Former Buffalo Sabres co-captain Chris Drury retired from the NHL on Friday after 12 seasons, unable to hook up with a new team after the New York Rangers bought out the final year of their captain's contract in June.
The center struggled through a final injury-plagued season with New York that limited him to 24 games. He returned for the final regular-season game and scored his lone goal in a win over New Jersey that helped the Rangers clinch a playoff spot. That was the only highlight for Drury, who posted just five points and then added an assist in New York's first-round playoff loss to Washington.
Drury was let go by the Rangers in late June after a largely disappointing four seasons, including three as captain. Drury was given $3.333 million for the buyout that closed the five-year, $35.25 million deal he signed with New York after leaving Buffalo as a free agent in 2007.
He announced his retirement Friday -- one day before his 35th birthday -- in a statement released by the NHL Players' Association. And in typical fashion, the statement said Drury wouldn't be available to discuss the decision.
In 892 career NHL games with Colorado, Calgary, Buffalo and the Rangers, Drury had 255 goals and 615 points. Even more impressive was his knack to make the big play at the key time. Drury scored 47 game-winning goals in the regular season, but he really made his mark in the playoffs where 17 of his 47 goals in 135 games were winners.
Drury spent three seasons as a Sabre and shared the captaincy with Danny Briere. He had 37 goals (17 on the power play) and 32 assists for a career-high 69 points for the 2006-07 team. Drury opted to sign with the Rangers as a free agent after that season.
"Throughout his career, Chris Drury was always a great competitor, a tremendous leader and teammate, and the heart-and-soul type of player that every team would love to have," Glen Sather, the Rangers' president and general manager, said in a statement. "His commitment, determination and will to win were apparent each and every day.
"Those characteristics will have a lasting impact on all those who were fortunate enough to learn from Chris over his 12 years in the National Hockey League."
A three-time Olympian, Drury was a Stanley Cup champion in 2001 with the Avalanche, but his winning ways go much further back. While playing for Trumbull, Conn., Drury pitched a complete-game five-hitter and drove in two runs to lead his hometown team to the 1989 Little League World Series title. It seems only fitting that he announced the end of his athletic career while this year's Little League World Series is being played in Williamsport, Pa.
Drury won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player at Boston University in 1998, then the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's top rookie a year later.