Rangers Reel in Drury and Gomez; Re-Sign Vets
The New York Rangers did not stand pat. Unlike their New York-Metroplitan area brethren, they have not only re-signed their veteran players, but made headlines by signing the two biggest free agents on the market. To top it off, they weakened two opponents by inking centers Chris Drury and Scott Gomez.
The New Jersey Devils seemed to have the Blueshirts' number, and Gomez was a big part of that. Rangers' general manager Glen Sather did not waste any time by signing the 27 year-old to a seven-year, $51.5 million deal. Drury, the former Buffalo Sabres captain, joined for five years at $35.25 million.
"We had them ranked both as our first picks, as far as free agents were concerned, in our (organizational) meetings in La Quinta," Sather told reporters on a conference call. "We really didn't think we were going to get both of them, but it just worked out that way. So we're pretty happy."
Following the free agent splash, the Rangers took care of their own by re-signing Brendan Shanahan, Henrik Lundqvist, Petr Prucha and Sean Avery.
Drury, 30, scored 37 goals with 32 assists last season and scored a huge goal in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals versus the rangers with 7.7 seconds remaining. The Trumbull, Connecticut native grew up a Rangers fan and had his sights set on Broadway.
"As a kid, this was the team," Drury said to reporters. "Nothing was bigger or better than the Rangers. I watched them win the Cup when I was a little older. But coming to Madison Square Garden, Bryan Leetch...this is the place."
Gomez, who played in New Jersey for seven seasons, scored 13 goals and had 47 assists a year ago. He also knew where he wanted to sign.
"There's only one stage and it's New York," he told reporters. "The biggest stage there is in the world, Madison Square Garden. There's pressure, that's what makes it fun when you go to work every day."
Both players have tasted champagne from the Stanley Cup and bring a world of experience with them. Drury was on the Colorado Avalanche championship team in 2001 and Gomez won two with the Devils (2000 and 2003).
Prucha, 24, was a restricted free agent and had a productive season, registering 22 goals and 18 assists. Shanahan contemplated retirement after one season in New York where he scored 29 goals with 33 assists. But the 38 year-old forward decided to come back for one more opportunity for a Stanley Cup.
Avery was offered arbitration and is expected back after sparking the team last season after he was acquired in a trade. But the most important piece was Lundqvist, the 25 year-old Swedish goaltender.
"It is clear that Henrik remains committed to the New York Rangers and his teammates," Rangers head coach Tom Renney informed reporters. "His signing allows us to continue to compete at a very high level and pursue our ultimate objective with one of the league's best goaltenders."
Appearing in 70 games during the 2006-07 season, Lundqvist posted a 37-22 record with a 2.34 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. He also had five shutouts.
By getting all of these players signed during the summer, the Rangers are setting themselves up for a good fall and winter. The Garden was electric last season and the team did have a good run in the playoffs. The opening face-off is on October 4 at home versus the Florida Panthers. Drop the puck.