We said our good-byes to Chris Drury last week, when reports surfaced that the Rangers intended to buy out the final year of his contract. But Larry Brooks reports today that it appears the Rangers won't actually be able to buy out his contract because of a degenerate condition in Drury's left knee that will apparently keep him from playing next year. That could very well mean the end of Drury's career — more on him in a second — but it also complicates things for the Rangers as they plan for next season.
Via the Post:
The inability to buy out an injured player means that Drury's full $7.05 million charge will remain on the Blueshirts' summer cap, which can exceed the 2011-12 season cap by 10 percent.
Under terms of the CBA, the captain will have to report to training camp in September for the team physical. If Drury fails, as would be expected, he would qualify for a long-term injury (LTI) exemption when the season begins and the roster is set.
But in order to gain the full value of the $7.05 million exemption, the Rangers would have to go that far over the cap. In other words, if the cap is $62.5 million (an estimation before it is officially established by June 30), the team would have to get to $69.5 million (including Drury) before the season-opener in Stockholm to reap the full LTI benefit.
Jesse Spector reports that the Rangers could buy out Wojtek Wolski's contract — it would save them the same amount of money under the cap as buying out Drury would — but that they don't necessarily need to do that to have room to operate. (He writes that the situation with Wolski is uncertain.) Still, not buying him out could lead to still more complication. Via Spector's blog on the Daily News website:
The complication in that scenario would be that if the Rangers were to make a big-money acquisition (read: Brad Richards), they would be hamstrung with regard to actually re-signing their restricted free agents. Brandon Dubinsky, for instance, is not going to sign a contract for his qualifying offer of $2 million - getting a deal done might have to wait until the Rangers can get Drury to long-term injured reserve, and Redden back off the cap in the AHL (or with some other solution). Other teams might be able to force the Rangers into a difficult spot by signing their restricted free agents to offer sheets, but that practice has become quite uncommon in the NHL.
In other words, for the Rangers, it's complicated, but not necessarily devastating. For Drury, on the other hand, this could very well mean the end of his career. (Brooks, at least, writes that it appears as if it does.) We'll hold off on writing the obituary for his career for now — nothing's official, as of yet — but if this is the end of the line for Drury, it's too bad that it could end like this. We'd hoped that he'd latch on somewhere next year — without the burden of a massive contract — and contribute, at least in small ways, to a team that would appreciate the veteran presence. Drury's got plenty to be proud of in his NHL career: a Calder Trophy, a Stanley Cup, 615 points, and a few years as captain of the team he grew up cheering for. Injuries destroyed his season last year, and his time in New York may not have lived up to the expectations we formed when he signed his contract — those expectations probably weren't realistic to begin with — but we'd hoped he'd go out on a higher note than this. If this report is true — and if this condition really does keep him from playing again — he won't get that chance.