Wade-ing into the future

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

The emotion showed in Wade Redden's eyes.

Standing in front of his stall in the Senators' dressing room for probably the last time yesterday, the significance of the moment was reflected in those eyes.

It's hard to foresee any scenario that would see the 30-year-old, an unrestricted free agent July 1, return to the Senators. It has been clear since Redden exercised his no-trade clause when Senators GM Bryan Murray tried to trade him last summer to the Edmonton Oilers -- and sought his permission to talk trade with the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline this season -- that this day would arrive.

That means his 12 years here in Ottawa, in which he grew from a teenaged kid with the blush high in his cheeks into a stubbled veteran, have ended.

Regardless of what you think of his play now, his legacy here and his role in helping the Senators evolve from a bumbling expansion franchise into one of the league's elite teams is unquestioned.

Redden was one of the Senators' first elite players, the first to be considered among the best in hockey at his position, a member of Team Canada at the World Cup and the Olympics.

While he left the door open a crack to the possibility of his return here, the resignation in his voice and in his eyes -- he said he hardly slept Wednesday night -- made it clear he felt what everybody around him was feeling yesterday.

This is the end for one of the Senators' originals.

"It's a good likelihood, probably, but you never know what's going to happen. We'll have to make those decisions as we go here," said Redden. "It's been 11 years, 11-plus, a lot of memories, a lot of special things happened. When it gets down to it, I'll look back on it and hold my head high and feel good for a lot of the things I did here. That's about all I can say right now."

One of the best scenes in the Senators' short history is from April 12, 1997.

It is Redden in the arms of former Senators goaltender Ron Tugnutt on the night they beat the Buffalo Sabres 1-0 to make the playoffs for the first time.

That started a string that has seen the Senators make the playoffs every year since, a remarkable run and one in which Redden was often the Senators' best player on the ice. It happened less frequently over the last couple of years, and Redden became a polarizing figure among Senators fans.

Many detractors pounced on his turnovers (as did opponents), which were frequent (he ranked 30th in the league in turnovers this season).

LAST TOUCH

His last touch Wednesday against the Penguins was a turnover that led to an empty net goal in the 3-1 loss. It ended a season that unravelled with gathering speed.

What went wrong? Was this a team divided?

"It certainly looked like it on the ice," said Redden. "We had such a good start and then once we got off the tracks, we couldn't pull it back together. I guess you could look at every guy in here and everyone's got to take their own accountability, but we never really got everybody on the same page since that time, I think.

"It seemed like we were waiting to wake up one morning and all of a sudden things would just turn around."

Redden, for a few moments, did allow himself to cast his mind's eye back over his time here in Ottawa.

He regrets not having won this city a Stanley Cup, but takes away other valuable things earned over time with other Senators lifers like captain Daniel Alfredsson and defenceman Chris Phillips.

"To be in the playoffs every year, that says something about the team," he said. "We've had our ups and downs, but the guys I've been here with the longest, Philly and Alfie, those kind of guys, looking back on the time, I grew up with those guys and I consider them brothers."

This will be a life-changing year for Redden. After years of being one of this city's most eligible bachelors, he'll marry fiancee Danica Topolnisky in August and make their home in Kelowna, B.C.

By then, he'll know where he'll be playing in the NHL next year, somewhere other than Ottawa for the first time.

"I've got so many good memories. I'd leave here proud of the things I've done ... I felt I gave what I could to the team and that's all you can do."

It's all a city can ask.


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