After 14 NHL seasons and $69,615,666 in career earnings, Wade Redden announced his retirement from professional hockey at the tender age of 36.
*Glances at the Boston Bruin’s website to check if Zdeno Chara is still playing in the ‘new NHL’. He is.*
Perhaps unfairly, Redden will forever be linked to Zdeno Chara thanks to John Muckler’s inability to get the franchise defencemen signed to long-term contracts that would keep the two in Ottawa for a very long time.
Over the years, many theories have been bandied about explaining how management could have let this happen.
It never helped that the lockout that wiped out the entire 2004/05 season brought about rules that sped up the game. Coupled with the regular season success of a small and speedy Buffalo Sabres team that knocked off an injury-plagued Senators team, narratives were created wondering whether Chara could keep up in the ‘new NHL’; ignoring the fact that he was unique physical specimen who still posted 16 goals and 43 points and was playing down the stretch with a broken wrist.
Perhaps management bought into this idea of faster and smaller NHL and it fuelled their decision to lean away from Chara.
Another explanation concerned how Chara’s decision to leave dated back to the organization’s treatment of his friend, countryman and teammate, Marian Hossa.
As a restricted free agent, Marian Hossa elected for arbitration in the summer of 2005. Just minutes before his scheduled hearing with arbitrator, Hossa agreed to a three-year, $18-million deal with the Senators. Just a few short hours later, he was dealt with defenceman Greg deVries to the Atlanta Thrashers for Dany Heatley.
Or, maybe… just maybe, John Muckler was just an incredibly inept GM whose management skills undid years of calculated good work by his predecessors.
Whatever the case, the loss of the ‘Big Z’ was ultimately helped facilitate and accelerate this team’s decline from a Stanley Cup contender to Stanley Cup pretender to what we see today and unfortunately, because of John Muckler, fans have this instinctive kneejerk reaction to shit all over Redden.
Granted, rumours that many of the Senators players suffered from drug abuse during this era were widespread, but they were never proven. Suffice it to say, if true, these players should consider themselves lucky that they never played in this era when social media allows photos, tweets and information to flow so freely.
But, a lot of Redden’s criticisms come whenever Chara’s name is broached because somehow, it’s his fault that he put his name on a contract that John Muckler presented to him.
It was stupid and he didn’t deserve that.
Don’t get me wrong, for some time, I harboured some resentment towards Wade, but that only really came after his two-year extension with the Senators was drawing to a close.
During the 2007/08 season, his last with this franchise, the Senators struggled mightily and reports alleged that Bryan Murray approached Wade about entertaining the idea of waiving his NTC. As was his negotiated right, Wade declined – preferring to play out the remainder of the year and try to sort things. Even though as an impending UFA, the writing was essentially on the wall that he wasn’t going to be brought back.
At the time, I had heard a rumour that Murray was negotiating a three-way deal that would have sent Redden to San Jose for Patrick Marleau before flipping Marleau to Philadelphia for Jeff Carter.
Here is the statement, via the NHLPA, that Redden released today:
“I would first and foremost like to thank my family and friends for their unconditional love and support. I would also like to thank my teammates, coaches and staff for all the great memories created throughout the years. To the fans, I appreciate all your support throughout my career,” said Redden. “Playing in the National Hockey League has been a dream come true and I feel very proud and privileged to have played more than 1,000 games in 14 NHL seasons.”
The five things I’ll remember most about Redden are:
1. Gord Wilson’s adulation for Wade Redden’s first pass.
2. Larry Brooks ripping on the $69 million, six-year contract Glen Sather gave Redden on the first day of free agency in 2008. He eventually called it "the worst (contract) in the history of the NHL, if not in the history of hard-cap pro sports."
3. Growing up in the west end, I remember going to the Kanata Centrum following a Leafs/Sens game. On my way into O’Connor’s pub with some friends, I noticed Wade Redden walking into the bar at the same time. I wasn’t the only one to notice him. A guy wearing a Leafs jersey who was urinating into a planter just outside the bar saw him too, which led to the following exchange:
“Hey, Redden!” he bellowed out, “Suck my dick!”
Not missing a beat, Redden casually and calmly responded with, “Sorry, I choke on small bones.”
4. Redden being the first to hug Ron Tugnutt after Ottawa clinched its first ever postseason berth.
5. This fight with Sergei Kostitsyn:
6. His first NHL goal after his lengthy hiatus/banishment to the minors where his contract was buried:
Regardless of what you think of Redden or how bitter you are about John Muckler, in his prime, he was a very good offensive/puck-moving defenceman for this franchise for many years.
The following regular season leaderboards show where Redden ranks in franchise history amongst defencemen:
- Games Played: 838 regular season games (2nd)
- Goals: 101 (1st)
- Assists: 309 (1st)
- Points: 410 (1st)
- +/-: 159 (1st)
- Game Winning Goals: 21
It’s worth mentioning that I don’t think his play warrants his number being retired by the Senators. Despite his rank on the various Senator leaderboards, relative to the rest of the league, he was very good but never great. He only appeared in one All-Star Game (2002) and was never a finalist for the Norris Trophy.
Wade Redden, if you ever wind up reading this, congratulations on a fantastic career and congratulations for playing your last NHL game in last year’s Eastern Conference quarterfinals. In finally beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, I couldn’t imagine a much better way for you to go out.