Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Glad to have Ladd

Jets sign a captain with character in five-year, $22.5-M deal

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They knew he wore the captain's C with the Atlanta Thrashers last season. And a quick glance at the stats told them he led the team in goals and points.

 

So that was as good a starting point as any when the new Winnipeg Jets management began discussing where Andrew Ladd fit into their long-term plans.

But it was when the 25-year-old Maple Ridge, B.C., product flew into Winnipeg last month -- on his own dime, no less -- to meet with owner Mark Chipman, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and assistant GM Craig Heisinger to tour the arena and shake some hands that the team's big thinkers became convinced of this:

They absolutely, positively had to get the 25-year-old locked up as soon as possible.

"The thing that was most impressive to me," Cheveldayoff said, "was (after the meeting last month) he went back to his hotel and sent emails and text messages to all the other players on the team, talking about the facility, talking about the friendliness, talking about the ownership, talking about the vision.

"I didn't get a chance to speak to the players until the next day and they all, to a man, said, 'Oh yeah, Laddy already talked to us.'

"Those are the key characteristics you want in your leader."

So when Ladd's new deal was announced Tuesday morning -- five years, $22.5 million -- it was hardly a shocker to those who have been monitoring the early days of the Jets' rebirth. He is not only a key cornerstone going forward, his style of play and personality are a good fit for this town and he's the perfect prototype for the kind of character the organization wants to build around.

At the same time, Ladd -- who has hoisted the Stanley Cup twice while bouncing from Carolina to Chicago to Atlanta to Winnipeg since 2007-08 -- was simply seeking a place he could call his hockey home.

"That was a big part of wanting to do a long-term deal," said Ladd, who is getting married in just over a week in Las Vegas. "The fact that they wanted me around for that long... it's nice to be in the same spot for a long time.

"It seemed like every time I got comfortable with the city I was in and the people that were there, got to meet the locals, I was getting shipped out to a different place.

"To be able to get settled down and meet people in the community, get ingrained in the community with my fiancée, is going to be an exciting thing."

Although Ladd was the team's leading scorer last year, quite clearly what the Jets are getting is more than the numbers in the scoring summary. This is a guy who suited up for the Blackhawks' final Stanley Cup game in 2010 with a fractured shoulder and torn ligaments, as was revealed later.

Last November, just weeks after pulling on a Thrashers jersey for the first time, he was named the youngest captain in franchise history.

He'll receive the honour again with the Jets.

"Ladd's our captain, he's the leader of this team," said Cheveldayoff. "(Head coach) Claude (Noel) and I have talked, and he's demonstrated it both on and off the ice.

"It's something he doesn't even have to try to demonstrate. It is what he is."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 6, 2011 D1

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Updated on Wednesday, July 6, 2011 at 7:42 PM CDT: corrects typo...few into to flew into

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