The Brad Richards to the Rangers rumors are heating up today amid speculation that the Rangers are looking to shed salary and create cap space through buyouts of several players – most notably captain Chris Drury.
Drury has one more season remaining on his contract with a cap hit of just over $7 million a season. A buyout would save the Rangers $3.3 million toward next season’s salary cap and allow the 34-year-old center to become a free agent on July 1. Drury initially signed a five-year $35.25 million contract with the Rangers in 2007 after a career season with Buffalo where he posted 37 goals and 69 points in 77 games. However, Drury has been increasingly ineffective for the Rangers culminating in an injury-plagued season last year in which the captain only played in 24 games.
Rumors are also circulating that Rangers GM Glen Sather may buy out the contract of forward Wojtek Wolski as well. Wolski, who also has another year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $3.8 million, failed to have the breakout season that many expected last year by posting only 35 points in 73 games. Wolski split time between the Phoenix Coyotes and Rangers last year after getting traded mid-season.
The NHL’s buyout period begins next week and runs through June 30.
The idea of buying out Drury’s contract makes perfect sense. After all, the Rangers way overpaid for Drury’s services by offering roughly $7 million per year to a player who has only scored 30 or more goals three times and scored 60 or more points twice in his career. Add in the numerous injuries over the years and the team would be dumb not to buy out Drury’s remaining year and apply the leftover cap space to a free agent that can contribute on a nightly basis.
However, it might be a little suspect for the team to buy out Wolski’s contract. Sure, almost $4 million a season is a bit much to pay for a player whose potential thus far has topped out at 40-50 points a season, and Wolski had a down season last year, but can you blame a guy for poor production when he’s played for three different teams in two years? When he’s on his game, Wolski is capable of providing offensive depth and good secondary scoring.
If the Rangers do land Richards and give up Wolski, the team will be relying mostly on Richards and Gaborik for offense. Gaborik struggled last season for long stretches of time and is fragile as glass, so if he goes down with an injury the team will rely mostly on Richards and Dubinsky for offense. After a breakout season last year Dubinsky showed he is capable of shouldering the load, but the team won’t make it far without secondary scoring. Plus, signing Richards might mean forfeiting some of the team’s top-notch defense – most of whom are free agents of some variety this summer.
Rangers have many questions heading into the free agency period, which begins in roughly three weeks. Richards remains by far the best offensive talent available on the market this year, but as such doesn’t necessarily mean he is the best fit for the team in the long run. Still, it appears as if the Rangers are looking to spend big this summer and it will be fun to watch how they maneuver the draft and free agency period.