Sunday, July 1, 2007
Drury, Gomez agree to deals with Rangers
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers solved their problems at
center in a big way Sunday, signing Scott Gomez and Chris Drury
away from Eastern Conference rivals on the first day of free
Just hours after the summer shopping season opened, the Rangers
landed the two biggest available centers -- plucking Gomez from
Atlantic Division-foe New Jersey and Drury from the Buffalo Sabres,
the team that knocked New York out in the second round of this
Gomez signed a seven-year deal with the Rangers worth $51.5
million -- including $10 million next season. Drury inked a
five-year contract for $35.25 million. He will earn $7.1 million
each of the next two seasons.
"It's pretty exciting," Rangers general manager Glen Sather
said. "We ranked them both as number ones, and we never expected
to get both of them."
The Rangers had been looking for a second-line center to play
with forward Brendan Shanahan, and now can plug Gomez into that
spot. Drury's signing means that New York will let unrestricted
free agent Michael Nylander leave, creating a spot on the top line
for Drury to play alongside Jaromir Jagr.
Sather approached both players Sunday and felt during the day
that he merely had to convince the pair to come to New York. He
knew other teams were interested but didn't get the impression from
Drury and Gomez that he was bidding against other clubs.
New York already had some room under the salary cap, and then
got more space when next season's number was set at $50.3 million,
an increase of $6.3 million from last season.
Shanahan hasn't signed a new deal yet, but said after the season
he wanted to return to New York. The Rangers also need to get
restricted free agent goalie Henrik Lundqvist and forward
Sean Avery under contract.
"We still have other people we have to sign so we have to be
careful but we think we have things calculated out and we're in a
good position," Sather said. "We think we can keep everyone we
have right now."
Although coach Tom Renney said he always has line combinations
running through his head, he hasn't mapped out exactly where
everyone will line up on opening night.
"A couple of additions made it quite appealing," Renney said.
Drury's deal also includes a full no-move clause, meaning he
can't be traded without his consent or sent to the minor leagues.
Agreeing to such terms is a shift in previous Rangers policy.
"I'd say it was not as intact as it was yesterday," Sather
said with a laugh. "When you make a deal, there are certain things
you try to stick to and certain things you make compromises on."
There was no immediate word whether Gomez received the same
consideration. The 27-year Alaskan native, a two-time Stanley Cup
champion in his seven NHL seasons -- all with the Devils -- had 13
goals and 47 assists in 72 games last season.
Drury, from nearby Trumbull, Conn., joined fellow Sabres
co-captain Daniel Briere in leaving Buffalo on Sunday. Briere
signed an eight-year, $52 million contract with Philadelphia --
another division rival of the Rangers.
"I have some kind of mixed feeling," Sather said of the
Sabres. "I am happy we got an opportunity to get involved with
these players. From Buffalo's perspective, I'm sure they're not
happy these two guys left but that's the nature of the beast.
"I know it was a difficult day for Darcy [Sabres GM Darcy
Regier]. You just have to face the facts that sometimes you can't
keep everyone, and at some point it's probably going to happen to
us. This organization has come a long way and this is our
Drury, 30, scored a career-high 69 points -- including 37 goals --
for the Sabres. Buffalo had an NHL-best 113 points this season, but
the balance of power in the East clearly shifted toward the
Atlantic Division on Sunday.
"He's been a winner everywhere he's been," Sather said. "He
brings that spunk we need. He fits many roles for us."
The Rangers lost a tight, six-game series to Buffalo in the
second round. New York was poised to take a 3-2 series lead in Game
5 when Drury scored the tying goal with 7.7 seconds left in
regulation. The Sabres then won 2-1 in overtime to take control
back in the series.
New York made the playoffs each of the past two years after
missing for seven straight seasons.
"The expectations can't be any greater than they are
internally," Renney said. "This is a work in progress and always
will be. We just want to get to the highest level possible and work
hard to sustain it."
Sather said both players indicated a desire to play in New York,
and signs throughout the course of Sunday emerged that made him
believe he could get them both under contract.
"I don't think either one of them knew we were negotiating with
the other guy," he said. "We called them both at the same time
and neither one knew about it until the very end."