The New York Rangers have made it abundantly clear that they are in hot pursuit of pending unrestricted free agent Brad Richards.
They only have one problem: the dreaded salary cap.
Richards is going to fetch big money. If that wasn't enough, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov are all restricted free agent forwards who are due for a raise.
This leaves Chris Drury on the outside looking in.
Along with Scott Gomez and Daniel Briere, Drury was at the top of the free-agency class in 2007. He signed for big money with the Rangers and, much like Gomez, he has disappointed.
Drury has one year remaining on his contract. He is due to earn $5 million but is a $7.05 million cap hit.
There have recently been rumors floating around about a potential buyout of Drury's contract. A buyout seems to be the only way for the Blueshirts to gain some cap space, as it seems that Drury's best years are behind him.
He missed most of the 2010-2011 regular season with a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery. It's doubtful that any team would take a chance on him and his $5 million salary.
With a buyout, Drury would become a free agent. I'm sure a lot of teams would jump at the opportunity to sign the veteran.
The possibility of a trade shouldn't be ruled out completely. Although the scenario is much less likely, there are some teams in the NHL that need to get up to the salary cap floor and may want to take a shot with Drury, in hopes that he will have a bounce-back season.
Here's a list of 10 teams that may be interested in what Chris Drury has to offer.
The Avalanche are in the midst of a rebuild. With Adam Foote retiring and Milan Hejduk still on the fence, they could be in desperate need of some veteran leadership.
Drury is a familiar face who could provide just that.
The Atlanta Thrashers are not very strong going down the middle. Their centremen are Nik Antropov, Ben Maxwell, Alex Burmistrov and Rob Schremp. Both Maxwell and Schremp are pending RFAs.
Patrice Cormier is waiting in the wings, but it is still uncertain if he is ready to play in the Big Leagues on a full-time basis.
It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a stabilizing presence at centre like Drury in the meantime.
The prospect of the Dallas Stars signing Brad Richards this offseason seems doubtful at best. The Rangers are going to be doing whatever they can to get the elite centreman to join them (most probably, as mentioned before, at Chris Drury's expense).
Without Richards, the Stars may want to have someone with Drury’s experience behind Mike Ribeiro as the top line centreman.
They would have a lot of cap space to play with if Richards does skip town.
The Detroit Red Wings really enjoy having a veteran core on their team.
Last offseason, the Wings’ GM Ken Holland signed hometown boy Mike Modano, mostly for his prowess in the faceoff circle.
If the 40-year-old Modano chooses to hang up his skates and the Rangers buy out Chris Drury’s contract, he would be a very attractive replacement.
Chris Drury had two of his better years while playing with the Buffalo Sabres. He scored 30 goals in consecutive seasons—the only times he reached the plateau in his career.
Because of his play with the Sabres, Drury became one of the most touted unrestricted free agents in 2007. The Sabres didn't have the means to retain Drury or fellow UFA Danny Briere.
The rest is history.
Now, with the new ownership of Terry Pegula, the Sabres have more money to play with. The oft-injured Tim Connolly becomes an unrestricted free agent this July and is probably on his way out of Buffalo.
Darcy Regier has seen what Chris Drury has to offer. Bringing the former captain back to Buffalo could be an interesting idea.
The New York Islanders are probably losing their captain, Doug Weight, to retirement. That leaves the Isles without a major presence when it comes to leadership.
It wouldn’t hurt the young team to have a guy like Chris Drury on board.
With the salary cap ceiling and floor going up, the Isles may have to look at a guy like Drury that gets paid more than the average player.
I’m sure the fact that he was captain of the Islanders’ arch-rivals wouldn’t hurt either!
Speaking of cap floors...
Currently, the Florida Panthers only have 10 players signed to contracts heading into the 2011-2012 season.
Marty Reasoner, the Panthers faceoff specialist, is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
I know, I know—Chris Drury is getting paid a lot more than Marty Reason, nearly $4 million in fact. But the Panthers may be forced to spend more given the cap floor and the fact that some UFAs don`t want to sign with a losing team.
I would not be surprised if Chris Drury was on Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon’s radar.
The past few seasons for the Edmonton Oilers have obviously been disappointing. Even though they have heaps of young talent, they haven’t been able to win games.
Part of the problem is their veteran leadership. Shawn Horcoff is nothing short of an underachieving disappointment.
The Oilers are incredibly thin at centre, Horcoff being their first-line man.
Andrew Cogliano is always involved in trade talks, it seems.
The veteran, Chris Drury, may have a place in Edmonton.
The Ottawa Senators are extremely thin at centre. In fact, they’re pretty thin through their entire roster, but that’s neither here nor there.
With the exception of Jason Spezza and prospect Stephane Da Costa, the Sens don’t have much going for them up the middle. Peter Regin never really panned out and Zack Smith is a fine enforcer, but not exactly what the team needs.
Chris Drury can be an effective centreman on the rebuilding Sens—if they aren’t looking to finish last in the league, that is.
Manny Malholtra was a valuable centreman on the Vancouver Canucks this season. He was absolutely clutch when taking faceoffs: His 61.7 winning percentage was second only to David Steckel’s 62.3.
Unfortunately, Malholtra took a puck to his face, severely damaging his eye. It ended his season and possibly his career.
Chris Drury has always excelled in the faceoff department. Throughout his career, Drury has been on the league leader board when it comes to taking draws.
If Malholtra is unable to return, the Canucks may want to have a look at Drury.