BOSTON -- Wade Redden walked into the Boston Bruins' locker room after their morning skate on Monday and ran into top prospects Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Darnell Nurse. The four were at TD Garden for a media availability ahead of the NHL Draft later this month and were hanging around the Bruins' locker room when Redden stopped, still in his gear, to chat them up.
It was 18 years ago that the 36-year old Redden was one of those prospects inside Joe Louis Arena during the 1995 Stanley Cup Final doing the same thing: meeting NHL players, talking to the media and hoping one day he'd be where he is today: in the NHL, having a chance to win a ring.
One year ago, that hope didn't seem like it would ever materialize again for Redden, who watched the Kings-Devils final after completing his second season with the Connecticut Whale of the AHL. Redden and his $6.5 million salary were demoted in a salary cap-saving move by the New York Rangers before the 2010-11 season. He didn't complain. He didn't request a trade. He just came to the rink every day and played, but kept the hope that one day he would be back in the NHL.
"I think that's what I had in my head to motivate and push [me]," said Redden. "I knew I could come back and I wanted to get an opportunity. I don't think I ever would have predicted it, but definitely that's what you want to have in your mind."
"I went down to Hartford and had a positive experience there. I enjoyed the game down there, even though it was a tough situation. Once I got over that, I tried to approach the game the way I always have. And that's the way I've got to keep doing it."
Littered on team comprised mostly of players in their early 20s, Redden took on a mentor role, something he's doing again for a few of the Bruins' young blueliners, like Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug. With the injuries to their defense corps earlier in the playoffs, including to Redden, head coach Claude Julien was forced to shuffle his pairings. Redden, who hasn't played since Game 6 against Toronto, is now forced to just wait his turn.
“I try to be positive," he said "These guys get in the zone and they play and they know what they need to do.
"First round, three of us went down so you’ve got to keep yourself ready and be upbeat around the guys and be part of as much as you can.”
After his two years in hockey purgatory, Redden signed with the St. Louis Blues after the Rangers used one of their two compliance buyouts on him in January, thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement. On April 3, Redden was dealt to the Bruins and was reunited with his former Ottawa Senators teammates Zdeno Chara and Chris Kelly. Those relationships, along with the fact that Boston was loading up for another Cup run was reinvigorating for Redden.
Redden's been in a Final before -- 2007 with the Ottawa when they fell in five games to Anaheim Ducks. In a year of second chances for Redden, the Stanley Cup Final provides him another one.
“Not everyone even gets a chance to be here, so you want to make the most of it."
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy