Senators Alphabet: W is for Wade
W is for Wade, as in Wade Redden, Ottawa's former #6. Unfortunately, Redden's time in Ottawa is now defined by the Chara/Redden debate of 2006 and his quick decline from NHL All-Star and Canadian Olympian to AHL regular. And while his decline in play in his last two seasons in Ottawa was rapid, it should not overshadow his generally successful 11-year career with the Ottawa Senators.
While certain off-ice issues (including multiple refusals to waive his no-trade clause) have been held against Redden, it should be remembered that he initially joined the team amidst growing controversy and turmoil. Redden, a two-time gold medalist with Canada's World Junior team, was drafted 2nd overall by the New York Islanders during the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. Ottawa, which had the first pick in that draft, took highly-touted defenseman Bryan Berard 1st overall. Berard, who would eventually win the Calder Trophy in 1997 as the NHL's best rookie, would not report to the Sens, who were in some disarray at the time. This resulted in Ottawa being forced to trade their number one pick. In January 1996, Berard was traded with Don Beaupre and Martin Straka, for Redden and Damian Rhodes. While it paid immediate dividends for the Islanders, Redden would become an integral part of Ottawa's defense for more than a decade, while Berard lasted only four seasons on Long Island before joining the Maple Leafs.
Redden's leadership role with the club was cemented when he became an alternate captain at the beginning of the 1999-2000 season. Redden play on the ice was improving as well. He was an NHL All-Star in 2002 and 2004 and represented Canada at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and the 2006 Olympics in Turin. During this five-season span, Redden had a reputation as a puck-moving defenseman, recording point totals of 47 in 2000-01, 34 points in 2001-02, 45 points in 2002-03, 43 points in 2003-04, and his career high 50 points, in only 65 games, in 2005-06. He was also a +123 during that span.
While the 2005-06 season was one of personal successes for Redden, it was also one of tragedy. He played only 65 games that season because of a knee injury and to be with his ailing mother as she battled cancer. Redden lost his mother during the playoffs that season, and his play upon returning to the team was inspired. He scored 2 goals, 8 assists, for 10 points in 9 games that postseason.
The end of the 2005-06 season also marked a pivotal decision in the team's history: Chara or Redden. This decision has been the subject of much revisionist history. It was never as simple as a straight up preference for one player over the other. Affording both players early in the salary cap era (the salary cap was $44 million in 2006-07) would have been extremely difficult without both players taking considerable hometown discounts (Redden eventually signed for $6.5 million/2 yrs; Chara $7.5 million/5 yrs). Both players were coming off career years: Chara played in 71 games in 2005-06, scoring 16 goals, 27 assists, and 43 points, with 135 PIMs, and was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team, while Redden played in 65 games, scoring 10 goals, 40 assists, for 50 points, with 63 PIMs and was a +35, winning the NHL Plus/Minus Award. Personalities played into it as well. The relationships between the two players and management played into it. Redden's longevity with the Sens played into it. Wade's work in the community (initiatives like "Wade's World" come to mind) probably played into it. It was never just Chara or Redden.
The deal might not have been so universally panned if Redden had adjusted to playing with new partner Andrej Meszaros quicker. However, the pair took longer to gel than expected and Redden had a disappointing regular season in 2006-07: 64 GP-7 G-29 A-36 PTS-63 PIM, +1. Redden was now the highest paid player on the team and everyone expected more. Redden improved during the Cup run that season, with 3 goals and 7 assists, for 10 points in 20 games, but was largely anonymous, like so many Senators, during the Stanley Cup Finals.
The 2007-08 season confirmed Sens fans' worst fears: Redden had lost a step or two and had lost his game. In that season, Redden had a mere 6 goals, adding 32 assists for 38 points. Two seasons before he was a 0.77 PTS/GP player, in 2007-08 he had slipped to 0.48 PTS/GP. Adding to the trouble was new GM Bryan Murray's public attempts to get Redden to waive his no-trade clause on two separate occasions. The first was at the NHL Entry Draft in the June 2007. Redden refused a trade to the Edmonton Oilers and the trade rumours continued all season. In the winter of 2008, Murray again asked Redden to waive his no-trade clause, this time for a deal with the San Jose Sharks that would have sent Matt Carle and a draft pick to Ottawa in exchange for Wade, but the move was nixed by Ottawa's #6. Redden's poor play and refusals did not sit well with a fan base who was witnessing their team slide in the second half of the season.
By the time the Sens were eliminated by Pittsburgh that spring, it was apparent that Redden had played his last game as a Senator. Fortunately, Ottawa did not make the same mistakes as the Rangers, who signed Redden to six-year $39 million deal. The contract has been called "the worst in the history of the NHL, if not in the history of hard-cap pro sports" by the New York Post. In two difficult years on the Rangers blue line, Redden's play continued to decline, as he contributed a mere 40 points, in 156 games, or a 0.26 PTS/GP with New York. Frustrated by his play, but more so by their lack of cap-space and his albatross of a contract, Redden was banished to the AHL in the fall of 2010. Redden considered retirement, but has since embraced his role with the Connecticut Whale, New York's AHL affiliate, and currently serves as the team's captain.
While many remember Redden for his last years with the Sens and Rangers, he was an integral member of the Senators for a decade, joining the team when other top prospects refused, and helped bring Ottawa stability and legitimacy, while establishing the club as perennial Cup contenders.