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
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
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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