If you were to ask people who they felt would be the first two amnesty buyouts under the NHL's new CBA, they probably would have said Wade Redden and Scott Gomez. Apparently lots of folks have ESP, or at the very least have been alive and conscious the past couple of years, because who will be the first two guys bought out? Why, Redden and Gomez, of course!
Redden came first. His huge contract has been buried in the AHL for the past couple of seasons. The Rangers obviously wanted to right a mistake, and didn't want to own up to the $6.5 million cap hit that Redden had so foolishly been signed to. Redden isn't a terrible defenseman, but he was overvalued when he was signed by the Rangers in 2008. A couple of seasons that weren't terrible, but that also weren't worth his salary, and Redden found himself with the Connecticut Whale of the AHL, getting paid large sums of money to play AHL hockey.
Redden isn't an AHL defenseman; he's an ok second pairing guy for a NHL club with tempered aspirations. He'd also be an ok contract for a team that might need to get a bit above the floor, which is why the Rangers are allowing him to be shopped about for a trade before he's off the books at the end of this season. That's pretty courteous to a guy whose only crime was believing how much Glen Sather thought he was worth was correct.
Gomez, who you might remember from the "Did Scott Gomez Score?" website, might be on the Habs but he's still a victim of Glen Sather's lack of frugality. Gomez was signed to a huge UFA deal by Sather in 2007 that had a cap hit of $7,357,143. That's a lot of money to pay someone who was only a 16 goal (and 70 point) player in his first year of the deal. While Sather was unable to find a taker for Redden, Gomez was traded to the Montreal Canadiens, where things progressively went south. He's had nine goals and 49 points over a season and a half, and while not a terrible hockey player certainly hasn't benefited from being in the fishbowl atmosphere that is Montreal. Pressure can be some players' friend; it is not Scott Gomez's. Gomez will be paid $5.5 million to sit at home and not worry about if all of Montreal is fixated on him or not, but I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that he'd rather be playing. He, like Redden, would be a good pick-up for a team with a more laid-back atmosphere who needs to get further above the floor and who would also like a serviceable second or third line center.
Why not just buy the guys out? First off, the teams would like to see them get a chance to get traded. Secondly, and most importantly, buyouts can't happen until June, so the teams are stuck with these guys. Why not let them play? Teams can't buyout injured players, and the last thing the Habs and Rangers want is to not be able to buy out these guys. So, better to have them sit at home waiting for a trade than to have them with the Bulldogs or Whale, getting hurt. It's unfortunate for both of these players that their ability never matched their contract, but in the world of sports, it happens.