BY MIKE BURSE – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
The second overall pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders has been an unfortunate casualty of the business side of the National Hockey League. Wade Redden spent the first 11 years of his NHL career as a core piece of the Ottawa Senators defence, even serving as an assistant captain for nine years. However, the later years of his career have been sacrificed due to the business that is the NHL.
His career with Ottawa began its crossroad when, after the 2005-06 NHL season, both he and Zdeno Chara were set to become unrestricted free agents.
The Senators had a tough decision to make: Which of the two would they keep?
It was clear that they were equal in the regular season. However, in the playoffs, Redden was clearly more valuable from a point-production stand point. Thus, the decision was made to allow Chara to walk as a UFA, and the Senators signed Redden to a two-year $13 million deal ($6.5 million cap hit) with a no trade clause included.
Over the course of the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons, the Senators saw a decline in Redden’s production.
Redden had 74 points through 144 regular season games and 11 points through 24 playoff games. From 2001-02 to 2005-06 his points per game were 0.57 in the regular season and 0.54 in the playoffs. But from 2006-07 to 2007-08 his points per game had dropped to 0.51 in the regular season and 0.45 in the playoffs. Not a big drop but a noticeable dip in production for a player pushing 31 by the end of the 2007-08 NHL season.
Newly hired general manager Bryan Murray obviously saw this trend with his aging defenceman and attempted to trade him twice during 2007-08.
Murray first attempted to deal Redden to the Edmonton Oilers at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. But Redden invoked his no trade clause.
In February 2008, Ottawa had a deal in place with the San Jose Sharks to send Redden to the Sharks with defenceman Matt Carle and a draft pick coming back to Ottawa. Once again, Redden nixed the trade and expressed his desire to win a Stanley Cup in Ottawa.
It became clear that the Senators did not have Redden in their future plans and allowed him to leave as a UFA at the end of the 2007-08 season. On the opening day of free agency, New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather signed Redden to a six-year, $39 million contract that had a cap hit of $6.5 million.
This was the beginning of the end of Redden’s NHL career.
Throughout the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons with the Rangers, Redden contributed 40 points through 156 regular season games (0.25 points per game) and two points through seven playoff games (0.28 points per game). These numbers were a large drop off from his previous totals and not anywhere near the production required for a $6.5 million cap hit.
In September 2010, Sather placed Redden on waivers and assigned him to the AHL, clearing his $6.5 million cap hit and allotting the cap money to more effective players.
Of course, Redden considered retirement, but at the time he was only 33 years old. His passion for hockey was too great. He decided to report to the Rangers AHL affiliate in Hartford and bide his time until another NHL opportunity was available.
Now Redden is 35 years old, and his NHL window is closing quickly. He has put together a couple of good seasons in the AHL with 62 points through 119 regular season games (0.52 points per game) and seven points through 15 playoff games (0.46 points per game). He still has two more years left at a $6.5 million cap hit, but his actual salary has dropped to $5 million for the next two seasons.
Perhaps a team looking to get to the cap floor will take a chance on Redden as I am sure the Rangers are willing to lose him on waivers or trade him for “future considerations” at this point. If not, he will be 37 years old by the time his current contract runs out and he is a UFA again.
During his time in the AHL, Redden has been a consummate professional and a great role model for the young players with the Rangers AHL affiliate. I cannot imagine that once his current contract is up an NHL team would not sign him to play at the NHL level. He is a serviceable third-pairing defender at this point in his career, with very good leadership skills.
Unfortunately for him, his salary is too prohibitive for an NHL team to have him on their cap in that role.
Currently, as per CapGeek, the New York Rangers are projected to have more than $21 million in cap space for 2012-13. However, that is before signing any UFAs and their top RFAs (Mats Zuccarello, Michael Del Zotto and Anton Stralman).
If the Rangers were to buy him out, the cap hit would be $3.1 million for 2012-13 and 2013-14, and then the cap hit would drop to $1.6 million for 2014-15 and 2015-16. It would also cost the Rangers nearly $6.7 million in cash to buy him out.
Or the Rangers could do Redden a favour and place him on re-entry waivers, allowing a team to acquire his services for a cap hit of $3.25 million (half of his 6.5 million cap hit). The Rangers would then be stuck with a $3.25 million cap hit for only the next two years.
Unfortunately for Wade Redden, it appears he will have to wait until after his 37th birthday and the 2014-15 NHL season for his next shot in the NHL. I am sure that he would be willing to accept nearly any salary to get back into the NHL at that point, and he could be a tremendous value signing and a great story once he is back.
Wade Redden’s story is a warning for other NHL players that are offered big money and big-term contracts. The NHL business is about results, and unfortunately for Redden, he simply was not and is not a $6.5 million player.
Is it his fault for accepting the money that he was offered?
No, it is not. This is another case of owners and management leaping to grab a player off the market before fully considering their current and future value, and Redden is the unfortunate human casualty of the financial side of the business.
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