The New York Rangers had their breakup day today as players collected there things and met with the media heading into the offseason. As interesting as what they had to say was, the more interesting thing is to look at which of those players will not be coming back to the club come this fall. There will be a lot of talk about free agency in the weeks and months to come, but the decisions made about the players that are already here will determine how much money and how many roster spaces there are to be filled by players not currently on the roster or in the organization. On the NHL roster the Rangers had six restricted and four unrestricted free agents. Along with those ten players there are the cases of Chris Drury, Wojtek Wolski, Sean Avery and Erik Christensen to consider when looking at the makeup of next year’s roster.
There is a lot of talk about adding different pieces to the current core of players, but none of that can be done until the Rangers make decisions on all 14 of those guys that are already here. Of the restricted free agents, all but Matt Gilroy should be a lock to be back next season, and Gilroy is apparently going to get the option to come back at a reduced rate. In terms of the unrestricted free agents, Ruslan Fedotenko is the only one that I would suspect gets offered another contract, though Vinny Prospal remains a possibility.
The question of buyouts will loom large for the organization this summer both in terms of the talent and players they could be removing from the team, but the amount of money it could potentially free up under the cap to let them be more aggressive in adding talent. The two players that have the most cap space to be gained by being bought out are Wojtek Wolski and Chris Drury. I already took a look at the implications of buying out Wolski this summer so I will focus instead on Chris Drury and his albatross of a contract.
Drury does add value to the Rangers on and off the ice, but certainly not at the level of a $7.05 million hit to the salary cap. There are questions about his knee and how healthy it truly is and simply the fact he is a fourth line player at this point in his career. The question is whether the Rangers organization would buy out the current captain of their franchise to save 3.33 million this year and cost 1.67 million for the 2012-13 season. I am not counting on them doing that unless they plan on making a huge move this summer on Brad Richards and absolutely need the space. I think the respect for Drury within the organization is too great for that to happen, but it might be the biggest decision the organization makes in determining just how different the team will be next season.