Following the announcement that Brian Leetch would continue his 16-year NHL career with the Rangers, he spoke with the local and national media to discuss his free agency experience and what it took to get a deal finalized with the Blueshirts.
Q: Did this go on longer than you anticipated?BL: I didn't really have an anticipation as to how long this was going to last or what was going to happen. The whole process, thanks to Glen, was made pretty easy for me. He's used to working on these contracts over and over and over again. As a player, I've never been in this position and certainly there are a lot of people around you telling you different things. It can turn into an emotional situation and I can see how it can be difficult, but it was never like that for me. Glen never said anything that indicated that he didn't want me back as a New York Ranger. It was just a process of letting the market settle a little bit and figuring out what was best for both of us. It was as painless a situation for me as it could've been.
Q: At any point during these proceedings, did you feel like another team had a shot at signing you and that you wouldn't return to the Rangers?BL: No, I think teams certainly do what they should. Teams did their homework just to see what was going on but I knew if I was going to go somewhere else, I needed to let that team know personally and show interest in going there before that team was going to get too far down the road with me. That wasn't a position I felt comfortable doing with another team. The longer it went into the summer, the more teams called to see what was going on but I wasn't interested in putting myself or another team in that position. Things moved along at a fine pace for me.
Q: How are you feeling physically? Have you done much on it this summer?BL: Actually my ankle has been great. I haven't had a problem with it. I've been able to skate a few times this summer to make sure it felt OK in the skate. My wrist had been sore at the beginning of the summer, but it's been getting better over time. The good news is I have had no problems with the ankle since the end of the season.
Q: What was the stumbling point in negotiations since you became a free agent on July 1?BL: I guess money is the reason that things don't get done immediately. You're always trying to find the price where both sides can say 'yes' to. We were shooting for number after number and I think they were doing the same thing. I think we waited for the market to settle in and they were doing the same. I think we were fairly close right from the beginning of July. It was just getting to this point. I've been very fortunate to play my career at a time where players are making the salaries that we are. I was in a position where I wanted to stay here and the Rangers wanted me to stay here. I'm glad that things worked out.
Q: How important is it for you to finish your career as a New York Ranger?BL: Certainly, that's my goal right now and that's what I'd like to do. As I've said before, I would not like to be a member of the New York Rangers and not be able to be a contributing factor to the success of the team. I still feel like I can contribute and play a role that they expect me to right now. How that unfolds in the years to come ... we'll see. I would love for everything to work out and to finish my career as a Ranger. This is another step in that direction. My obligation now is to play well and stay in shape and be able to contribute.