Redden thrilled to be staying with Sens

Wade Redden.  (SUN/Fred Thornhill)

Wade Redden. (SUN/Fred Thornhill)

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:14 PM ET

Hello, Wade. Goodbye, Z.

The Senators made it official yesterday as they signed star defenceman Wade Redden to a two-year, $13-million (all terms US) contract.

That was the good news.

It also became clear that defenceman Zdeno Chara's days with the Senators are over -- despite Redden's willingness to give up salary to accommodate him in the Senators' payroll structure -- and Chara will become an unrestricted free agent at noon today.

"(Chara) enjoyed his time and wanted to win a Cup in Ottawa, but realizes he must move on," said Chara's agent, Matt Keator, in an e-mail yesterday.

Keator also said Chara was "happy for Wade, he is a good teammate and a great guy, but is also disappointed that Ottawa was not more aggressive in retaining him."

Senators GM John Muckler said yesterday he will now shift his attention elsewhere and start spending the money earmarked for Chara on other free agents.

Muckler said he last negotiated with Keator at the draft a couple of weeks ago in Vancouver.

KEATOR DISPUTES GM'S TAKE

"We had made a proposal to Matt Keator. He took it with them, thought about it overnight, came back and rejected the offer," said Muckler.

"He told us he probably was going to go into unrestricted free agency. We never did get a number from Chara's agent. We were kind of negotiating against ourselves. That was the last time we've spoken to him.

"There's always a Plan B. It starts (today) at noon hour."

Keator disputed that version of events, pointing out there was contact this week with Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and president Roy Mlakar.

"I did not say at that time (at the draft) that we were headed to UFA. I told them that I wanted to keep talking. Clearly they got that message because this past Tuesday, Mr. Melnyk called both Z and I, plus Mr. Mlakar contacted Zdeno, plus I sent an e-mail to Mr. Muckler encouraging him to contact us if they want to keep talking.

"They choose not to and made their choice. John has been fine to deal with, very professional and we wish them well."

There shouldn't be any shortage of suitors for Chara, despite struggling at times this past season with the new rules and a hand injury near the end of the regular season.

The New York Rangers are apparently ready to offer him top money. Minnesota Wild forward Marian Gaborik, a fellow Slovak, said Chara's signing would be welcome.

GABORIK WANTS CHARA

"There's some good guys, big guys," said Gaborik. "Chara is there, obviously. All 30 teams are going to go after him, but he's the kind of guy who can make a huge difference. We'll see. I'm not GM, but obviously, it would be nice to have a guy like him, (Chris) Pronger, (Ed) Jovanovski."

Redden's deal, which includes a no-trade clause, keeps him in the city where he has established strong ties on and off the ice in his nine years here.

"I've been here a long time and have become part of the community," said Redden. "I've made a home here so it's great to be back. I believe we have a great team here still and we have a lot of great players and I'm looking forward to playing here.

"I've got a comfort zone here. I'm settled in and I feel at home here. I enjoy the city. I enjoy the team. I've got a lot of great friends around here. I think right after the year (ended) when I sat down and talked to Donnie (agent Don Meehan), talked to my family and decided what I was going to do, those were all the things that were important to me.

"To come back here to Ottawa was my first choice."


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