Any conversation over the worst contracts in the NHL will inevitably lead to discussion of Glen Sather and his role as architect for many of those deals. To the casual observer, a quick glance at the Rangers salary chart at CapGeek would say that financial obligations in New York don’t look so bad. Thanks to some shifty damage control from Sather and the Rangers, that observation could be considered, in part, true.

Other than the disastrous $7+ million overpayment due to Chris Drury next season in the final year of a 5-year deal, the Rangers appear to be heading for good financial standing in 2011-12. With thanks to the banishment of Wade Redden and the nearly $20 million he’s still owed to the AHL, the unloading of Scott Gomez, and the trade of Michal Rozsival‘s annual $5 million cap hit, Sather has effectively washed his hands clean of three of the worst contracts signed in the last ten years. Granted, Redden’s situation is an intriguing case in that he could probably play for the Rangers and many other NHL teams, but is in essence being discriminated against for his large contract.

Of the Rangers remaining major financial obligations, Marian Gaborik, Henrik Lundqvist, and Drury are the only players that crack the league’s top 25 cap hits. Lundqvist is the league’s top cap hit among goaltenders, although Roberto Luongo’s salary is greater. Lundqvist is an elite NHL goaltender and is just 28-years old, so it’s not otherworldly to justify his contract. Gaborik, though, has taken some heat from critics for his play this season but was 5th in league scoring and 10th overall in points a year ago. Scott Gomez he is not. With one year left on his deal and plenty of injuries, Chris Drury could very well be a potential buyout candidate this summer.

Outside of Gaborik, Lundqvist, and Drury, the Rangers largest financial commitment (that counts against the cap) is being paid to recently acquired Bryan McCabe. The McCabe acquisition is actually case of Sather picking up a large contract at the right time as the 35-year old defenceman’s $5.75 million cap hit comes off the books at season’s end. Still, his salary looks like a natural fit on Sather’s team. Rangers fans should consider themselves blessed that Sather didn’t pick up Sheldon Souray, regardless of the discount afforded by reentry waivers.

Even with Sather’s trading away of problem contracts and camouflage job on Redden, Sather’s contribution to expensive management decisions is undeniable.

Glen Sather currently controls or was responsible for four of the league’s 20 highest cap hits among all players, via CapGeek:

As for defencemen, Sather is attached to three of the top 20 cap hits:

You could put Glen Sather and Darryl Sutter in an empty room with no phone and a duffel bag of cash and the only guarantee would be the money getting spent.

Sather has the Rangers poised to enter the 2011-12 season with some cash in hand which, in all likelihood, will be used to entice UFA-to be Brad Richards to move to Broadway. Past mistakes like Redden, Rozsival, and Gomez are gone, but the fact remains that the New York Rangers have won just two playoff series in the last 12 years. Armed with a youthful core, a game changing goaltender, and an elite scorer – the Rangers could be serious contenders with the right moves.

That will depend largely upon Sather to avoid making costly mistakes like he has in the past. That’s no simple task.