Jesse Spector of the New York Daily News reported this morning that the New York Rangers intend to buy out the remaining year left on the contract of team captain Chris Drury.
The 34-year-old center is due $5 million next season, but after the buyout the Rangers will save $3.3 million in cap space for the 2011-12 campaign. It is widely believed Rangers GM Glen Sather will direct those savings towards top free agent center Brad Richards. In the Daily News report, Spector also writes that it is believed Wojtek Wolski will also be bought out, saving the Blueshirts an additional $3.3M.
In a free agent class largely devoid of the top scoring talent the Rangers so badly need, Richards is far and away the head of the class. Should the Rangers miss out on the Dallas centerman, the second-best option may be Washington Capitals center Brooks Laich. While Laich's gritty game on the ice would fit right in alongside cornerstones Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky, his point production pales in comparison to that of Richards.
Rather than overpaying in a thin free agent market -- and rumors have placed Laich's price tag in the $5M range -- Sather may instead use the added cap space on the trade market, spinning off some of the team's young assets in exchange for scoring help.
But that is all speculation on an uncertain future. What's more definite is the contributions Chris Drury has made during his stay on Broadway.
Plagued by injuries that sidelined him for all but 24 games this season, Drury was constantly under siege from critics due to his hefty contract. But the Captain made contributions in other, less visible ways, with Rangers players often citing how Drury led by example on the ice and was always willing to sacrifice his body to help his team win. And his lone goal this season may have been one of the most important of the Rangers' season, as he scored the team's first goal in its season-finale win over the New Jersey Devils to help secure the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The goal came on his first shift back following an absence that extended back to Feb. 3.
His best season with the Blueshirts came in 2007-08, his first with the team, when he posted 25 goals and 33 assists.
As for who the next captain of the New York Rangers will be, it would be a shocking development if it was anyone other than Ryan Callahan.