Jets should look at Ladd as big part of unlocking future success

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In the end, it’s all about the value a team sees in a player and when it comes to Andrew Ladd, the Winnipeg Jets see a lot. Maybe more than any of their other players.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/06/2015 (2715 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In the end, it’s all about the value a team sees in a player and when it comes to Andrew Ladd, the Winnipeg Jets see a lot. Maybe more than any of their other players.

So, while pending unrestricted free agent Michael Frolik and his agent, Allan Walsh, were schlepping from one team’s meeting room to another looking for money the Jets have yet to offer, the wheels were continuing to turn on an extension for captain Ladd.

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has lots on his plate with the NHL draft this weekend, but don’t be surprised if the focus turns to Ladd when Cheveldayoff returns home to Winnipeg.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Andrew Ladd

This won’t drag out. It will be fast and it will be big.

Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown recently signed an eight-year contract worth $47 million, with a cap hit and average annual value of $5,875,000. Ladd is a year younger and has been the better player the last few seasons. He continues to trend up and had a career-high 62 points last season. Brown’s production (27 points over a full 82-game schedule) has dropped off.

The Brown contract is too long and too rich. But it will be a discussion point in negotiations between the Jets and Ladd’s representatives.

The four closest forwards comparable to Ladd from last season when factoring in age, scoring rates per minute (goals, assists, points) and relative shot metrics (corsi, scoring chances and goals) are St. Louis Blues’ David Backes, Philadelphia Flyers’ R.J. Umberger, Tampa Bay Lightning’s Ryan Callahan and Carolina Hurricanes’ Eric Staal. Backes is in the last year of his contract and makes $4.6 million while Staal makes $8.25 million.

Winnipeg’s highest-paid player is forward Blake Wheeler at $5.8 million for the coming season. He’s two years in on a six-year deal worth $33.6 million.

It’s not a point of being the highest-paid player on the team for Ladd, but any new deal will have to start with an AAV (average annual value charged against the team’s cap) of similar or better.

Ladd is 29 and a six-year deal would be perfect from the Jets’ end, but if they want him to pass up on unrestricted free agency they’ll have to pay and give term.

Brown has been a big part of the Kings winning two Stanley Cups, which enabled him to cash in.

The Jets have to look at Ladd as a big part of unlocking future success. He’s their leader and has developed into a consistent point producer. He plays physical and he plays hurt.

One can argue Ladd is Winnipeg’s most important player right now. Cheveldayoff is very likely in that camp and he won’t let him walk. He can’t.

I’m told Ladd wants to stay in Winnipeg. He likes the city and the organization and trusts Cheveldayoff. Ladd’s priority is signing an extension over the summer and getting the business out of the way well before the season begins. He doesn’t want the distraction and is willing to give up his right to unrestricted free agency and remain in Winnipeg for the prime of his career and beyond.

Signing Ladd sends another message to players within the Jets’ room and across the league. Stronger than the statement he made when he signed with the Jets back in the summer of 2011 when the franchise had just relocated and the jury was decidedly still out on this organization. Ladd’s first deal gave the Jets a starting point. Signing an extension pushes them into the next evolutionary step.

Draft, develop and retain. Ladd wasn’t drafted by this organization, but has grown up in it. Watching this team play last season and move into the playoffs, there was no question as to who was leading. It was Ladd.

It’s the NHL folks, and it’s expensive. Ladd has earned this moment. He’s earned the Jets’ loyalty and trust.

And he will be rewarded.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @garylawless

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