Last night at the 25th Annual Sports Legend Dinner to benefit the Buoniciti Fund to Cure Paralysis, Hall of Famer Brian Leetch gave perhaps his first, and last, interview standing over a salmon appetizer in the Waldorf Astoria Ballroom. (He had to practically shout to be heard over the Pointer Sisters singing "Jump (For My Love)" in the background.) After predicting that the Rangers could finish anywhere from fifth to tenth in the East this year, Leetch spoke with The Sports Section about Wade Redden, the Rangers defenseman who'd made headlines earlier in the day when the team assigned him to Hartford of the AHL.
"It's unfortunate for everybody," Leetch said of the widely anticipated waiver move. "The Rangers wouldn't have liked to do that. Obviously, for someone who has played in the league that long, it's going to be hard for him, too. The flip side is that with the salary cap and young players coming up, it is part of the process. It's the reality of the game these days." Leetch acknowledged that such roster moves — designed to hide bad contracts in the minor leagues — weren't necessarily what anyone had in mind when the current collective-bargaining agreement was drafted. "It was probably something the Rangers didn't anticipate," he said. "There are always things in the bargain agreements that no one sees, just like the long-term contracts."
As for the contract that caused this mess to begin with, Leetch said that Redden had a lot of leverage when he signed the six-year, $39 million deal in 2008. Still, he defends the team's decision to acquire the defenseman. "When a team has a need in that area they'll overpay to get you there," he said. "That's kind of what the Rangers fell into. They needed a veteran player that could eat up minutes and bring offensive energy and they took their gamble on credit. It wasn't a bad gamble because he was an elite player, but as it turned out, both sides lost."