Rangers captain Chris Drury has not produced enough to be deemed worthy of his $7.05 million cap hit the past two seasons. Signed by the Rangers in 2007, Drury put up numbers consistent with his career average in his first two years with the Rangers, with 58 points and 56 points. He played significant minutes at all points during the game, and couldn’t really be called a "bust" those two seasons*. It wasn’t until last season when the Rangers high priced center started to see his game disappear. His production was nearly cut in half, and his role diminished to that of a fourth line player. That same trend has continued this year, as Drury has no goals and just four points in 16 games this season.
*-Note that his numbers were consistent with what he had produced in his previous eight seasons. He’s not a "bust" if he produces at that clip.
Despite his lack of production, Drury still serves a purpose. He is a great captain, he kills penalties, he wins face-offs, and he blocks a ton of shots. That said, $7.05 million is a lot to pay for a player who plays ten minutes per game. Drury can’t be demoted due to his no-movement clause, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue. It would be a public relations nightmare to demote the captain of an NHL club. Trade is also impossible with that cap hit, even if his actual salary does drop to $5 million next season.
The only way the Rangers would be able to rid themselves of Drury is by buying him out. Buying out Drury during the summer of 2011 would result in a $3.7 million cap hit for the 2011-2012 season (saving the Rangers $3.35 million in cap space), and a $1.67 million cap hit for the 2012-2013 season, a season where Drury’s initial contract would have expired. The $3.35 million in cap space saved goes a long way, especially considering Wade Redden and his $6.5 million cap hit will be on the summer cap. During a summer when the Rangers will look to sign Brad Richards, every dollar in cap space is important.
Numbers aside, buying out Drury will cost the Rangers their best face-off guy, one of their best penalty killers, and their captain. It’s tough to replace that kind of role on the ice and in the locker room, and there is no guarantee that the Rangers will be successful in luring a top center to MSG next season. In the end, it’s a question about whether having Drury for one year at $7 million is better than having him for two years at $3.7 million and $1.67 million. It’s a tough call, and it’s hard to say if there’s a right answer.