Chris Drury accepts buyout from New York Rangers and will become free agent

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The Chris Drury era in New York is over.

After speculation that’s been raging for the last month or so saying the Rangers would buy out the team captain, the hammer fell today as the Rangers will end their relationship with Drury and buy him out of the final year of his contract. While Drury had the option to not go waivers thanks to his no-movement clause, he chose to accept the buyout from the team and look to play elsewhere next season.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post broke the news today and got the scoop from Drury himself.

“It was a great honor and privilege to be a New York Ranger for the past four years, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to fulfill that childhood dream,” Drury said in a statement that was sent to The Post by e-mail. “The Rangers are a first-class organization with great people in the hockey, public relations, team services and community relations departments.

“I would also like to thank Ranger fans. They always inspired me to do the best I could in whatever role I was asked to play. Playing before them in the Garden was a thrill of a lifetime. I wish all the fans and the entire Ranger organization the best of luck in the future.”

Forever the classy player, Drury goes out with the Rangers after what proved to be a productive but still disappointing career in Manhattan. While Drury’s role with the team after signing in New York as a free agent from Buffalo was clear as a solid penalty killer and leader, the contract he was given that paid him $35 million over five years put expectations on him to be a first line scorer and player to eventually raise the Stanley Cup again in New York.

That never happened however as Drury’s role as a playmaker without Daniel Briere at his side like he had in Buffalo and instead making due with a disinterested Jaromir Jagr and eventually Marian Gaborik proved to not work out at all. Drury joined New York along with Scott Gomez for virtually identical deals and neither player worked out very well and while Drury was mostly appreciated in New York, he still didn’t meet their expectations. Injuries put a major damper in his season this year as he battled a broken finger and a knee injury to play in just 24 games this year as well as all five games in the playoffs.

With Drury bought out now, GM Glen Sather will have over $3 million in dead cap space to deal with this year and nearly $2 million in dead space next season thanks to the NHL CBA buyout rules that say the cap hit is 2/3’s of the amount spread out over twice the length of the deal remaining. With just one year left on Drury’s contract, it pays out quietly over this season and next. The Rangers will have to get deals done with restricted free agents Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky still but they’re in need of a top line playmaker and are going to be hot after Brad Richards.

If nothing else, how things played out with Drury should be a reminder to Sather and to the Dolan family that owns the Rangers that sometimes the big fish on the market doesn’t always get you the ultimate prize you’re looking for. While the Drury signing happened back in the summer of 2007, it’s one that should sit fresh in their minds as they wade into a free agent market with one big 31 year-old prize out there.