Chris Drury retires from NHL after 12 seasons

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After 12 seasons in the NHL, Chris Drury is calling it a career and retiring from the NHL.

It’s a career that many will reflect back upon with warm thoughts and memories from being a clutch performer in Colorado with the Avalanche winning the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year in 1998-1999 and helping the team win the 2001 Stanley Cup. Even Buffalo Sabres fans can reflect up on Drury’s time there with a smile as he and Daniel Briere teamed up to bring offensive firepower to Buffalo that they haven’t seen since then.

Drury’s career spanned 892 games and saw him score 255 goals and finish with 615 points. While in Colorado, Drury was the perfect complimentary piece on those teams that featured Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. Drury’s role as a depth player and scorer saw him score 20+ goals in each of his first four seasons with the Avalanche. In his one season in Calgary courtesy of a trade, Drury showed that he could be a playmaker and scorer as he potted 20 goals and added 33 assists.

Calgary would deal Drury to Buffalo and that’s where his career took off. In three seasons with the Sabres, Drury would score 85 goals including back to back 30+ goal seasons. There, Drury would lead the Sabres to back-to-back appearances in the Eastern Conference finals losing to Carolina in 2006 and Ottawa in 2007. After that 2007 season, however, Drury would leave the Sabres as a free agent and head to Broadway to play for the Rangers.

Drury’s first two seasons in New York were solid as he totaled 58 and 56 points respectively. His final two years in New York would see him struggle with his play and then ultimately his health last season.

As Adrian Dater of The Denver Post notes, Drury will go down as a favorite of his from his days in Denver in a career that seems to have ended too soon.

It hardly seems possible his career is finished. I can still remember the first time he came to Avs camp back in 1998, just a doughy-faced kid not that far removed from being a Little League World Series hero for his town of Trumbull, Conn. I remember his first Burgundy-White game down in Colorado Springs, when he immediately got challenged to a fight by Pascal Trepanier. Drury aced his first rite of passage by standing up for himself – something almost every NHL rookie has to do at some point.

While Drury isn’t going to get much consideration for the Hockey Hall Of Fame, he does leave behind numerous great memories for NHL fans and yes, even fans of his from his Little League days. From his Calder and Stanley Cup wins in Denver, to his efforts in nearly willing the Sabres to the Stanley Cup finals two years in a row, to closing out a solid career in Manhattan he’ll always be a crowd favorite and a guy we wished could’ve kept shining brightly for a lot longer.

Update: Rangers GM Glen Sather released this statement on Drury’s retirement:

“Throughout his career, Chris Drury was always a great competitor, a tremendous leader and teammate, and the heart and soul type of player that every team would love to have.  His commitment, determination and will to win were apparent each and every day.  Those characteristics will have a lasting impact on all those who were fortunate enough to learn from Chris over his 12 years in the National Hockey League.”

Blues re-sign goalie Binnington

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Jordan Binnington, the netminder taken 88th overall by the Blues in 2011, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced on Friday.

Binnington, 24, has played almost exclusively with St. Louis’ AHL affiliate since turning pro four years ago, though he did spend some time in the ECHL.

Last year he worked alongside Ville Husso and Pheonix Copley in the Wolves’ goal, and will likely do so again with Husso moving forward (Copley was traded to Washington as part of the Kevin Shattenkirk deal.)

Binnington’s NHL body of work is brief — one 13-minute relief appearance during the ’15-16 campaign. Right now he’s jockeying with Husso to be the organization’s No. 3 netminder, a potential call-up should either Jake Allen or Carter Hutton get hurt.

Chris Neil wants a one-way deal, and says he’s received offers

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Here’s what we know about veteran tough guy Chris Neil.

He won’t be back in Ottawa, the city where he’s spent his entire 15-year career. But he does want to keep playing. What’s more, he’s not ready to accept a two-way deal or training camp PTO, because offers for a one-way deal have already come in.

“The offers I’ve had so far haven’t been [two way or PTO]. They’ve been a one-way deal,” the 37-year-old forward said, per the Ottawa Sun. “For me, that’s what I’d be looking for.

“It’s up in the air right now. There’s some interest. There’s some teams you’d prefer over others.”

Neil was informed by the Sens last month that he wouldn’t be brought back next season, which marked the end of an era. Ottawa took Neil in the sixth round of the 1998 draft, and he made his NHL debut three years later. He went on to become one of the club’s most recognizable players, in large part to his pugilistic ways — during the 2003-04 campaign, he fought a remarkable 24 times.

