- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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At this point, Wade Redden has pretty much seen it all.
Redden is locked out just like 700-odd other NHLers and facing nary a paycheck until the labor impasse is resolved.
Except that, well, Redden hasn’t played in the NHL in 2½ years.
Talk about adding insult to injury. If it didn't hurt his pride enough to be turfed in the AHL for two seasons, his contract too heavy for the New York Rangers to move, now he’s been dragged into a lockout involving a league he hasn’t sniffed since his last NHL game in April 2010.
Not sure there’s a more unique story in this lockout at this point.
"It is a pretty rare case, I guess," Redden told ESPN.com Thursday from Kelowna, B.C., his offseason home. "My mindset now is that hopefully it’s written into the new CBA where stuff like that won’t happen or make it harder to happen so you get a guy, like, out of that situation."
The "situation" he’s referring to is that he was stuck in Hartford of the AHL the past two seasons without any real options, a victim of the system. The Rangers didn't want to count his $6.5 million against the salary cap after he struggled in the first two years of his six-year, $39 million contract. He has two years left on that deal, which was supposed to pay him $5 million this season and $5 million in 2013-14. But the Rangers, well within their rights, didn’t assign him to the AHL this season and therefore won’t have to pay him his $5 million salary during the lockout.
The Rangers were never able to move that contract under the restricted nature of the expired CBA, because when a trade was made teams couldn’t split the cost of a player's remaining salary. In other pro sports, like baseball, splitting salary helps facilitate moving players (like the Yankees paying some of pitcher A.J. Burnett’s salary this year after the trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates).
In the future, Redden hopes a player in his situation might have a way out if there are more contract options for an NHL team.
Redden says the NHLPA has been terrific in keeping him informed on matters. Time will tell on the CBA front whether his type of situation is addressed, but in the meantime, Redden is working out and skating every day in Kelowna.
Because he played in the AHL last season, Redden could sign an AHL deal just for the duration of the NHL lockout since the AHL added that criteria for players affected by the NHL lockout who played in the AHL last year.
However, the risk for Redden is that if he got injured while playing under that new AHL contract, he’d risk exposing himself to a suspension without pay from the Rangers once the lockout ended if he was unfit to play. It’s a risk every NHLer who goes to Europe is taking.
So for now, Redden is biding his time, while hoping that the new CBA will bring with it some kind of buyout or amnesty clause that will allow him to leave the Rangers.
"I don’t know, I guess we’ll see, but I’m 35 now and I want to get back in the league and show what I can do," Redden said.
The former All-Star in Ottawa would be an excellent buy-low candidate if he does become an NHL free agent. He’s got a chip on his shoulder and he’s hungry to prove he can still play in the NHL.
"I definitely have a sour taste in my mouth from how things went in New York," said Redden.
"With that said, I went to Hartford and my time there was positive. I don’t regret that. They treated me great there. But everyone wants to be in the NHL. That’s where I was for a long time and that’s where I want to get back."
Named captain of the Whale last March, Redden is a character guy and, for NHL teams looking to upgrade in that department, he’d fit right in.
The last two years have been taxing, but he’s come out of it a stronger person.
"I’m in a pretty good place right now. I’ve had a really good summer in terms of working out and I’m going to keep that up through the lockout," he said.
"I can’t complain; since I got sent down, I got two daughters, and everyone is healthy and happy. So there’s nothing really to be too upset about."
8dScott Burnside and Craig Custance