Report: Rangers plans to buy out Chris Drury foiled thanks to degenerative knee injury

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Rangers general manager Glen Sather’s plans of trying to help the Rangers reduce their salary cap commitments for next season might end up going about as well as the Rangers playoff run against Washington did.

Last week, a report came out saying that the Rangers would be buying out team captain Chris Drury from the final year of his contract, thus knocking down his $7 million cap hit for 2011-2012 and opening up space to pursue more helpful players for the Rangers purposes, namely Brad Richards.

Today, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks finds out that the Rangers best laid plans may not come to fruition as they will not be able to buy Drury out thanks to an injury.

It appears as if the Rangers will be unable to buy out the final season of Chris Drury’s contract because of a degenerative condition in the captain’s left knee that apparently will render him medically unable to play next season, The Post has learned.

While Drury has yet to file the necessary paperwork, sources report he plans to do so. The Rangers, who had been planning a buyout, could file a grievance against Drury, but that is a remote possibility, at best.

Mounting a challenge is problematic on numerous levels, but winning a grievance would cost CEO Jim Dolan approximately $2.7 million in cash, given insurance ramifications.

A degenerative condition like that is terrible news for Drury who would’ve been trying to catch on with another team once he was bought out. With this kind of injury it would likely spell the end of his career. Of course, the major issue here for the Rangers is how they’ll adapt things to the salary cap. Since they won’t be able to buy out Drury, they’ll need to put him on long term injured reserve. There is another thing that can be done under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, however, but it makes life just as tricky for the Rangers. Brooks highlights the Rangers other option.

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.

Not that the Rangers haven’t ever been spendthrifts in the past but being forced to spend $7.05 million would certainly set the bar for where they’d need to go to get Richards. Whether or not the Rangers had that kind of financial commitment in mind for the 31 year-old center remains to be seen, but that kind of money could make it easier for the Rangers to make this bump in the road easier to navigate. While it would’ve been easier for the Rangers to buy out Drury and eat the $3+ million in dead cap space courtesy of doing that, the Rangers plans to pursue Richards could make it easier to handle.

Of course, if the Rangers don’t land Richards, their offseason plans get a lot more perilous and much more gloomy with Drury still affecting their plans thanks to his massive cap hit. Either way, Rangers GM Glen Sather has a few things to get figured out and wooing Brad Richards becomes even more of a priority than it was before.