NEW YORK (AP) -The New York Rangers solved their problems at center in a big way Sunday, signing Scott Gomez and Chris Drury away from Eastern Conference rivals on the first day of free agency.
Just hours after the summer shopping season opened, the Rangers landed the two biggest available centers - plucking Gomez from Atlantic Division-foe New Jersey and Drury from the Buffalo Sabres, the team that knocked New York out in the second round of this year's playoffs.
Gomez signed a seven-year deal with the Rangers worth $51.5 million - including $10 million next season. Drury inked a five-year contract for $35.25 million. He will earn $7.1 million each of the next two seasons.
The Rangers had been looking for a second-line center to play with forward Brendan Shanahan, and now can plug Gomez into that spot. Drury's signing means that New York will let unrestricted free agent Michael Nylander leave, which will create a spot on the top line for Drury to play alongside Jaromir Jagr.
The 27-year Gomez, a two-time Stanley Cup champion in his seven NHL seasons - all with the Devils - had 13 goals and 47 assists in 72 games with the Devils.
Shanahan hasn't signed a new deal yet, but said after the season that he wanted to return to New York.
Drury, from nearby Trumbull, Conn., joined fellow Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere in leaving Buffalo on Sunday. Briere signed an eight-year, $52 million contract with Philadelphia - another division rival of the Rangers.
Drury, 30, scored a career-high 69 points - including 37 goals - for the Sabres. Buffalo had an NHL-best 113 points this season, but the balance of power in the East clearly shifted toward the Atlantic Division on Sunday.
The Rangers lost a tight, six-game series to Buffalo in the second round. New York was poised to take a 3-2 series lead in Game 5 when Drury scored the tying goal with 7.7 seconds left in regulation. The Sabres then won 2-1 in overtime to take control back in the series.