NHL Free Agent Rumors: 7 Teams Itching to Land Chris Drury
On June 29, 2011, the New York Rangers finalized a buyout deal with Captain Chris Drury. The buyout affected the final season of a disastrous five-year, over $35 million contract with the Blue Shirts.
Since this is an article speculating about team that would love to sign Drury, addressing the elephant in the room right away is the best policy. He has seen diminished productivity and has a knee condition, that at the very least would cause concern for any team looking to sign him.
The intent there is not to brush these facts aside like they are meaningless. Far from it. Each concern on its own is a valid enough reason to think twice and maybe even thrice about offering Drury a contract.
2010-11 was a disaster for Drury. But his 2009-10 season was not much better. That season he played 77 games and produced 32 points. Many take it as a sign that his ability to produce has greatly diminished.
As far as the injury situation goes, Drury is going to have to undergo a thorough medical examination by any interested team. He is going to be viewed as damaged goods until an interested team's physician deems him otherwise.
You can read up about the speculation that Drury may not even be able to play next season, or any other one from the New York Post's Larry Brooks. The article is from June 17, 2011, so is there the possibility that this information has or can change still? Anything is possible.
Remember that Peter Forsberg suited up for a few games last season, even though it did not last.
Passing a physical becomes the key to this entire situation. Without that hurdle being cleared, Drury's days in the NHL are over and these teams will turn their attention elsewhere.
Now that the elephant has been addressed, there are some selling points for Drury left. These reasons are why there would still be real interest on the part of teams to sign him, despite the risk.
At the top of the list of reasons is the fact that Chris Drury, despite his troubles, is still a respected player among his NHL piers. A guy with over 1,000 NHL games between regular season and playoffs generally will get that proverbial stick-tap until he hangs 'em up.
Any team willing to take a chance on Drury knows that they are not inheriting a guy that will cause trouble in the room.
Consider the following quote from Jesse Spector of The Blueshirt Blog, which describes Drury's influence on the Rangers while he was battling back from his worst season as a professional in the largest media market in the United States:
Many of the Rangers who were in the playoffs for the first time spoke of Drury’s positive influence, how he had spoken before the postseason about the importance of the opportunity, and that you never know how many chances you will get to chase the Stanley Cup.
In addition to leadership, potential suitors also get a defensively responsible veteran that knows how to handle himself in situations on the ice. Even if he has lost a step or two, those 1,000 games provide him with the knowledge to find a way to position himself and outwork an opponent.
It easy to bet against the guy at this point, but look at an intangible in this situation. Drury could easily have caused problem in New York by refusing the buyout on the basis of his medical issues.
The fact that he did not speaks volumes about his character and his desire to still play in the NHL. While he is still getting a nice chunk of change from the Rangers, he can supplement that with a lesser deal in a good situation.
Bottom line is the guy knows how to be a team player and meet his role. The guy has been a winner since his time in the Little League World Series.
Yes, he has had a few down years. It also is a gigantic question mark hanging out there as to whether or not he can pass a physical with his knee.
But if he does, my speculation is that the following seven teams will likely be looking to get him in their locker room.
Chris Drury's Potential Team: Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings have become a team that it is fashionable to count out when the list of top contenders is made by some "experts." Despite a tumultuous situation in goal, the Red Wings are still a force to be dealt with.
A healthy Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg along with a team stocked with cagey vets means that this team will never be too far out of contention, whether you want them to be or not.
Adding Chris Drury to the Red Wings is a move that makes sense for GM Ken Holland. He has a team that can afford to take a low priced chance on a guy that would be more than willing to fit in to the Detroit system and play whatever role they had slotted for him.
Unlike most of the teams in this speculative scenario, I was actually able to find some discussion of this possibility over at The Detroit Sports Site.
Chris Drury's Potential Team: Buffalo Sabres
Chris Drury leaving the Buffalo Sabres for the gold-paved streets of New York City was surely a bitter pill for the Sabres fans to swallow. In conjunction with the departure of Daniel Brierre, it was devastating to the entire fanbase's psyche.
Those days appear to be over in one of the greatest American hockey markets, however. As the old saying goes, "There's a new sheriff in town."
New owner Terry Pegula is a billionaire. One needs to look no further than his Forbes.com profile to realize this man has the scratch to afford a feel good return of Drury to Buffalo.
But, Pegula is a passionate hockey man and fan. He will not interfere with his team's affairs, only aid them in every way possible.
If GM Darcy Regier believes Drury can aid the team, Pegula will allow him to cut the check.
How can you not root for an owner of a once-beaten down fanbase that says this, according to AOL News, at his Feb. 22, 2001, introductory press conference:
"If I want to make some money, I'll go drill a gas well."
