Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Locking up Ladd should be first order of business

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THEY don't have a name or a logo, jersey colours or an official GM.

But Winnipeg's NHL franchise might already have its first contract/market test case.

Team captain and leading scorer Andrew Ladd is scheduled to become a restricted free agent this summer and while negotiations had been cruising along this spring with the previous ownership, the deal never got completed before the team was sold to True North Sports & Entertainment. Interestingly, GM Rick Dudley did not negotiate player contracts with the Thrashers, meaning the Ladd deal could fall in the lap of Moose GM Craig Heisinger.

"We were negotiating in Atlanta for the better half of the second part of the year," said Ladd. "We were having good talks and then we got to the point where all this ownership stuff was going on so it got put on the backburner and we haven't really talked since the end of the year.

"We've got to get back to Atlanta, pack up all our stuff and then find a place to live in Winnipeg. But with everything going on it would be nice to have the go ahead and plan some things. We'll see what happens."

Said TSN's Bob McKenzie on the Ladd case: "He's one year away from unrestricted free agency, and is currently a restricted free agent. He's got a great arbitration case if he decides to go that route, and could do very well there. He can essentially decide if he wants to make a long-term commitment to the team now that it is in Winnipeg, and if he does that, it will be a wonderful way to pave the future. But if he decides he would rather play somewhere else, then that sets it off in the other direction."

HOME-ICE ADVANTAGE AGAIN? Centre Tim Stapleton can't wait to suit up in front of consistently rabid crowds here in Winnipeg. Why? Well, Atlanta wasn't exactly a place that struck fear into opposition teams.

"In Atlanta... great city, the weather was great and we had support from the diehard fans but it just wasn't enough," Stapleton said. "Last year we were lacking so many fans sometimes it was almost like a road game and we had no home-ice advantage. This year we can use that. There's going to be a lot of pressure, too, but it's going to be good.

"I played against Manitoba when I was in the minors so I know that it was, by far, the best road trip. I don't know much about the city because we were always in and out of there. But I know the hockey environment was always exciting and the fans are diehards and there's a great tradition of hockey there with the old Jets."

FOR SALE: Spotted on eBay -- 'Game Used Puck From the Final Atlanta Thrashers Win; Own This Piece of Hockey History Winnipeg Jets.'

The puck, featuring a New York Rangers logo, is apparently from the Thrashers 3-0 victory over the blueshirts on April 7.

As of Wednesday afternoon there were 13 bids with the price at $76.

PETITION CENTRAL: All those fans wishing for True North to adopt the old 'Jets' nickname should check out: http://www.gopetition.com/petition/39649.html where over 7,200 fans have signed up in support of the old moniker.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 2, 2011 C3

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