Chris Drury announced his retirement from the NHL Friday after 12 seasons in the league. He spent the last four seasons of his career with the New York Rangers, who signed him to a five-year, $32.25 million deal prior to the 2007-08 season. He had one year left on his deal when the Rangers bought him out in June. Severe underproduction and a bevy of injuries last season - which shortened his year to just 24 games - have caused the Connecticut native to call it quits.
There is no doubt that Drury had a great career in the NHL. He won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie in 1998-99 as a member of the Colorado Avalanche, and helped the franchise win a Stanley Cup in 2000-01, with 11 goals during the playoffs. He also had a productive stint with the Buffalo Sabres from 2003-04 until 2006-07, and spent one season with the Calgary Flames in 2002-03. After his spectacular postseason with the Avalanche in 2001, Drury was considered one of the more clutch players in the NHL, with a penchant for scoring "big" goals. That's why the Rangers rewarded him handsomely, and also gave him their captaincy.
But it never truly materialized in New York, and it's really a wonder that the fans never turned on him, as they did on Scott Gomez, who came with Drury to the Rangers in tandem during the 2007 offseason. Rangers fans have been notorious for getting on overpaid and underachieving players. Jaromir Jagr, who had one of the franchise's greatest individual seasons in 2005-06, wasn't immune to it. And of course players such as Eric Lindros, Valeri Kamensky and the later version of Alexei Kovalev felt the fans' wrath. Drury was never wholly booed, despite being one of the highest paid players in the league and averaging just 49 points a season through his first three years with the team - he missed just seven games during that span.
Drury's NHL legacy will be that of a winner, a gamer, and a clutch performer. "Clutchness" is impossible to quantify, as his numbers in the playoffs per game really aren't that much better than his regular season numbers. With Drury, it was always when he scored his goals that mattered. The Rangers saw it first hand in the 2006-07 playoffs when he scored that dagger with seven seconds remaining in Game 5...too bad the goal came against the Rangers, while Drury was playing for the Sabres.
His Rangers legacy? Nothing short of an extreme disappointment.