Free agency revs up Reds

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

Wade Redden, such a big part of the Senators' past, wants some answers before he decides if he will be part of the club's future.

Like just about everybody with even a passing interest in this team, the veteran defenceman, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, wants to know what the Senators are going to do about another too-short playoff run before he decides if the Senators are part of his future.

Does he stay here and try and be part of the group that finally plays into June or, after years of coming up short, opt for a fresh start somewhere else?

The answer to that question will depend a lot on what Senators GM John Muckler has to tell him about where this team is going.

BLUELINER WANTS ANSWERS

As a veteran player now, and a guy who has represented his country and his team with pride and success, Redden probably deserves to know what the Senators franchise is going to do to address the shortcomings that became evident in their loss to the Buffalo Sabres in five games.

Redden certainly has some ideas of his own.

"I want to be on a team that's going to win. You can't predict that, obviously," said Redden. "I haven't had a chance to talk with management and the coaches yet at the end of the year meeting, but I want to put my thoughts out there on what we need to do to be a better team.

"Like I said, my time here has been great ... but if you come back next year, we've got to obviously be better and that's the focus."

Redden had some sharp criticism for the style of play the team employed against the Sabres.

"The way we played at the start of this last series was unacceptable," said Redden. "I think you look at our team, there are some guys who have never been in that position before, quite a few guys, actually, that will be better the next time around. I guess it's not an excuse, it's just a fact.

"We have to be tougher mentally. The way we won all year is not the way you are going to win in the playoffs. That's something that we have got to preach on from September to playoff game No. 1. We got away from that because things were easy for us and we didn't win 2-1 games all year. In the playoffs, you have to have that capability to win the tight games. We lost four games (against the Sabres) by one goal."

So, if you boil that down, the Senators need a more veteran presence and the coaches to enforce a more defensively responsible style during the regular season.

Redden, who has had a difficult time the last few weeks dealing with his mother's death after a battle with cancer and then trying to win hockey games, took a long time to ponder his answers yesterday.

This year's disappointment cuts deeper than in past springs, the edge sharper with the realization he is likely closer to the end of his career than the beginning now.

Like hundreds of players before him, he is realizing a boy-man's wide-eyed optimism quickly gives way to a man's watching the slow closing of the window of opportunity.

"It feels different, I'd say. As you get older, you mature and you realize where I sit in this game and what I think I can do and what our team capabilities are. As a young guy, you come in and you're trying to make a team and trying to make a mark. If it doesn't happen, you say there are still a lot of positives," he said.

"But now when you get to this point, I mean ... it's been nine years in this league. It cuts a little deeper now. The years ... you can't keep going forever. To get a chance to win, that's what the goal is. It starts to sink in a little more. There aren't going to be opportunities every year. As you get older that sinks in a little more."

All those feelings will be weighed, mixed in with what he hears from Muckler and the coaching staff.

It will be distilled with the offers he will surely get from other teams, very likely one from down the 401.

Is going somewhere else, putting the days like yesterday behind him and getting a fresh start part of what he will consider?

"It is. Yeah ... I don't know," he said after a moment's reconsideration. "It's tough really to say. For one, I haven't pictured myself moving yet. I know now that there's a possibility and that the option is basically going to be on me to make a decision. There are going to be some other offers, I know that. It's going to be a tough decision."

Muckler will speak to the media today.

Redden, and a lot of fans, will be listening closely.


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