The genie is out of the bottle.
For fans, the genie that is the NHL UFA market gives out an unlimited supply of wishes, but unfortunately fulfills only a few. One of the biggest names on Sabres’ fans wish lists right now is Chris Drury.
From Pierre LeBrun, of ESPN:
There’s a rumor that has made the rounds that the Rangers would somehow stash Chris Drury and his $7.05-million cap hit in the minors next year. Not going to happen.
“That’s an unfounded rumor,” Drury’s agent Mark Witkin told ESPN.com Saturday.
The fact is, they can’t. He’s got a no-movement clause. You can’t do a thing to a player with a no-movement clause.
So, Drury holds all the cards. He did come back from a serious knee injury this year and that’s something he’s going to look at this summer, how he feels physically. But I don’t sense he’s going to do the Rangers any favors and retire. He’s either on the team next year or the Rangers bite the bullet and buy him out. A buyout would count $3.7 million against the Rangers’ cap next season and $1.6 million in 2012-13.
Drury’s childhood fairytale of winning the Cup with the Rangers is at an end. Still, this hockey warrior with legendary leadership skills is by no means ready or warranted for early retirement. Some team is going to pick him up, be it from the UFA market if the Rangers dump him, or be it through trade to grab the rights to his last season.
With the focus of the NHL market now leaning heavily towards younger players, the likelihood is that the Rangers will have to buy Drury out.
So, why Buffalo?
Fans aside, there are adequate reasons to bring Drury back:
- The Sabres are already thin at the Center position, and stand to lose Connolly and Niedermayer to the UFA market.
- While Mike Grier is a UFA, he has stated that he will only return as a member of the Sabres. Don’t forget that Grier and Drury are incredibly close friends, and an even better leadership duo. If they were to survive the regular season together, they would make the Sabres a formidable force in the playoffs.
- Drury would immediately help to solve the team’s propensity to give up big leads, and would serve as a master mentor to the New Core of Ennis, Myers, Mancari, Kassian, et al.
- Frankly, the available UFA names at center is not a good one (Tim Connolly being the second best available on most boards, after Brad Richards).
- Captain Clutch, folks – the guy wins games.
Then, there are adequate reasons to keep the legend of the Hockey God in the past:
- Age, and multiple injuries (including knee surgeries) have taken their toll on his game.
- The Sabres already lost with Drury – and Danny Briere. Couple that with Drury’s collapse of performance in New York, and he’s not exactly the winning formula he was once reputed to be.
- He left Buffalo in a huff. Sure, it’s the new Pegula Era, but for him, coming back might still be quite a sour concept. The Sabres would need 100% commitment and belief from Drury.
- The Sabres don’t have the cap room fans really think they do: RFA’s this season include Andrej Sekera, Jhonas Enroth, and Drew Stafford – and don’t forget next season Tyler Ennis and Tyler Myers will be demanding huge contracts as RFA’s.
Pros and cons aside, Drury did provide a magical run for the Sabres, a team still chock full of players greatly influenced by his game and character. If he can be had for the right price, an environment such as Buffalo’s – where he once thrived as an individual – could be a boon for both the player and the organization.
Folks love a good story, and Drury’s legacy and the lack of a Cup in Buffalo are two sad plot lines that would be wonderful to reunite.
If it happens, we’ll see if everyone gets a happy ending.