After three seasons in the Winnipeg Jets organization — the bulk of which was spent with the American Hockey League’s St. John’s IceCaps — Michigan-born blueliner Zach Redmond tested the free agent waters and signed a two-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche.
©— Telegram file photo
It’s the common refrain from hockey players riding the bubble that floats between the National Hockey League and the minors: They just want an opportunity to prove themselves as full-time big-leaguers.
Zach Redmond believes his best chance is with the Colorado Avalanche.
The 25-year-old Redmond, who spent most of the last three seasons with the American Hockey League’s St. John’ IceCaps, signed a two-year contract worth $750,000 per season with the Avalanche on Tuesday, the first day of NHL free agency. Just as important is that it’s a one-way deal, meaning he gets his money whether he plays in Colorado or the AHL, and organizations don’t usually give out such guarantees to those they plan on sending to the minors.
“The one-way was huge, of course, but also the fact that they showed such real interest in me,” said Redmond, who played 150 games with the IceCaps and 18 with the parent Winnipeg Jets since turning pro in 2011.
“I had left it mostly to my agent, but he told me that as soon as things opened up and other teams were allowed start making contact (with free agents), Colorado was the first in line.”
It also didn’t hurt that part of his recruitment involves phone calls from a couple of Hockey Hall of Famers: Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic and head coach Patrick Roy — “That was pretty cool” — and that the mostly young Avalanche play an up-tempo style that fits in with Redmond’s skill-set, which is led by skating ability and puck movement.
Colorado wasn’t the only team to express an interest in his services. There were “a few others,” including Winnipeg.
“The Jets had first crack at me before July 1 and they threw out an offer to me (Monday),” said Redmond.
“But when it came down to it, the biggest thing I didn’t feel there was room for me with them, that it wouldn’t be any different than it was (going into training camp) last year.”
The Jets began the 2013-14 season with eight defencemen on one-way contracts, including Dustin Byfluglien, who was moved to forward mid-season. And with Bonavista native Adam Pardy re-signing over the weekend, agreeing to a one-year, one-way deal worth $700,000, all eight of those players are set to return to Winnipeg in 2014-15.
“You could see where it was going to be a crowd and especially on the right side, even with Byfluglien up front,” said the Redmond, contemplating a group that includes Zach Bogosian, Jacob Trouba and Paul Postma, who like him, are righthanded shots.
And while he didn’t get into details about the Jets’ offer, he said it wasn’t equal to that of the Avalanche and that it only involved “a one-way component,” which usually means a two-way deal that becomes a one-way in the second year.
“But that’s the business side of hockey. That’s something you learn to accept and not make too big a deal about,” said Redmond, who spent more than eight weeks in total on the Winnipeg roster last season, but only dressed for 10 games.
However, while all that time in the press box might have allowed for contemplation about his future and maybe some reflection on the past, which included the life-threatening incident in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 20, 2013 when the femoral artery and vein and his right thigh were cut by a teammate's skate during practice, Redmond insists he has no regrets about his time with the Jets.
“Things happen for a reason and I was not bitter during those times when I wasn’t playing, and I’m not bitter now about how things went with Winnipeg over the last three years,” he said.
“If it wasn’t for the Jets, I don’t know if I’d be getting the opportunity I have today.”
He also expressed appreciation for his time in St. John’s, which saw him become the IceCaps’ all-time leading scorer among defenceman in those 140 games played, goals (22) assists (52) and points (74), and a representative of the team for the 2013 AHL All-Star game.
“When it comes to the city, the people, the fans, I know this is going to sound cliché, and I know it’s been said by many people before me, but it’s only because it’s so true. As a collective group of people, I haven’t met any better,” said Redmond, a native of Traverse City, Mich.
“For me, coming from the United States, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience over the last three years. That’s not only as a hockey environment, but just a place in which to live.
“It was great and I’ll always be thankful for my time there.”