Chris Drury

Report: Rangers to buy out Chris Drury; Freeing up space to make run at Brad Richards?

9 Comments

Things haven’t exactly been joyful for Rangers captain Chris Drury the last few seasons in New York. He’s struggled with injuries, he’s struggled with producing on the ice, and he’s had Rangers fans hoping to see the captain’s “C” moved to other players on the team (namely Ryan Callahan). After a miserable 2010-2011 season that saw Drury finish the year with just one goal after dealing with a myriad of injuries, it appears his run in New York is at an end.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports that Rangers GM Glen Sather will be buying Drury out of the final year of his contract while retaining two other high priced forwards who have had their ups and downs in New York.

The Post has also learned that the team will not buy out either Wojtek Wolski or Sean Avery, each of whom ended the season with tenuous futures on Broadway.

The Drury buyout, which will become official during the proscribed June 15-30 window for such transactions, will open $3,333,333 of 2011-12 cap space while costing the team $1,666,667 in dead space the following season under the rules of the current collective bargaining agreement.

If eating a $3.33 million cap hit for a year sounds like a bad idea, consider that if the Rangers kept Drury on the roster this year he’d eat up $7.05 million against the cap or end up thoroughly disrespected as a captain and stuffed in the AHL to hide his contract. At least being bought out means he can see if he can play somewhere else in the NHL.

The other side of cutting Drury loose is the salary relief it provides the Rangers in their potential and likely pursuit of Brad Richards when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Richards is set to become the most pursued free agent of the summer and the former Conn Smythe Trophy award winner and playmaking phenom is a guy the Rangers have lusted after since before the trade deadline this season. With his former Lightning head coach John Tortorella in charge with the Rangers, it’s a pairing that makes sense and for the Rangers Richards would be the setup man they’ve lacked for years in Manhattan.

For now, Drury’s departure from New York ends an era that saw Drury come in with big expectations after putting up huge seasons with Daniel Briere in Buffalo only to fall severely short of huge expectations on Broadway. While Drury wasn’t necessarily a bad player, the great success he had with the Sabres set the bar that much higher for him coming to New York.

His first season with the Rangers was his best putting up 25 goals and 33 assists. Paying over $7 million a year for a guy who only twice scored more than 50 points in his four seasons in New York wasn’t cutting it. Drury is a much loved player for what he’s done, but his final two seasons in New York saw him play 101 games while scoring 15 goals and adding 22 assists.

Should the Rangers add Richards, keep this in mind: Drury was 31 years old when they signed him and his production evaporated after two seasons. Brad Richards turned 31 in May and is coming off of a season that saw him suffer a concussion that limited his play and saw him unable to help the Dallas Stars make the playoffs. If the Rangers do plan on breaking the bank for Richards, they should be at least be wise about what could happen out of the blue.

Columbus giving prized rookie Werenski ‘every opportunity to run the power play’

2015 NHL Draft - Portraits
Getty
1 Comment

The Blue Jackets aren’t easing Zach Werenski into his freshman campaign.

Werenski, the highly touted blueline prospect, has been tasked with running the Columbus power play during the exhibition campaign — often as the lone defenseman with four forwards — and it looks like a role he might reprise throughout the regular season.

Even though he’s yet to play an NHL game.

“I want to give him every opportunity to run the power play,” head coach John Tortorella said after an OT win over Nashville, per the Blue Jackets website. “He certainly did a good job of that tonight. We’ll keep on giving him opportunities and we’ll see where we go.”

More: Looking to make the leap: Zach Werenski

The Werenski hype train has been full steam for just over a year now. The eighth overall pick in 2015, Werenski spent two highly decorated years at the University of Michigan before turning pro at the end of last season.

Dispatched to Columbus’ AHL affiliate in Lake Erie, the 19-year-old had a fantastic professional debut. He was a major catalyst on the Monsters’ defense, scoring 14 points in 17 playoff games en route to the Calder Cup championship.

“The skill set he has — his size, strength and poise with the puck, he’s a complete player,” said Monsters coach Jared Bednar (now the head coach in Colorado). “To be able to step into our lineup in intense games and get the job done, it’s impressive especially for his age and that’s why everyone’s so excited about him.”

