It was July 1, 2007. My rear end was glued to the seat by my computer,my eyes were fixated on the computer screen, and my fingers were refreshing TSN.ca every few minutes (it's all an exaggeration, but I was intently trying to find news any time I could) waiting for some more free agent signings. It was also my brothers birthday, and we were going to a local restaurant with friends. One last check on the rumor sites revealed a headline of "Don't Go Out to Dinner, Big News Coming From New York." Well what did I do? I went to dinner. When I got back, I clicked the link to TSN and saw it. Just a few words had me going cup crazy 2 months before training camp even started. The Rangers had signed both Scott Gomez and Chris Drury to expensive long term deals. Scott would average $7.375mil per year and Chris would average $7.050 per year. The debate among Ranger fans was always about which of the two centers we would want. Well Rangers GM Glen Sather settled that debate the easy way and just got both. At that point, I don't think any Ranger fan even though for an instant that the contracts were in any way, shape, or form an overpayment.
The season started with loads of expectations, but not a lot of quick results. A quick injury to forward Sean Avery and a slow start that saw the Rangers win just 2 of their first 8 games. The boo birds came quickly, and the blame was quickly placed on the two free agent acquisitions. Scott Gomez was supposed to be the great center with Jagr who would set him up all game long. Chris Drury was also supposed to be a #2 center who put up big points. Neither were really fulfilling the expectations that came with the contracts. Gomez registered just 3 points in his first 11 games as a Ranger. Drury got 3 points in his first game in New york, but only notched 4 more in the next 10 games. Both far from the production we all hoped we would see.
Although they might not have met the expectations, which may or may not have been unrealistic, Gomez and Drury did both turn out to be valuable parts of the Rangers in 07-08. Gomez registered 16 goals and 54 assists for 70 points, while also notching 4 goals and 7 assists for 11 points in 10 playoff games. Drury also tallied 25 goals and 33 assists for 58 points, while also getting 3 goals and 3 assists in 10 playoff games.
Gomez was always our best play making center last year. He is a key offensive guy and is our future number one center. Although Dubinsky played on our first line last year, I don't think anyone has Dubinsky listed on the first line of their Rangers depth chart. Gomez is going to be the pivot of the future for the Rangers, and I don't think anyone will be bashing that contract for long.
Drury registered 58 points last year, which is low for a guy who makes 7mil per season. But he brings loads of intangibles to the table. Chris Drury came through in the clutch for Buffalo against us in game 5 of the second round in the 2007 playoffs. He continued to come through when we needed him to during the season, including a clutch goal to tie a game against the Devils at 1-1 with just 5 minutes left in the third period. The Rangers would eventually win that game in a shootout, and continue their dominance over their bitter rivals. Along with the clutch performance, Drury also showed a great defensive side, becoming a normal fixture on the PK and playing defensive hockey that at times rivaled that of the best defensive forwards in the league. His leadership is very important, and he is definetly going to be a big part of what Ranger fans hope will be a stretch of runs at the cup in the next few years.
Now a look at the contracts. Those two contracts take up just about 14.5 million dollars of the cap per season. When those contracts were signed, the cap was at 50.3 million, which is just under 30% of the cap. It's definitely a lot to spend on just two players. Now, the cap is at 56.7 million dollars. Their salaries take up 5% less, at about 25%. When the salary cap was first implemented, it was at about 39 million. In just 4 seasons (including 08-09 with the new cap already spent up to) the cap has gone up more then 17 million dollars. The original 39 million dollar cap has raised to 56.7 million, 17.7 in four years. With the cap raising so much over the years, Glen Sather knew that the big money then, will be a lot more reasonable in a few years. One must only look this latest off season to see the signs of an inflated off season. With players like Jeff Finger, coming off of his first full NHL season after a career in the minors, making 3.5 million per season, and many other players like Dustin Penner and Ryan Malone getting inflated contracts, the figures are sure to change from year to year. At the rate it's going right now, the contracts given to Drury and Gomez will seem like bargains by the time the contracts are up.