BOSTON – Wade Redden admits he considered retiring. After signing a six-year, $39 million deal with the Rangers in 2008, Redden saw his career rapidly fall apart. Things got so bad that prior to the 2010-11 season, he cleared waivers and got demoted to the American Hockey League, making him the highest-paid player in that league’s history.
Redden spent the next two years in Hartford. He was pretty much forgotten about by most of the hockey world, except for the occasional joke about how bad his contract was. After this year’s lockout, the Rangers used one of their two compliance buyouts on Redden, ending his disastrous tenure with the organization.
Redden signed on with the Blues and saw NHL ice time for the first time in nearly three years. After playing 23 games, he was dealt to the Bruins at the trade deadline. It didn’t seem like anything more than a depth move at the time, but Redden has worked himself into important minutes for the Bruins.
On Wednesday, he notched a goal and an assist late in the first period to help lead the Bruins to a 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs in Game 1 of their first-round series.
“He’s got so much experience playing important minutes and being an offensive guy that teams have leaned on,” said Andrew Ference. “He’s pretty calm when he has the puck on his stick. I don’t know a better way to describe it. He has a real calm demeanor with the puck when he’s got those opportunities.”
Redden didn’t see any ice time during his first two weeks in Boston, but then he finally got a chance to play limited minutes against Buffalo and Florida. The coaching staff obviously liked what they saw, because Redden wound up playing 16 minutes or more in three of the Bruins’ final four regular-season games.
As Wednesday’s Game 1 approached, it became apparent that Redden was going to crack the playoff lineup, to the chagrin of some Bruins fans who wanted to see rookie Dougie Hamilton get the nod instead.
“I think the coaches and the team here knew what I could do and who I am,” Redden said. “I just came in and worked hard to just get the chance. That’s really what you look for. Things have gone pretty decent. They believe that I can get the job done for them, so that’s a big part of it. The role I have, I just have to make the most of it and be a part of the team. Help them get the wins as much as I can.”
After Wednesday’s performance, it’s safe to say there won’t be any second-guessing. Redden played 16:57 — fifth among Bruins defensemen, but still a significant amount — and he certainly made the most of those minutes.
With 3:40 left in the first, a Gregory Campbell wraparound attempt popped out to the left circle, where Redden teed up a slapper that went off James Reimer’s arm and in to tie the game at 1-1. Then in the closing seconds of the period, Redden jumped into the rush and put a shot on net that Nathan Horton tipped home to give the Bruins a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The Bruins were obviously happy to get the win regardless of who scored, but they said after the game that they were a little extra happy for Redden given everything he’s been through.
“He’s got so much respect with the different teams that he’s played for and the guys that he’s encountered along the way,” Ference said. “He’s very well-respected. I think guys were initially just really happy for him to get back to playing in the NHL with St. Louis.
“Then to come here and have the opportunity to contribute, I think guys are really proud and happy that he’s there, because he’s a great player and he went through a couple tough years that were very, very frustrating for him. It’s a little extra special to see him with such a big smile on his face this time of year.”
The Bruins didn’t have much to smile about as they limped toward the end of the regular season. Redden didn’t have much to smile about while he was dwelling in the minors. Now, both would like to see this newfound joy continue, ideally for another two months.