What's life in AHL like for NHL star?

Watching Mike Richards be demoted to the AHL this week has not surprisingly brought back memories for Wade Redden.

"I have to say, it has [crossed my mind]," Redden told ESPN.com on Thursday from Kelowna, British Columbia.

The circumstances are somewhat different. Redden was more of a salary-cap casualty, as the previous collective bargaining agreement allowed a team to bury a salary in the AHL to absolve the cap hit. The Rangers couldn't afford to have Redden's $6.5 million salary under the cap.

The Kings are saving just $925,000 on the salary cap by sending Richards and his $5.75 million cap hit to AHL Manchester. It's not a CBA move; it's a hockey move.

But where the similarities join up is that Redden's game had deteriorated with the Rangers, much like Richards recently hasn't been the same dynamic player of the past.

"It's a shock to see him go down," said Redden, who during his heyday in Ottawa was one of the top blueliners in the world. "For me, I wasn't feeling good going into training camp that year [September 2010], and it was obviously discouraging when it [the demotion to the AHL] happened. Just to have your name in that light for that reason, it was tough, it wasn't fun at all.

"But for me, it was also a breath of fresh air. Things were going sideways in New York, so I viewed it as maybe an opportunity to go somewhere else eventually."

Instead, Redden played two seasons in the AHL. Talk about humbling.

But it was a chance for Redden to rediscover his love for the game.

"Going to Hartford actually kind of resurrected things a bit in my own self, feeling good and having fun going to the rink again," Redden said. "Certainly I'm glad I didn't quit and kept going."

Will Richards rediscover his love for the game in the same way during his time in New Hampshire?

Redden remembers what he was feeling before that first AHL game. He was a 13-year NHL veteran at the time, a guy who had played in two NHL All-Star Games, an Olympics and a World Cup of Hockey, and he was lacing them up in the minors at age 33.

"I just remembered how you don't know any of the players, you hardly know your teammates," Redden said. "There was a feeling-out process in terms of the AHL game, too. I found it was almost an easier game at the NHL level just because you're with better players and the structure and stuff. Guys are smarter in the NHL, and they're where they should be on the ice.

"But, I didn't mind getting on the bus, Hartford was pretty good and the travel wasn't terrible."

And here was this veteran player playing with mostly low-paid youngsters and prospects. So Redden wasn't shy about spreading his wealth with his AHL teammates.

"I bought a few iPads for game-winning goals and stuff like that," Redden said, chuckling. "And bought a few dinners. It's light-years in difference when you're talking about the salaries and what those kids were making. They were great guys. But obviously it's a bit of culture shock in terms of lifestyle and stuff."

Redden, an easygoing sort, said the folks in Hartford were terrific.

"The way I was treated and the people and my teammates in Hartford, it was all positive," he said. "It's definitely a different atmosphere suddenly, you get into the games and you're used to playing in front of NHL crowds and obviously it's a much different feel in the AHL."

Oh, there were times, given that his AHL banishment lasted two seasons, where Redden wondered whether he should just quit despite the money he was being paid. But he didn't. Veteran agent Don Meehan was a solid source of support during those times.

"In those moments when you're frustrated and stuff, I'd say it, but it was never close to happening," Redden said. "Donnie was great for me, I leaned on him quite a bit through it all. He has a different way of seeing things, that really helped. And I was lucky with family support."

It just so happens that Meehan's Newport Sports outfit also represents Richards via Pat Morris.

Don't be surprised if Redden reaches out to Richards at some point.

"I feel for Mike, I know what he's going through obviously, it's a bit of a tough thing at the start," Redden said.

"He's accomplished so much, you want to see him get back up for sure."

Redden got his wish when the 2012-13 season lockout ended and the new CBA brought transition rules, including amnesty buyouts that wouldn't count against the salary cap.

Redden was freed, and he played that 2012-13 season with the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins before calling it quits. A much better way to go out.

"In the end, I was lucky, I guess, getting that amnesty buyout after the lockout, and getting another shot in the NHL with St. Louis," Redden said.

No such amnesty buyouts are available to Richards. He has five more years on his deal after this season at a $5.75 million cap hit. His only way out is to play his guts out in the AHL and hope that either the Kings want him back up or another NHL team sees enough to come calling.

That's the only way.