Photo by bridgetds
Yesterday, Larry Brooks had a column wondering what the New York Rangers’ plan is for Chris Drury.
Drury has two years left on a contract with a cap hit of over $7 million per season and he’s been relegated to the fourth line.
Drury has yet to score this season (he’s been back from a broken finger for 23 games) and has just four points.
Despite those numbers, Brooks points out the very specialized role Drury has carved out for himself:
Tortorella…has called on Drury to take 47 of the club’s 134 defensive zone faceoffs over the last eight games. The captain most often has come off the bench to win 68.1 percent of those draws (32 of 47), and the rest of the club has won 54 percent (47 of 87) in that stretch.
Drury has become the New York Rangers’ faceoff specialist, taking all of the big draws — especially defensive ones. And that’s kept Drury in the lineup, despite his stunning lack of production. That, and the tons of injuries which have left coach John Tortorella with no one better to slot into the lineup.
But even as players get healty, Tortorella is seeing value in Drury. Last night, Vinny Prospal came back from knee surgery. Most fans wanted Drury to be scratched but instead Kris Newbury was returned to the AHL.
The thing about Drury is that he’s a situation that needs to be made the best of.
No one is taking on his contract. Not even GM Glen Sather, who specializes in unloading dead weight, could move a contract that huge that’s worth so little.
If the Rangers bought out Drury, they’d still take a huge cap hit over the next few seasons.
If they sent Drury down to the AHL, they’d still need to pay him. Plus, they’d have to deal with his salary on the summer cap.
And so the Rangers are enjoying a tremendous luxury: a faceoff specialist.
Teams have long enjoyed guys whose only real job is to win faceoffs. The Ducks almost won a Cup in 2003 with Adam Oates taking all of the huge faceoffs. Joe Nieuwendyk helped the Devils win the Cup that year, taking the big faceoffs for New Jersey.
John Madden helped Chicago win a Cup in a similar role. And Yanic Perreault’s NHL career was pretty much entirely based upon his ability to win faceoffs.
Faceoff specialists are huge in the playoffs. Since many coaches shorten their benches in important games, it’s not a big deal using one forward spot for a guy who’s only taking faceoffs and maybe skating a few shifts.
So while the Rangers aren’t in the playoffs, why not use Drury luxuriously? If he’s only effective on the penalty kill and taking faceoffs, then why not make those his only responsibilities? Obviously, the Rangers are dramatically overpaying him for those services, but the contract is already signed. The money is spent.
The Rangers are stuck with Drury but they’ve found some things he does well. Until they find someone else to do the same things as well, they may as well keep him in the lineup.