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Monday, September 27, 2010

Priorities: Wade Redden and Cristobal Huet

In the last few days, both the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks decided to rid themselves of an overpaid, underperforming player. The Rangers waived $6.5-million-dollar-man Wade Redden. Not surprisingly, none of the other 29 teams in the NHL wanted to take on his salary, so Redden is now in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack/Connecticut Whale.

Meanwhile, in Chicago...the Blackhawks loaned goalie Cristobal Huet to HC Fribourg-Gotteron SA of the Swiss National League. The Hawks are still on the hook for Huet's $5.625mil salary for the next two years, but no word yet (that I can find, anyway) on how much the Swiss team will be kicking in.

From a team standpoint, both moves made sense: Get rid of an aging, expensive veteran to clear precious cap space. For either team to keep these players, other moves would've been necessary, and comparable, cheaper players were available.

Both the Redden and Huet situations have a troubling aspect, however: While both players are past their prime, both can still play at the NHL level. The only reason they were thrown overboard was because the salary cap-weight (cap hit) of their contracts was too much to bear.

As a Rangers fan, I've railed against Wade Redden and his terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad contract for the past two seasons. Last season, I was able to admit Redden was/is still a serviceable defenseman, but he's grossly overpaid. If he were making, say, $1-$1.5mil, I don't believe I'd have burned Redden in effigy nearly as often. More importantly, I'm sure he would still be a New York Ranger today, were his contract more in line with his abilities.

Cristobal Huet's case is similar. He can no longer be considered a reliable starting goalie (whether he ever could is debatable), but...if he were making $1.25mil, instead of $5.625mil, I'm sure most Blackhawks fans would rather see Huet in the backup role than Corey Crawford.

Obviously, team management deserves a fair share of blame for both situations...and I'm not just talking about Glen Sather and Dale Tallon: signing a free agent can be much like an auction, and both the Rangers and Blackhawks had to outbid other teams to "win" the players in question. Thus, other bidders (teams) contributed to inflating the players' perceived value.

Player agents also get a serving of blame. Obviously, it's an agents' job to get as much money for his client as he possibly can. As the agent gets a percentage of that money, he's got plenty of incentive to do his job to the best of his ability. By "doing their best", however, two agents contributed to the premature end of their clients' NHL careers. Since those agents will still be paid in full, why should they care which league their clients end up in?

Ultimately, the players themselves must also be held accountable, for they signed on the dotted line. At the time, I doubt either Redden or Huet realized they were ending their NHL careers by agreeing to those terrible contracts. I'll always wonder if either player thought to himself, "Wow - there's no way I'm worth that much money!"

To my knowledge, neither player offered to take a pay cut or to otherwise restructure his contract in order to remain in the NHL, so it seems clear Huet is content with his Cup ring, and Redden would rather be the highest-paid player in the AHL than to have a shot at Lord Stanley's Cup. They've chosen their respective paths. It's unfortunate - sad, even - to see two NHL careers ended not by retirement, but by greed.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.

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