With the Rangers seemingly out of the playoffs, thoughts are turning to the future, and how to make the Rangers a better team for both next season and beyond. Unfortunately, the Rangers are in a very bad spot with the salary cap, due in large part to the contract given to Wade Redden. This is not a post to bash Redden, as he would be a serviceable sixth defenseman if signed to the right price. I am sure he is a nice guy. The problem is that General Manager Glen Sather signed him to one of the most absurd contracts in recent memory. The contract, with another four years and $23 million ($6.5 million cap hit) remaining, is simply untradeable. Since NHL contracts are guaranteed, the Rangers are left with few options to rid themselves of this contract and alleviate their current salary cap situation.
Most fans realize that Redden won’t be traded, and that the only way the Rangers will get rid of the albatross contract is to either demote him or buy him out. Buying him out leaves the Rangers with a smaller cap hit (anywhere from $2 million to $4 million, depending on the season), but that cap hit is spread out for the next eight seasons. To make a comparison, the Rangers buying out Wade Redden would be extremely similar to the Islanders buying out Alexei Yashin. For those wondering, the Islanders are still paying Yashin, and will continue to do so for the next six seasons.
That leaves the Rangers with one viable option, and that is sending Redden to the minors. Waiving him will have some immediate positives, including clearing the full $6.5 million on the cap, opening up a spot on the blue line for some youth, or opening up a spot for a different, more effective free agent. What many don’t realize is that there are some negatives to waiving Redden.
The first, and probably the biggest issue, is that although James Dolan can afford to pay Redden to play in Hartford for $6.5 million, he in all likelihood does not want to do so. Hockey is still a business, and paying a player $6.5 million to play in Hartford would really get under his skin. Ownership being unwilling to pay Redden to play for Hartford is the single biggest obstacle that would prevent this from happening.
This situation is not the same situation as when Darius Kasparitis was sent to Hartford. The one big difference now is that MSG (of which the Rangers are a subsidiary) has now been spun off. The $3 million that the Rangers were eating in Kaspar’s salary was easily absorbed by Cablevision’s profits. Now that MSG has been spun off, the $6.5 million from Wade Redden has a much, much larger impact on the bottom line. MSG was spun off from Cablevision because it was dragging down Cablevision’s stock price. If MSG was operating at that little profit while with Cablevision, imagine how little it would be when they are eating $6.5 million in Hartford.
Aside from ownership, there are still other issues to ponder. Of the 18 skaters that dress for an AHL game, 13 of these spots must be reserved for players that have played under 260 professional (NHL, AHL, ECHL) games. The AHL calls this the “developmental rule”. Currently, the Wolfpack have eight players that hit this threshold (Anders Eriksson, Ilkka Heikkinen [via international hockey], Donald Brashear, P.A. Parenteau, Derek Couture, Steve Valiquette, Brent Henley, Corey Locke). In addition, the following four players will reach that threshold next year: Brodie Dupont, Jared Nightingale, Dane Byers, Ryan Garlock. That brings the total to 12 players hitting this threshold for next year. Of course, not all these players will be back next year, as most have expiring contracts, and not all will be re-signed. It’s still a good number of “professional” players sitting in Hartford.
If he is sent to Hartford, the next question to ponder is if Redden would actually show up for his assignment to Hartford. Redden is within his right to refuse the assignment and not show up, in which case the Rangers can suspend him. This situation would be identical to the Sergei Kostitsyn situation in Montreal to start the season. I am unsure if the Rangers still pay Redden if he is suspended (I would assume they do not), but his salary would be cleared.
The Rangers are facing a very big salary cap issue heading into the future. This problem can be alleviated by getting rid of Wade Redden’s contract by sending him to the minors. We can debate the positives and negatives as much as we want, but in the end the largest determining factor will be the financial implications of MSG’s profits. Since they are no longer a part of Cablevision, the loss suffered by waiving Redden would affect the bottom line more than it would have in the past. In the end, hockey is a business.