Veteran defenseman's connection to Hitchcock also played role in one-year deal
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- For the first time in two years, Wade Redden had a choice.
After being buried in the New York Rangers' American Hockey League affiliate in Connecticut for the past two seasons, Redden became a free man last week.
In the end, he chose the Blues, who opened their season opener Saturday by blitzing Detroit 6-0.
Redden, whose contract (six years, $39 million) was bought out by the Rangers earlier in the week, thus making him an unrestricted free agent, agreed on a one-year, pro-rated $800,000 contract with the Blues.
Defenseman Wade Redden (right) battles Ottawa's
Daniel Alfredsson for the puck in 2009.
"Pretty big factor," Redden said of Hitchcock's role in his decision. "I've worked with him on different national teams. Obviously played against him when he was coaching in Philly and Dallas. So, I certainly know a lot about him. He lives out near where I am in the summer and obviously I've got a lot of respect for him, and that's a big part of it.
"I got a call from St. Louis. Knowing the team here and seeing what they've done and the personnel and how they operate, it was a pretty exciting opportunity for me. So, I was just fortunate. With my situation and how it kind of all worked out, I was real excited to get this chance."
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound lefty is a 13-year NHL veteran. He was the 2nd overall pick by the New York Islanders in 1995 who's played in 994 games, posting 106 goals and 450 points.
Redden spent 11 years with the Ottawa Senators, but in 2008, he signed a six-year, $39 million free-agent contract with the Rangers but failed to live up to the deal, posting just two goals and 14 points in 75 games in 2009-10. He's been out of the league since.
"I went down there (with the Connecticut Whale) with a good attitude to work hard. I was going to the rink every day to play hockey. I tried to approach it the same way. It's still a pretty high-level. The AHL has a lot of great players in it, so it wasn't like ... I still had to play hard and work at things.
"That (criticism in New York) wasn't fun at all. That was a big challenge. Obviously played a part in things, the way things went there. Obviously to get the two years in the minors, I tried to make the most of my time there and get ready to get back to this level."
Redden was to have taken his physical Sunday, have his contract officially signed and be on the ice any time thereafter to skate with his new teammates. It's unknown when Redden will suit up. The Blues play Monday in Nashville and Tuesday in Chicago.
"We need to give him some group skates," Hitchcock said of Redden. "So the first time he's going to skate with the group ... he's going to have an optional skate (Sunday), then he's going to pre-game skate with the team in Nashville.
"I think in fairness to him, we'd like to give him a few skates, so we get him up and running. I've got to talk to him on what he thinks date-wise and everything like that. But we'd like to have a structured date, this is when you're starting and then get everything moving forward."
Redden, who could find ice time playing alongside Alex Pietrangelo, felt he'd be back in the NHL. It wasn't a question of if, but when.
"I always had a feeling that I could get back," Redden said. "Obviously I needed to get out of that contract and move on from it. So fortunately things worked out that way, so here I am, looking forward to it.
"I feel I've got something to give for sure. I'm looking forward to showing that and getting my feet under me again. It's been a little while since I've been in this league. But looking at some of the guys in the backend, and the players they have here, it's going to be good for me to come in and kind of support that and be part of that. I think it will be good for me."