearly as asset as a penalty killer and third-liner. For the right price.
After all the tributes to Drury, and the recognition that he didn't attempt to wield the CBA against the Rangers in this instance, his legacy is that price tag.
The Rangers committed $86.45 million to Scott Gomez(notes) and Chris Drury on July 1, 2007. Some saw it as a move that would solidify their center position for the next five years. Some saw it as dramatic overcompensation.
With Montreal reportedly trying to ship Gomez's contract away and Drury having seen his contract bought out by the Rangers, score one for the "dramatic overcompensation" crowd.