The Rangers solved their Wade Redden problem back in September, sending the underachieving, handsomely paid defenseman to the AHL. They gave themselves more salary-cap flexibility and allowed rookies Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh to blossom into the second-pair regulars they will both be when this September's training camp opens.
But Redden is back, in a way. His $6.5-million cap hit will be back on the books when July 1 comes, meaning there's little roster flexibility for the Rangers to improve, especially on defense.
Redden had spoken of considering retirement once his full season with Connecticut ended, as it did last weekend with the Whale's six-game playoff loss to Portland. Redden's agent, Don Meehan, told Newsday in an email that he's had no discussions with his client regarding retirement; Redden has three years and $16.5-million left to collect.
Few around the league, from players to executives, expect Redden to walk away from that money, even if it means another year in the AHL.
So Glen Sather, who signed Redden to the six-year, $39-million deal, will likely have to consider other moves. A buyout would mean the Rangers would have $1.833-million of dead cap space in 2011-12, $3.33-million of dead space the following two seasons and $1.833-million of dead space the three seasons after that. No chance the Rangers will buy out Redden to hamstring themselves.
Until Redden can be waived again in September, the Rangers have to work around him.
Garth Snow gave the go-ahead for oft-injured defenseman Milan Jurcina to play for Slovakia, the host country, in the IIHF World Championships that began on Friday. Snow told Newsday that Jurcina, who missed 36 games with various hamstring injuries, stayed on Long Island for an extra week to show the team he was healthy.
Henrik Lundqvist told Sweden no on the strong advice of the Rangers, who don't want their franchise goaltender playing any more games than necessary.
It's the fine line that NHL execs and coaches walk with players invited to play in the Worlds, a tournament that means far more to the European countries whose pro leagues are already finished than to the NHL, whose best players and teams are still playing.
But the Rangers did allow rookies Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan, along with prized prospect Chris Kreider, to go to Slovakia with the U.S. squad and play for former Islander coach Scott Gordon. Snow did allow John Tavares, who suffered a broken foot in last spring's Worlds in Germany, to return and play for Team Canada.
For the younger players, extra competition in such environments is helpful. Marian Gaborik also got approval to play for Slovakia, even though he tweaked his groin in last year's Olympics. But perhaps Gaborik can have a positive experience to carry him into the summer.