Much like in Detroit, Buffalo fans are openly discussing the possibility at Sabre Noise.
Chris Drury's Potential Team: Pittsburgh Penguins
If you are a Penguins fan, you may be saying to yourself, "Why do we need another center?" The answer is actually fairly simple if you allow yourself to follow the logic behind my speculative pursuit of Drury.
If Dustin Jeffery needs time to recover from his knee injury and Evgeni Malkin ends up on Jordan Staal's wing, then that would leave Sidney Crosby, Mark Letestu and a vacancy or question mark for the team's centers.
For more on the debate about whether Malkin is better suited at Center or Wing, click on the link for a recent piece I completed.
While I am not convinced that Wing is the best route for the Penguins or Malkin, Coach Dan Bylsma appears committed to it at least to start the season.
Drury would be a nice compliment to the team, actually. Defensively responsible, a team player, willing to do what it takes to win. If his heath situation check out, this actually sounds like a guy right up GM Ray Shero's alley.
The potential low price tag is also something that would appeal to the 'Guins. Shero is not looking for any big time commitments since the team is able to open up negotiations with Sid and Jordan next summer.
Until then though, a healthy Chris Drury may be a nice add-on piece to a team that should be in the hunt for the Stanley Cup similar to Steve Sullivan.
Chris Drury's Potential Team: Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche made some interesting moves so far this summer. Bringing back Chris Drury for veteran leadership would be the icing on the cake if you ask me.
Drury spent four seasons with the Avs. He was a part of the 2000-01 team that raised the franchise's second Stanley Cup.
While a lot will need to be proven to have the Avs considered a part of the playoff hunt in the West, it is clear that the team is trying to make the moves to get back there. Adding Drury would provide a, "This is what you want to strive for" example in the room.
No word on whether or not the Avs would desire such a scenario, but I do believe this could help them and their developing team.
Chris Drury's Potential Team: Boston Bruins
The team is morphing from Stanley Cup Champions to a team with a target on their back. We have not witnessed a back-to-back Cup winner since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings.
As mentioned, Boston has not lost much from their core of players that were able to reach the top of the NHL mountain. Adding a healthy Chris Drury could be a move that helps keep them there.
There certainly would be no difficulty on Drury's part to fit in to the locker room. In all of his years, you have not heard one peep about him being trouble for any team's chemistry.
If he can get his health in order enough to pass a physical, it will be likely that one of his top motivators would be the chance at another Cup.
Joining the most recent winners is a pretty good place to start.
Also, in a strange twist, back in May NY Rangers Blog indicated that Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe wrote that if the Rangers eventually severed ties with Drury, that the B's would be interested.
I cannot find Dupont's article online, so take that for what it is worth.
Chris Drury's Potential Team: Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens figure to be a player in the Eastern Conference next season. They added Erik Cole, their top lines are solidified, as is their blue line and goaltending.
Adding a healthy Chris Drury would be a luxury, to be certain, but one that the Habs could easily afford. The no-risk proposition could have an upside of swinging them past their division-rivals in Boston and Buffalo.
While it is not likely Drury would end up in Montreal, you can bet that if Buffalo and Boston give serious consideration to signing Drury, Montreal would at least throw their hat in to the ring.
GM Pierre Gauthier is simply too savvy to allow division rivals improve their team without challenge if Drury emerges as a viable option.
This is another one that has a bit of backing out there in cyberspace, Drury gets a very lukewarm mention over at Jay Reas' website regarding the Canadiens pursuit of another center (or centre).
Chris Drury's Potential Team: New York Islanders
The New York Islanders may not be a free agent's first pick destination. But frankly, Chris Drury certainly is not going to be most team's first, second or third pick in terms of filling out their roster.
If Drury can gain medical clearance, he may need a landing spot to prove that he can stay healthy and maintain worth. Long Island would be the perfect chance for him to do that in my opinion.
It would also be foolish to assume that the Islanders would not gain something out of the deal. Drury provides Captain-level leadership. This could come in handy with their group of young, talented forwards.
Also, think back to last season. GM Garth Snow claimed Evgeni Nabokov off of waivers. While they would have welcomed him to their team, this was also about acquiring an asset.
Nabokov still has not returned to the NHL, and vowed that he will not for the Islanders. But the Islanders hold all the cards to any return for Nabokov. A team would have to give them something for them to allow his return.
Snow may be unconventional, but picking up Drury could be another shrewd move. If he proves some kind of worth and durability, this could be a part of a 2012 trade deadline deal to acquire additional pieces to the Islander puzzle.