Signing Andrew Ladd (or not) is first piece in Jets’ complicated puzzle

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Andrew Ladd doesn’t have to drop his demands. Heaven can wait and so can the captain of the Winnipeg Jets.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/07/2015 (2578 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Andrew Ladd doesn’t have to drop his demands. Heaven can wait and so can the captain of the Winnipeg Jets.

Ladd is going to get a six-year contract with an average annual value north of $6 million. He’ll either get it in Winnipeg or he’ll get it somewhere else. Argue all you want about his value in Winnipeg, and that’s certainly a discussion worth having, but don’t try and short Ladd in a 30 or even 32-team NHL.

Ladd wants to remain in Winnipeg. He has a young family and more and more this city is a fit. He also likes the organization and the work general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has done. So, he’s willing to work with the Jets. But not at a $5-million or more discount. All told, Ladd’s next ticket is going to be worth in the range of $40 million.

Winnipeg Jets Captain Andrew Ladd speaks to the media one last time following the Jets first round playoff series with the Anaheim Ducks, who swept Winnipeg four games to none.

This is potentially Ladd’s last contract and he’s going to want to deliver financial security to his family. He’s earned the right and positioned himself to capitalize.

Free agency is only a season away. Ladd could score big on the open market if he chooses or is forced to go that route. This is his moment. He’s marketable and has leverage.

A 60-point-per-season captain, who misses games as often as I miss meals, Ladd is a culture carrier and the kind of player teams find among the most difficult to acquire.

A two-time Stanley Cup champion and finalist for the Mark Messier Leadership Award, Ladd is a fitness freak and he’s broken the 50-point barrier in each of the last four full NHL seasons. He’s in his prime and while regression will eventually set in, Ladd is not the NHL average — his production has accelerated and at age 29 he has immense value.

Here in Winnipeg, where we watch Ladd with a microscope every night, the player’s warts are overstated. In reality, Ladd fits in to the top six of every team in the NHL.

Cheveldayoff has been working to get him signed to an extension. Both sides have declared their intent to get a deal done, but they remain apart. The Jets operate as a budget team and the management group must find a way for Ladd’s contract to not only fit into the picture today, but also for several years down the road.

This, however, is Cheveldayoff’s problem and not Ladd’s. As we witnessed with Michael Frolik, at some point, the player will trust the open market. And players such as Andrew Ladd get paid.

Dustin Byguflien, like Ladd, is also a pending UFA at the send of next season. According to the player’s agent, nothing more than preliminary discussions regarding the big defenceman have taken place.

Ladd is the No. 1 priority and must be the first domino to fall. The task of keeping both these players in house may be insurmountable, but until Ladd is signed, the roster’s salary structure remains unclear.

Keep in mind, Jacob Trouba will be a restricted free agent next summer and Cheveldayoff will have to lock him up or become vulnerable to the prospect of an offer sheet. Trouba is a prized young player. Teams, given the opportunity, will take a run at him.

Ladd and Byfuglien aren’t necessarily part of Cheveldayoff’s draft and develop program as he inherited these players when the team moved north from Atlanta. But they are most certainly key within his core, and trading one or both will largely alter the complexion of this team.

A top 50 scorer such as Ladd would bring a roster player, a prospect and a draft pick in return. Same goes with Byfuglien.

The roster players will not be of equal value. So trading these players becomes a futures play and likely diminishes the current NHL roster.

For a team that just last season made the playoffs for the first time in a number of years, it’s a risky move. But if that’s what the budget dictates, that’s what Cheveldayoff will have to do.

Certainly he can’t sit on this and allow Ladd and Byfuglien to play out their contracts and get nothing in return, as he did with Frolik. Cheveldayoff’s eventual decision to let the Frolik events unfold as they did can be rationalized in the pursuit of a playoff spot. But the value of Ladd and/or Byfuglien is franchise altering. These are foundation pieces that must be retained or capitalized upon.

Ladd has very capable representation in Creative Artists Agency, which counts Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and John Tavares among their clients. They know the value of a player as well as anyone and likely better than most. They are among the power brokers who create and set the market, and they will have given Ladd a very clear picture of his value today and in the unrestricted market.

It’s very safe to assume Ladd knows what he’s worth. His value is not determined by the number Winnipeg’s management team has assigned to the player. The Jets don’t operate in a vacuum and their budgets don’t effect external forces. At some point, the Jets will have to get to a number Ladd deems as acceptable. Or they will have to move on.

Cheveldayoff and his staff have done a nice job drafting and retaining RFAs at good value. But this is different.

Frolik was among the first valuable UFAs the Jets deemed worthy of retention and they missed. Ladd and Byfuglien are even greater and more important pieces.

The Jets are maturing, and so are the problems they face.

Balancing a budget and contending don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

But it makes it much harder, as Cheveldayoff must be contemplating right now.

 

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @garylawless

 

 

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