That’s what it comes down to now for Wade Redden. The Rangers defenseman cleared waivers at noon and was assigned to their AHL team in Hartford, but whether he’ll report and potentially spend the balance of the four-year contract he has with New York is still unclear.
What is certain is that he is done with the Rangers and maybe even the NHL, although Redden is only 33 and was considered one of the league’s top rearguards not that many years ago.
But the veteran’s career has been in something of a free fall since the Ottawa Senators made the fateful decision to keep him instead of Zdeno Chara in 2006. His play slipped noticeably in the aftermath and the Senators wanted Redden to take a steep pay cut when his contract expired two years later. Instead, Redden jumped to New York where he got what now seems (then too actually) like him a ridiculous deal for $39 million over six years.
With only five goals in two seasons, and weak play in his own end, Redden has in essence bombed in New York, although the rest of the team has been no great shakes during his time there either. But the Rangers can’t get rid of the defenseman him easily because there is so much term and money left on his deal. And more important, his cap hit of $6.5 million is crushing for someone who hasn’t been a top two defenseman since the lockout.
Fortunately for the Rangers, the parent company has enough deep pockets to bury Redden’s cap hit. They’ll pay him his full contract in the minors, but it won’t count against their cap which is what really matters to the organization.
If New York does work out a deal to move Redden, it will put Redden on waivers again and end up on the hook for only half his salary for the rest of the contract. Or the Rangers could buy him out and have the reduced amount count against the cap for a few extra years. Whatever happens, he won't starve.
In the meantime, the New York Post says the Rangers have given his agent permission to seek a landing spot in Europe for Redden. New York will pay him just the same if he’s loaned to a European club, but the playing seasons are much shorter and not as taxing on the body.
Of course Redden has to report to Hartford and spend his foreseable future riding the buses and play three games in three nights. There has been speculation that Redden won't go to the minors at this stage of his career, a decision that would nullify his contract and make him a free agent. That could make it easier for Redden to catch on with an NHL team, albeit at much reduced price.
Pride has a price and maybe one that's worth it to Redden. It better with $23 million still owed him by the Rangers.