It seemed like cruel and unusual punishment, in all reality. Players with massive contracts who were expected to be bought out next year had to sit due to the fear of the players suffering an injury and not being eligible to be bought out the next year. The risk was simply too great for teams to risk.
The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadians had no choice but to keep both of them off the ice. Even though Wade Redden would have been a serviceable bottom-pair defenseman for the Rangers this year they couldn't risk not being able to remove his cap hit next season.
So the NHL and the NHLPA worked on a solution, and came up with a great one: Players can be bought out this summer if they give their consent (a written letter is due Friday) and even then the cap hit would sit for this season before being removed next year. The Rangers -- with tons of cap room this season -- won't have any issues holding Redden's cap hit this year.
As for the next part of the equation: Scott Gomez. Gomez is in the same situation that Redden is in, and the Canadians made the same decision the Rangers did. Some (fans) have suggested the Rangers look into Gomez for the league minimum, since he will be a free agent when the Canadians buy him out.
I don't think the Rangers will (or should) make that move. Gomez played very sheltered minutes last year, put up 11 points in 38 games and was a massive disappointment for Montreal. The role the Rangers would need out of Gomez (some depth for the third or fourth line) renders him useless.
Redden probably would have played if the Rangers didn't have to worry about him getting hurt. Redden will become a free agent once he's bought out, and I have no doubt that he'll find a home almost instantly.
Either way, the NHL and the NHLPA did the right thing for both players. Good on them.
Now all four parties (both players and both teams) can move on.