TWO MINUTES with BRUCE BERLET

bruce mug shot 1BY: Bruce Berlet

Chris Drury, one of the all-time winners from his Little League days in Trumbull to the NHL, apparently has played his final game with the New York Rangers.

Reports throughout the New York media say the Rangers will buy out the final year of captain/center Drury’s five-year, $35.25 million contract.

“He’s gone,” a source told the New York Daily News.

Drury had one goal and four assists while sitting out a career-high 58 games with finger and knee injuries last season. That was more games than he had missed in his previous 11 NHL seasons combined, the last four with the Rangers, who signed Drury on July 1, 2007. That was the same day the Rangers signed center Scott Gomez to a seven-year, $51.5 million deal, but he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens on June 30, 2009 with former Hartford Wolf Pack wing Tom Pyatt and defenseman Michael Busto for former Yale center Chris Higgins, Doug Janik and defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko, who started last season with the Connecticut Whale.

The NHL’s contract window is Wednesday through June 30, and the Rangers have been expected to buy out Drury since April 25 when coach John Tortorella said, “Dru is getting older, that’s why he has a chronic knee (condition). We have to make decisions for what’s best for the organization moving on. … It’s certainly not mine, my total decision, but I have my thoughts. These are all conversations we have to have. You can’t let the intangibles override other things, too.”

Buying out Drury would save the Rangers $3,333,333 against next season’s salary cap, with a $1,666,667 charge in 2012-13 under the rules of the current collective bargaining agreement. Drury, who carried a $7.05 million cap hit, would have been due $5 million in salary under terms of the contract. He will receive $3,716,667 over the next two years as his buyout payment.

Drury, who will turn 35 on Aug. 20, missed 31 of the first 32 games with a twice broken finger. He played 22 games Dec. 15 to Feb. 3 before undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He returned for the regular-season finale against the New Jersey Devils and scored his only goal of the season. He then had limited ice time in a five-game, first-round playoff loss to the Washington Capitals.

It’s not known if Drury will try to continue his career or retire. The three-time Olympian who won a Stanley Cup with Colorado has 255 goals and 360 assists in 892 NHL games with the Avalanche, Rangers, Atlanta Flames and Buffalo Sabres.

The Daily News also reported the Rangers likely would buy out midseason acquisition wing Wojtek Wolski, saving another $3.3 million next season while adding a $666,667 charge in 2012-13. But the New York Post said the Rangers will not buy out Wolski and wing Sean Avery, both of whom were scratched or saw limited ice time at the end of the regular season and in the playoffs.

The cap space from the buyout of Drury and possibly Wolski would be important in the Rangers’ pursuit of top free agent center Brad Richards or to upgrade in other areas if they can’t land the Dallas Stars All-Star center.

While the salary cap is expected to rise from $59.4 million to between $60 and $63 million, the Rangers have seven restricted free agent, notably former Wolf Pack forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan, who is expected to become the Rangers’ next captain. All except Matt Gilroy are in line for significant raises, though the Rangers might not re-sign the former Wolf Pack defenseman after acquiring 2009 first-round draft pick Tim Erixon from the Calgary Flames on June 1. Erixon is the son of former Rangers forward Jan Erixon.

Then there’s the case of veteran defenseman Wade Redden, who wasn’t expected to be bought out of the remaining three years and $16.5 million of the six-year, $39 contract that he signed in 2008. The Rangers could give him a legitimate shot at making the team or again waive him and return him to the Whale, opening another $6.5 million in cap space

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