Ever since Glen Sather bought out Chris Drury's massive contract, there has been speculation on whether or not Habs management would be interested in securing Drury's services as their 4th line center.
It's not a secret (and we have touched on it in the past) that Pierre Gauthier and Jacques Martin are trying to build a team built on speed and skill up front and veteran leadership at the back. A definite bonus is if a player has been an established or proven winner throughout his career.
This blueprint has looked very promising that it can and will deliver results in the post-lockout NHL. Clearly though, there have been some exceptions especially when it came to filling in the role of 4th line center. Starting with Bryan Smolinski, continuing through to Glen Metropolit, and last year's foray with Jeff Halpern. All of those signings ended up working albeit with varying levels of success.
The problem here is that all of those guys were signed to fill a lessor role knowing that they had lost a step (or two) due to age and they were willing to do whatever was being asked of them in order to remain in the NHL. I'm not sure that same scenario would play out as smoothly with Chris Drury.
First off, it should be noted that Drury's career is being threatened by a degenerative knee condition (that almost didn't allow the Rangers to complete their buyout of him). So the whole premise of this debate is contingent on the notion that Drury believes that he will recover. My fear, is that when a player loses his ability to compete and play due to injury rather than age, it's much harder to come to terms with it as the degradation occurs rather quickly not over an extended period of time.
Drury is a proven winner, a heart and soul guy with a ton of character and compete in him. Is he going to be okay accepting a $1M-1.5M/yr contract? Maybe. Is he going to be fine when he falters and Martin makes his a healthy scratch for the first time (how about the 10th time)? Maybe. Those are just two of many possible scenarios that Drury would have to deal with and you can imagine the effect it would have on the dynamic of the room when someone as respected as he is would be upset. Especially, if his friends on the team played a part in his signing as Gionta had on Cole.
For arguments sake, let's say that he is fine with both of my hypotheticals, then what exactly has he proven? That he's a team player, who can contribute and show that he's a playoff performer? All of these qualities are already attributed to Drury. If anything, it may be actually highlight his lack of speed on a team filled with speedy forwards.
If I'm Chris Drury or his agent. I'm actually looking for a team that's really lacking any depth at the center position and hoping that I can possibly move up the ladder through the season to prove that I have what it takes to play at a high-level once again. Drury should be looking at a team where he might be able to play some powerplay minutes and some decent 2nd/3rd line center minutes. I'm not saying that can happen, I'm just saying that's what Drury should be looking at.
If anything, I believe this may be the year for Habs management to stop making exceptions and stick to that age-old mantra of: speed kills!
***Update [1:51pm 21AUG11]: As most of you are aware now, Chris Drury has announced his retirement. Clearly, his knee injury being degenerative was accurate and considering his past contract, I think it's prudent and relatively smart of Chris to make sure his quality of life going forward takes precedence over another contract.***