Chris Drury retired from the NHL on Friday after 12 seasons, unable to hook up with a new team after the New York Rangers bought out the final year of their captain's contract in June.
The centre struggled through a final injury-plagued season with New York that limited him to 24 games. He returned for the final regular-season game and scored his lone goal in a win over New Jersey that helped the Rangers clinch a playoff spot on the last day. That was the only highlight for Drury, who posted just five points and then added an assist in New York's first-round playoff loss to Washington.
Drury was let go by the Rangers in late June after a largely disappointing four seasons, including three as captain. Drury was given US$3.333 million for the buyout that closed the $35.25-million, five-year deal he signed with New York after leaving Buffalo as a free agent in 2007.
He announced his retirement Friday—one day before his 35th birthday—in a statement released by the NHL Players' Association. And in typical fashion for the soft-spoken Drury, the statement said he wouldn't be available to discuss the decision to hang up his skates.
In 892 career NHL games with Colorado, Calgary, Buffalo and the Rangers, Drury had 255 goals and 615 points. Even more impressive was his knack to make the big play at the key time. Drury scored 47 game-winning goals in the regular season, but he really made his mark in the post-season, where 17 of his 47 goals in 135 playoff games were winners.
"Throughout his career, Chris Drury was always a great competitor, a tremendous leader and teammate, and the heart-and-soul type of player that every team would love to have," Glen Sather, the Rangers' president and general manager, said in a statement. "His commitment, determination and will to win were apparent each and every day.
"Those characteristics will have a lasting impact on all those who were fortunate enough to learn from Chris over his 12 years in the National Hockey League."
A three-time Olympian, Drury was a Stanley Cup champion in 2001 with the Avalanche, but his winning ways go much further back. While playing for Trumbull, Conn., Drury pitched a complete-game five-hitter and drove in two runs to lead his hometown team to the 1989 Little League World Series title. It seems only fitting that he announced the end of his athletic career while this year's Little League World Series is being played in Williamsport, Pa.
Drury won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player as a senior at Boston University in 1998, then the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's top rookie a year later.
Drury never hit it big with the Rangers after he and fellow centre Scott Gomez were signed on the same day to bolster the team's offence, which was then powered by Jaromir Jagr. Neither Drury nor Gomez, who lasted only two seasons with the Rangers, meshed well on a line with Jagr, and New York was saddled by both big contracts.
The Rangers used the cap space created by the buyout of Drury to sign prized free-agent centre Brad Richards to a $60-million, nine-year deal.
Drury could have earned his full $5 million for next season if he chose to apply for a medical exception because of his injured left knee and it was determined that he wasn't able to play. It isn't clear if Drury is healthy enough to continue his career if he chose to.