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

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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.

Karlsson is back skating, but ‘we don’t want him to get too excited,’ says Boucher

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The good news? Erik Karlsson hit the ice to skate with his Ottawa Senators teammates on Saturday.

“Back at it,” is what the star defenseman wrote in an Instagram post, which included a photo of him on the ice in a blue jersey.

It’s certainly an exciting development for the Senators and their fans. Karlsson was a dominant player for Ottawa during the Stanley Cup playoffs despite playing with a foot injury that later required surgery, with an expected recovery time of four months.

Head coach Guy Boucher, however, offered some cautionary words on Karlsson’s status. Basically, it’s exciting, but Boucher doesn’t want anyone — Karlsson included — to get too far ahead of themselves right now.

“It’s a positive thing, but we don’t want to get too excited. It’s a second step,” said Boucher, according to NHL.com.

“The first step was to let the therapists tell us when it was adequate to put him on the ice, because you need to get the flexibility and the strength off the ice before we could put [him] on the ice. Yesterday they apparently put the skates on to see how it felt and [went] very lightly on the ice, and they felt he was able this morning [to] get dressed and be with the boys.

“Basically, this is the second step, but there’s quite a few steps before we get to him playing. We don’t want him to get too excited.”

His status for the Senators’ season opener against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 5 has been up in the air since he underwent the operation. Karlsson admitted earlier this month that he wasn’t sure if he’d be ready for that game.

Ottawa is dealing with a few injury situations right now, with four preseason games remaining on their schedule. Karlsson is one of the best defensemen in the entire NHL and given how important he is to the Senators, there is absolutely no need to rush him back into the lineup if he’s not ready.

 

NHL suspends Tom Wilson two preseason games for interference

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Capitals forward Tom Wilson has been suspended for two preseason games for interference, after his late hit on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas during Friday’s exhibition game.

The incident occurred early in the third period, as Wilson caught Thomas with a heavy and late hit along the boards at the Blues bench.

“Over a full second after Thomas loses control of the puck, well past the point where Thomas is eligible to be checked, Wilson comes in from the side and delivers a forceful body check, knocking Thomas to the ice,” stated a member of the NHL Department of Player Safety in a video explanation of the suspension.

“In addition to the lateness of the hit, what elevates this hit to the level of supplemental discipline is the predatory nature and force of the hit. Wilson tracks Thomas for some time and alters his course to ensure he is able to finish his hit. Then, with the puck long gone from Thomas’ control, Wilson finishes the check with force.”

The Capitals continue their preseason schedule Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. They also play the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday.

Letang set to return to Penguins lineup vs. Blues on Sunday

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For the first time since February, Kris Letang is expected to be in the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup when they face the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

Letang hasn’t played since Feb. 21. He underwent neck surgery in April and missed the entire Stanley Cup playoffs as a result. Despite the absence of their best defenseman, which is a huge loss in Letang, the Penguins were able to overcome that and emerge as champions over Nashville.

According to Pens Inside Scoop on Saturday, head coach Mike Sullivan said Letang will play in Sunday’s Kraft Hockeyville game between the Penguins and St. Louis Blues.

That wasn’t the only Letang news Saturday:

Getting Letang back into the lineup will provide a huge boost to an already strong Penguins team, with his ability to log heavy minutes and act as a catalyst in Pittsburgh’s offensive attack.

“I want to be the same player I was before. I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be able to do that,” said Letang. “Hopefully everything goes well and I go back to the old way, playing over 25 minutes and in all situations.”

But what is most critical is having Letang healthy, and Sullivan this offseason has stressed to the star defenseman to recognize situations when he should make a simple play rather than risk taking an unnecessary hit.

“When people try to dissect all of that, they make assumptions that they understand, but they don’t,” Letang told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“Mike and I have a clear understanding of what he wants me to do. I think I’m tired of hearing people around it because I had a talk with Mike and Jim. It’s just a way of avoiding those unnecessary hits. It’s not going to be reducing ice time or anything like that. It’s taking a different approach on certain plays.”

Related: Letang isn’t interested in getting less ice time now that he’s healthy

Canucks’ Horvat out a week with upper-body injury

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The Canucks will resume their preseason schedule on Thursday, although it appears right now that Bo Horvat will likely not be in the lineup.

Just prior to puck drop against the L.A. Kings on Saturday, the Canucks announced that Horvat is expected to be out a week with an upper-body injury.

Per Dan Murphy of Sportsnet, the injury occurred on a hit from Drew Doughty during the first game of the two-game exhibition series between the Canucks and Kings in China.

The good news for the Canucks is that their regular season schedule begins on Oct. 7, which would give Horvat two weeks to get fully healthy and ready for the opener against Connor McDavid and the Oilers.

The 22-year-old Horvat enjoyed a 20-goal, 52-point season in 2016-17, emerging as the team’s leading scorer and one of the few bright spots during another disappointing season for the Canucks. As a result, he signed a six-year, $33 million contract extension earlier this month.

Related: Horvat believes he is ‘just scratching the surface’