That trademark toughness could be something teams are interested in bringing aboard. There were rumblings St. Louis was eyeing him after trading Ryan Reaves to Pittsburgh, with Fox Sports Midwest reporting that Neil had three offers on the table.

If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s that Neil believes he can still play. After learning that he wouldn’t be brought back to the Canadian capital, he had some choice words for Sens head coach Guy Boucher and the perceived lack of opportunity Boucher afforded him.

“I have a lot of respect for Randy [Lee, Sens assistant GM] and Pierre [Dorion, GM] … I think, if it was up to them, I’d be back,” Neil explained, per the Citizen. “But they kind of put it in the coach’s hands and that had a lot to do with it. For whatever reason, Guy [Boucher] never really gave me the chance to show I can play.

“Even before I got hurt, I was a healthy scratch for a couple of games and I saw the writing on the wall.”

After tough year in Florida, Smith ready to reunite with ‘players-first’ Gallant

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For Reilly Smith, the anticipation of playing for Las Vegas next season goes beyond playing for the league’s newest team.

It’s also about playing for his old coach, Gerard Gallant.

“I think he kind of embodies the motto that it’s a players-first league and everything kind of revolves around that,” Smith said, per the Golden Knights website. “I know particularly last year in the Florida Panthers organization, there was a lot of change and things going on and I know one of the main messages that he always put forth was that whatever goes on outside, make sure you guys are a tight-knit group inside and play for each other.

“That was one thing that he definitely tried to convey to the team and try to get us to rally behind.”

Smith’s time in Florida was a two-part tale.

After coming over from Boston as part of the Jimmy Hayes swap — Marc Savard’s contract was also shipped to Florida — Smith had a terrific ’15-16 campaign under Gallant, posting career highs in goals (25) while helping the Panthers qualify for the playoffs.

In the postseason, he was a consistent scoring threat, finishing the series with four goals and eight points in six games.

Year two wasn’t nearly as successful.

Gallant was fired early on — controversially so — and Smith’s production dropped off. He ended with just 15 goals and 37 points, disappointing figures that were exacerbated by the big five-year, $25 million extension he signed in the offseason.

Reading between the lines, fair to suggest Smith struggled with the coaching change from Gallant to Tom Rowe. Things came to a head in early March, when Rowe called out Smith following a loss to Dallas.

On the Stars’ first goal, Smith seemed to lose his man in front of the net. Rowe was asked about it, and responded.

“We went over that exact play in team meeting and we haven’t learned our lesson yet,” he said. “That is the problem.”

Rowe wasn’t done there. Later, he was asked about Dallas’ winning goal, which may have been deflected in off a skate. The criticism went back to Smith.

“I don’t know,” said Rowe. “All I know is Reilly Smith was blowing the zone doing exactly what he is not supposed to be doing.”

Smith will certainly be a guy to watch this season. He’s still only 26 years old, looking for a bounce back, and noted that Gallant gave him the opportunity to play a larger role than he had with the Bruins (and, prior to that, the Stars).

One wonders if that’ll happen again, this time in Vegas.

Subban ‘can’t really envision’ Habs without Markov

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The Montreal Canadiens’ defense looks a lot different than it did two years ago.

For the second offseason in a row, the Canadiens have walked away from a seemingly important puck-moving defenseman. Last summer, they traded P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber, and yesterday they announced that they were parting ways with Andrei Markov.

Markov and Subban played a lot of minutes together during their time time in Montreal. The two even became good friends (Subban attended Markov’s wedding earlier this month).

Needless to say, when Subban found out that Markov wasn’t going to be returning to the Canadiens, he was pretty surprised.

“I can’t really envision the Montreal Canadiens without Andrei Markov on the blue line. That’s No. 1. Even before I played for the team, I watched him play for the team and be their best defenseman,” The Preds defenseman told NHL.com’s Arpon Basu. “Even while I was there, I still thought he was our best defenseman, even though a lot of people thought because of what I got paid it was me. You can’t really put a price tag on how he plays because he’s so smart, the way he sees the ice.”

With those two players no longer on the team, it’ll be interesting to see who moves the puck for the Habs. Shea Weber is still playing at a high level, but carrying the puck up the ice isn’t his strongest attribute.

GM Marc Bergevin added Mark Streit, Karl Alzner and David Schlemko this offseason, but none of those guys can do the things Markov is capable of doing when it comes to moving the puck efficiently.

Is there another move on the horizon?

Well, Montreal has a huge hole on the left side of their defense and they have over $8 million in cap space. Maybe there is something brewing.

Related:

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

Habs president pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

Habs sign Streit–is he Markov’s replacement?