When Chris Drury and Scott Gomez signed big free agent deals with the Rangers before the 2007-08 season, it was heralded as the start of a bright new era for a team that went through a lot of darkness.
Unfortunately things worked out about as well as every other big acquisition the Rangers made with Glen Sather running the team. Past glories were never repeated, injuries sapped talent and the team slogged along behind two players who could never be the players that everyone wanted them to be.
Gomez was traded away long ago and Drury has now joined him as an ex-Ranger. The team bought out the final year of Drury's contract, buying themselves some extra salary cap room and ridding themelves of a player who was no longer useful for anything other than killing penalties or taking the occasional faceoff.
When Gomez left, there was some celebration, but there shouldn't be any smiles about Drury's departure. He was never the elite player the team paid him to be, but he always worked hard and always conducted himself like the guy wearing the "C" on his jersey is supposed to conduct himself.
That didn't change come the bitter end of his tenure.
"It was a great honor and privilege to be a New York Ranger for the past four years, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to fulfill that childhood dream," Drury said in a statement. "The Rangers are a first-class organization with great people in the hockey, public relations, team services and community relations departments."
"I would also like to thank Ranger fans. They always inspired me to do the best I could in whatever role I was asked to play. Playing before them in the Garden was a thrill of a lifetime. I wish all the fans and the entire Ranger organization the best of luck in the future."
There's some irony in Drury's departure as the money saved on his deal is expected to be put toward a contract offer for free agent center Brad Richards to be the guy that Gomez and Drury failed to be during their tenures. Richards won the Conn Smythe Award with John Tortorella in Tampa and will command a hefty sum to center some team's first line for the next few years.
It would be easy to ridicule the Rangers for going down this road. Their history with free agents and Richards's history with concussions are major causes for concern, but last year's team had such a glaring lack of skill that you can't blame Sather for overlooking both of those things when deciding on the best path forward.
So let's hope that if the Rangers do land Richards that he lives up to his billing as first-rate talent on the ice as well as flashing Drury-esque character off of it. That's the mix that has eluded the franchise for ages and it is one they desperately need to take the next step.