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Chris Drury Retires

The ex-captain became a scapegoat in New York despite his sterling reputation around the league

The ex-captain became a scapegoat in New York despite his sterling reputation around the league

The NHLPA announced today that Chris Drury has retired from the National Hockey League after 12 seasons.

Before you get excited, Drury’s contract will still count against the salary cap next season.

Because Drury was bought out before he retired, his cap hit can’t be expunged, though it would have been if Drury had retired before the buyout.

Obviously it would be great for the Rangers to suddenly have an additional $3.7 million in free cap space, but the team was going to buy him out after the season whether he planned to retire or not and since Drury wasn’t then expecting to have to hang up his skates for good, the Blueshirts had little choice but to eat the rest of his contract.

Many Rangers’ fans have compared Drury’s situation to Markus Naslund’s a couple of years ago.  Naslund chose to retire rather than forcing the Rangers to pay him a $2 million buyout, saving the organization $4 million in cap space in the process.  Drury accepted the remainder of the money owed to him from his five-year, $35.025 million contract, and then retired later in the summer.

As Dave Shapiro of Blue Seat Blogs points out, the situations are very different.  Naslund knew all along that he was going to retire whereas Drury clearly planned on getting another NHL contract this summer.  When Drury could find no team interested in his services, he was basically left with two options: play overseas or retire.  Drury chose to end his career, but he can hardly be faulted for wanting to continue playing heading into the offseason.  If he had planned to retire all along, then the situation would have been much more similar to Naslund and it would be fair to hope, not expect, that Drury would retire before the buyout.  But Drury, ever a competitor, wanted to continue his career and was unable to do so, thus the decision to retire was made for him.

Drury, like many recent Rangers’ UFA signings, never lived up to the absurdly inflated terms of his contract.  To do so, Drury would have had to post a string of 30+ goal seasons, a difficult task made even tougher by a string of injuries that effectively cut his career in New York short.

His sky-high cap hit combined with the unfortunate comments he made prior to Christmas in 2008 and a rash of serious injuries made Drury an easy scapegoat for Rangers’ fans, but he shouldn’t be blamed for everything.

Drury wasn’t as great in blue as many hoped, but his reputation around the league amongst players, coaches and NHL media is still as strong as ever.  Though Drury was a major disappointment to Rangers’ fans, everyone in the Rangers’ organization went out of their way to praise his leadership and popularity in the locker room even in the twilight of his career.

So it would be great if Drury had retired earlier and saved the Rangers some money.  It would have been even better if GM Glen Sather had learned about restraint a few years earlier and never given Drury an unreasonable contract.  As usual, that’s all hindsight and while it’s fair to be a little disappointed in how Drury’s time on Broadway unfolded, he can’t be blamed for doing the logical thing and signing a huge offer to play for the Rangers, or for the sad way his career concluded.

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Posted by Kevin Baumer | August 19, 2011 at 01:44 pm

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