Chris Drury retires after 12 seasons

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 34-year-old center struggled through an injury-plagued season in which he played only 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 season's 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 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 for the soft-spoken Drury, the statement said he wouldn't be available to discuss his decision.

"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," Rangers general manager Glen Sather 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."

Rangers goaltender Martin Biron reacted to Drury's retirement.

"Honestly, it's a mixed reaction because I'm happy for Chris on a great career, on a lot of achievements throughout his hockey career and so I'm really happy for him that he gets to retire and look back at what he achieved," he said.

"It's sad because he's still a very young guy that may have so much to offer, but when your body limits you to certain things it's probably very difficult. You never get to retire the way you planned it, for all of the Ray Bourque story endings, there's a thousand guys that aren't retiring on their own terms that might not have it the way they expected it to be. I wish him the best obviously."

Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky said Drury was a leader.

"He was a great example for me. The on-ice stuff: He was the type of guy who was willing to do whatever the coach asked of him, whether it was killing a power play or he'd score a big goal," he said. "Just playing with a guy like Chris who always led by example whether it was on the ice or off the ice, I think those are the biggest things that I learned playing with him."

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 for making 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 postseason, where he had 17 game-winners.

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 five-hitter and drove in two runs to lead his 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 never hit it big with the Rangers after he and fellow center Scott Gomez were signed on the same day to bolster the team's offense, which then was powered by Jaromir Jagr.

Neither Drury nor Gomez, who lasted only two seasons with the Rangers, meshed well on a line with Jagr.

The Rangers used the cap space created by the buyout of Drury to sign prized free-agent center Brad Richards to a nine-year, $60 million deal.

Drury could have earned his full $5 million for next season if he chose to apply for a medical exception because of his injured left knee, and it was determined that he wasn't able to play. It isn't clear if Drury is healthy enough to continue his career if he chose to do so.

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Matthew Ehalt and The Associated Press was used in this report.