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A bit late on this one, but Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported yesterday morning that the Rangers will not be able to buy out the final year of captain Chris Drury's contract because of of a possible career-threatening knee injury that Drury currently has. But ironically enough, it sounds like this could actually help in the Rangers' pursuit of Brad Richards this offseason.
"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."
There are lots of details in Brooks' story that I highly recommend every Rangers fan reads, but the gist of it is this: Chris Drury is set to earn $7.05 million next year. If he is bought out, the Rangers would have had a cap hit of approximately $3.717 million from Drury's salary next year. If he is placed on long-term injured reserve, the only way his $7.05 million salary would not count against the cap would be if the Rangers were over the salary cap by that exact amount when the season opens. So, basically, putting Drury on LTIR would give the Rangers flexibility to offer soon-to-be free agent center Brad Richards more money per year or perhaps even front-load the deal where he would earn more money in his first season on Broadway. The problem wit that, however, is that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman seemingly gets to decide what contracts he deems fair and unfair based on whatever mood he's in the day the contract is sent to him for approval. He never had a problem with front-loaded contracts before last offseason, when he nixed the initial 17-year contract the New Jersey Devils signed Ilya Kovalchuk was signed to. Something tells me that if the Devils weren't even allowed to get away with that, the Rangers definitely won't be.
So, assuming Bettman doesn't allow a front-loaded contract to be handed out to Brad Richards, it's conceivable that the Rangers could possibly sign Brad Richards and recall Wade Redden (you read that right) to fill the extra cap space they'll need to fill if Drury is placed on LTIR. He wouldn't actually have to play in a game, he'd simply be on the roster to fill the extra cap space needed and could potentially serve as the 7th defenseman. That decision, of course, is up to Glen Sather ultimately and if he would be willing to do that to Redden.
Either way, it looks like Chris Drury has likely played his final game in the NHL and certainly his final game with the Rangers. It just figures that the salary cap finally goes up in the league and it actually hurts the Rangers. That's the NHL CBA for you.
As for Chris Drury himself, it's hard to wrap my head around this entire story, but I'm going to try my best.
First of all, if Drury's knee injury is really career-threatening it's a shame his career would end this way. I wrote last week on NYRNation.net about Drury's tumultuous ride with the Rangers and his overall legacy that I assumed he'd be leaving behind when he would likely be bought out. As far as the business side of things, how did the Rangers possibly allow Drury to come back from his knee surgery and play if they knew his knee was still an issue? I don't know if those final six games he played at the end of the season/beginning of the playoffs did anything to further aggravate his knee injury after he had surgery on it, but it couldn't have helped. Maybe the Rangers were somehow hoping that Drury's miraculous comeback would lead the team to rally behind him and go deep into the playoffs - I really don't know. Either way, it seems like it was a mistake given what Drury gave (or didn't give) the Rangers while he was in the lineup.
Secondly, perhaps the most interesting part of this story was this little nugget from Brooks:
"The Post has learned that conversations between Drury and Glen Sather regarding the possibility that the captain would cite being medically unable to play began when the GM informed him last week of the team's plans to buy him out."
Now, if all of this is indeed true then I must say that it makes me lose a lot of respect for Drury. In fact, I'll actually go beyond that to say that it downright really angers me and makes me regret anything nice I've ever said about the guy to defend him to other Rangers fans. The writing was on the wall that Drury's time here had run out and he had to know he was going to be bought out. So, he didn't bother to bring up his knee injury to Sather until last week? It's almost like this was Drury's last chance to save face so that he would not have to go through the humiliation of being bought out. Now, Drury can simply fade away and claim that his career is ending because of injury versus ineffectiveness. For a guy who's as proud and respected as Drury, this just seems like a real cheap thing to do to the franchise who has paid him well and treated him with the utmost class and respect ever since he signed here. If Drury knows his career is done, why not just do the noble thing and retire? Does he really need that last $7 million on his contract? I know it's easier said than done and I do realize that money always comes first to athletes no matter what they may claim, but still. It just seems like this is a move that goes against everything Chris Drury is supposed to stand for as a classy, well-respected veteran.
I can imagine that the Rangers must be fuming about this situation. For the first time in years, it looked like Glen Sather would head into the offseason without needing to come up with creative ways to clear cap space. Now, he'll have to come up with creative ways to actually add cap space.