Lebda finds his way back to the NHL

DETROIT – Following the 2009-10 season, Brett Lebda jumped at a payday he couldn’t refuse.

Things haven’t been the same since for the former Wings defenseman.

He was back in Detroit Saturday as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, his third team since leaving Detroit.

“I don’t think anything went wrong, I wouldn’t stay that, just another opportunity presented itself to move on and that happens in the game,” said Lebda, who was a healthy scratch for Saturday’s game against his former team. “Whether it was a right or wrong decision you can never say. You just have to live with the decisions you make. We are where we are right now and we just have to make the best of it.

“It’s good to come back here. It brings back a lot of memories,” Lebda added.

After the 2009-10 season, Lebda signed a two-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs worth $1.45 million a season, a hefty increase from the $650,000 he made in the final year of his deal with the Wings.

Lebda, who still owns a home in metropolitan Detroit, played just 41 games with the Leafs and was traded that offseason to the Nashville Predators. A month after being traded, the Predators placed Lebda on waivers and then bought out his contract.

In November, Lebda signed a deal with the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League. The Falcons are affiliated with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“There were opportunities to pursue different paths,” Lebda said. “(Columbus) called me and gave me the opportunity. It was an easy decision. They were the ones that stepped forward and asked if I wanted to play in Springfield. Hockey-wise it was a good time and hopefully it prepares me for now.”

In 29 games with Springfield, Lebda had one goal and nine assists.

“It was tough, but at the same time that’s what was presented to me,” Lebda said. “It was tough to take, but you’ve got to swallow your pride and work as hard as you can to try and get back here.

“The goal from the beginning of the year was to get back in the league,” Lebda added. “I went down and played in the American League for awhile, I got a good opportunity there so I’m excited to be back now.”

Lebda’s last game in the NHL was with the Leafs — coincidently at Joe Louis Arena against the Wings — on March 26, 2011.

“What can I say, I played with a lot of future Hall of Famers,” Lebda said. “This is where I learned everything, just playing alongside Nick (Lidstrom) and (Chris Chelios) all those years. It was just an opportunity that I will cherish forever.

“Winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 is something I’ll never forget,” Lebda continued. “It was an unbelievable time here.”

Mike Babcock was high on Lebda his first training camp with the Wings.

“He came to training camp, no one ever talked about him,” Babcock recalled. “I kept saying he looks good, but no one ever talked about him. Next thing you know he’s on the team. He played real well with (Andreas Lilja) and Cheli early going for us. He was a plus player in the playoffs. He was an important part in winning the Cup. He did a lot of good things for us. He’s a great skater and he was a good teammate and a good Red Wing.”

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