NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Rangers bought out the final year of captain Chris Drury's contract, making the veteran forward an unrestricted free agent after four mediocre seasons, the NHL team said on Wednesday.

Drury, who was expected to help the Rangers return to a Stanley Cup championship when he signed with the team in 2007, scored 62 goals and 89 assists for 151 points in 264 games during his time with the team.

"Chris is a consummate professional, a tremendous competitor and an even better person," Rangers general manager Glen Sather said in a statement. "He gave his heart and soul to the Rangers organization in his time here and we wish him the best in his future endeavors."

Drury, 34, was limited to a career-low 24 games last season because of injuries and is now free to sign with any team.

Buying out Drury's contract frees up valuable cap space for a Rangers team expected to be in the bidding for Dallas Stars center Brad Richards, who is considered the top player available when the NHL's free agency period begins on Friday.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ian Ransom)