All signs point to a very talented — and young — Columbus defense this year. It was already assumed 21-year-old Seth Jones and 23-year-old Ryan Murray were going to play major roles, and now it sounds like Werenski will be leaned on just as heavily.

Which means it’ll be interesting to see what happens to the vets.

Jack Johnson averaged over 24 minutes per game last year, a figure that will undoubtedly decrease. It’ll also be curious to see what happens to David Savard, who was playing more than 23 minutes a night — do remember that, at the start of last season, the Jackets gave Savard a hefty five-year, $21.25 million extension.

The playoff race in the West could be ‘tighter than ever’

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 9:  Goalie Kari Lehtonen #32 of the Dallas Stars makes a save against Kyle Brodziak #28 of the St. Louis Blues in Game Six of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center on May 9, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

The NHL’s Western Conference should be wild all season, perhaps as much as ever as parity reigns and points are tough to come by on any given night.

A slew of teams have a shot at advancing to the Stanley Cup finals.

The defending Conference champion San Jose Sharks, who had five players in the World Cup of Hockey finals , certainly appear to have a chance to be among the final two still skating in mid-June. That alone would be a feat because no team from the conference has pulled it off since the Detroit Red Wings, now an Eastern Conference team, won the Stanley Cup in 2008 and came within a win of repeating.

Chicago, Los Angeles, Anaheim and St. Louis will likely be among the contenders. Dallas, too.

The Blackhawks and Kings, who alternated as champions from 2012 to 2015 and won five Cups in a six-season span, failed to even make it out of the first round last in 2016.

Both teams certainly have a chance to bounce back this season.

“This is my sixth season in the Central Division and this looks like the most challenging year yet,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Thursday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “The crunching between the top and bottom started last year, and it’s going to be closer this year.”

Hitchcock and Stars general manager Jim Nill both believe the teams that were at the bottom of the conference last season on moving up.

“The Winnipegs and the Colorados are going to be better teams,” Nill told the AP. “I think it’s going to be tighter than ever.”

How tight?

“Everyone has a shot,” San Jose’s Logan Couture said.

 

Related: There’s only one ‘vision’ in Vancouver this season, and that’s winning

 

Tough blow for Blues: Schwartz out ‘at least four weeks’ with elbow injury

ST. LOUIS, MO - FEBRUARY 23: Jaden Schwartz #9 of the St. Louis Blues shoots the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Scottrade Center on February 23, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

The St. Louis Blues will have to start the season without one of their most dangerous forwards, Jaden Schwartz.

Schwartz “will miss at least four weeks after injuring his left elbow during a training camp practice on Sept. 29,” the club announced today.

It’s another frustration for the 25-year-old winger. Schwartz was limited to just 33 games last season, after fracturing his ankle in October.

As for this latest injury, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock originally predicted that Schwartz would only need a “couple of days off.”

St. Louis opens its regular season Oct. 12 in Chicago. If Schwartz is out until the end of October, he’ll miss nine games.

Related: Schwartz signs five-year extension

More bad news in Dallas: Janmark (knee surgery) out 5-6 months

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 22: Mattias Janmark #13 of the Dallas Stars looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on October 22, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
1 Comment

Earlier this week, we passed along word that Stars forward Mattias Janmark was spotted on crutches at the team’s practice facility.

Now we know why.

Janmark suffered a knee injury that requires surgery, GM Jim Nill said on Thursday. The procedure is expected to sideline the Swedish forward for 5-6 months, putting his return in the neighborhood of February-March of next year.

It’s a big blow for the Stars.

After surprising onlookers by making the team out of camp last year — a “great story,” according to GM Jim Nill — Janmark, 23, went on to have a pretty successful rookie campaign, scoring 15 goals and 29 points in 73 games.

He also fared well in the playoffs, with five points in 12 contests.

Today’s news compounds what’s been a lousy September in Dallas. The club previously lost Tyler Seguin (heel), Cody Eakin (knee) and Ales Hemsky (groin) to injuries, and saw Russian forward Valeri Nichushkin sign in the KHL.

Looking at the schedule, Janmark projects to miss anywhere between 60-70 games this season, assuming the 5-6 month timeline is accurate. That’s a big chunk of man power to replace.