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Captain America unable to save the Rangers

Michael Rushton, NHL Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's kind of interesting that the city in which the iconic Statue of Liberty resides is hoping to haul in a savior from Canada.

France's gift to the United States serves as a welcome site to those coming from abroad and the New York Rangers made it clear they want help from our northern neighbor with a recent report that American Chris Drury is on his way out in the Big Apple.

An article on the New York Daily News' website Thursday cited a source claiming that the Rangers plan to buy out the final season of Drury's five- year, $35.25 million contract signed prior to the 2007-08 season, thus saving the club $3.3 million against the cap this season.


In Chris Drury's four seasons in New York, the Rangers never made it past the conference semifinals.
"He's gone," the source told the paper, which also suggested that the Rangers will clear up another $3.3 million by buying out the last year of Wojtek Wolski's contract.

Of course, it is expected that the Rangers will take a big, hard run at free agent Brad Richards, who isn't expected to re-sign with the Dallas Stars and will hit the open market this summer.

For fans of Drury -- and there can't be that many left in New York -- it appears the only way they'll see Captain America in Manhattan again is at the movie theaters this summer.

The Connecticut-born Drury earned his nickname, which pays tribute to the red- white-and-blue wearing Marvel superhero, by scoring clutch goal after clutch goal with the Colorado Avalanche early in his career. During his Calder Trophy-winning rookie season in 1998-99, nine of his 20 goals either tied or won the game and two years later he posted 16 points in 23 playoff contests in helping the Avs capture the 2001 Stanley Cup.

The 34-year-old captain joined the Rangers in the hopes of leading the franchise back to postseason glory, but New York never made it past the conference semifinals during his four seasons.

After playing in at least 71 games in each of his first 11 NHL seasons prior to 2010-11, the center was limited to one goal and four assists this campaign while missing 58 games due to finger and knee injuries.

It's hard to tell what was the bigger bust: Drury's annual $7.05 million salary cap hit or the six-year, $39 million deal the Rangers signed defenseman Wade Redden to in the summer of 2008. Redden, of course, spent last season playing with Hartford of the American Hockey League.

The trade of fellow 2007 free agent signee Scott Gomez to the Montreal Canadiens in June of 2009 for spare parts proves that the Rangers haven't been hitting home runs in the offseason as of late, but the club hopes to change all that by adding Richards, by far the best free agent available.

Like Drury, Richards is a former Stanley Cup champion -- which he won with Tampa Bay in 2004 under current Rangers head coach John Tortorella -- and even has a Conn Smythe Trophy on his resume. He netted 28 goals and 77 points in 72 games with the Stars last year and at 31 years old figures to have some good seasons left in the tank.

Should the Blueshirts fail to land Richards, they may have cleared cap space for nothing. This year's free agent group isn't mind-blowing, with the likes of forwards Ville Leino, Brooks Laich and Scottie Upshall, as well as blueliners Tomas Kaberle and Joni Pitkanen, serving as fallback options.

That makes landing the pivot Richards a must for the Rangers.

Should they do so, perhaps they can add "Give me your playmaking centers" to the plaque on Liberty Island.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Michael Rushton at mrushton@sportsnetwork.com.

Follow Michael Rushton on Twitter and Facebook.

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