In the annals of the Ottawa Senators, the duo of Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara will forever be linked not only as defensemen and occasional partners but also because they came up for free agency at the same time in 2006 and Ottawa could only afford one.
John Muckler chose to re-sign Redden and let Chara go, and the rest is history. Chara captained the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Chamions three years later, while Redden played 2 more mediocre seasons before going to the Rangers and being banished to the minors until this season.
Hindsight is 20-20, and the decision Muckler had to make was not enviable. Redden had played his entire career in Ottawa, and was on the 2006 Canadian Olympic team, so the choice wasn’t as one-sided at the time as it appears 7 years later.
Fast forward to this season, and Senators GM Bryan Murray had a similar decision to make, although it was not as pressing. Two promising young goalies, 1 net. Murray had to choose between keeping Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop in the system despite both being ready, and the league’s top goaltender at the time he was injured, Craig Anderson.
The impending return of Anderson created a crowded crease once again, and the only option was to send Lehner back to Binghamton or trade someone. With Anderson being the present and Lehner the future, there really wasn’t much room for Bishop in the long term plans. Lehner took the first demotion in stride, but has shown he is NHL ready and might not accept it the same way a second time.
They could have carried 3 goalies for the last month of the season, but that wouldn’t do anyone any good. So Murray made the decision to trade Bishop to the Lightning for Cory Conacher and a draft pick. Sentiment seemed to be divided between loyalty to Bishop and to Lehenr as to who the fans would rather keep.
This will bring the inevitable comparisons for the rest of their careers, as they both move along to hopefully future successes. Bishop got off to a great start with a 45 save shutout in his first appearance in Tampa, so if Lehner doesn’t copy the feat in his next start the whispering might begin.
But face the facts, the second guessing will do no good. You can’t take the move back, and Bishop succeeding is to be expected. Lehner might push him for the rest of the season, but if healthy Anderson will be the starter in Ottawa for the time being.
The comparisons are going to follow them along, but they are entirely unfair, as is the second guessing of Chara vs Redden.
At least Bishop got something in return for Ottawa, a luxury they didn’t get when Chara left town.