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This article was published 1/10/2015 (1473 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Andrew Ladd is a proud man. It’s a big part of what makes him the hockey player he is. And while his words say it’s all business, the fact he’s even willing to discuss his contract status right now reveals it’s become personal to him.
I approached Ladd following Thursday’s morning skate expecting to get a quick, "no comment," upon asking him if he was prepared to shut down contract negotiations with the Winnipeg Jets once the regular season began.
"It’s certainly something I have to consider," said Ladd, looking me in the eye and not bristling a bit at the question. "My contract and the business part of things can’t become a distraction to me or to my teammates. So setting it aside once the season starts is something we’ll (Ladd and his agents) have to discuss."
This is Andrew Ladd sending a message, saying he’s had enough. For Ladd to say this aloud, he has to be angry and disappointed. It constitutes a threat: sign me now or prepare for the unknown.
The two sides have now spent three months on these negotiations. They’ve made significant headway. But it appears both sides have dug in of late and there’s been minimal movement.
Ladd has leverage. He doesn’t need to re-sign in Winnipeg and can go to the market next summer and almost assuredly sign for more money per year than he’s willing to accept from the Jets. He has to decide what’s best for him as a player and an individual. Finances will play a factor as this is his opportunity to sign a contract that takes him to retirement.
Ladd can elect not to sign, and the closer he gets to the summer without a deal, it will be increasingly tempting for him to test the market. That’s his leverage here. He doesn’t have to come off his number. He knows he can get it in free agency.
Management has to look at things from a larger perspective. Not only must they figure out what to do with Ladd, but they also have veteran defenceman Dustin Byfuglien in need of a new deal and three of their best young players; Jacob Trouba, Mark Scheifele and Adam Lowry all in the final year of their entry-level deals.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has to consider several facets when signing a long-term deal. How will it affect his flexibility down the line, what precedent does it set on his own roster and what does it do to his budget are just a few of the factors Cheveldayoff is considering right now.
Management also has to weigh the ramifications of not extending Ladd, as well as the possibility of trading him. What can they get in return, how large a hole does it leave in the lineup and how will it impact the attitude in the dressing room?
Ladd isn’t the only Jets player in line for a raise. But he is the only one with a C on his jersey and he also is the only one who can say he led the team in scoring last year.
"Laddy embodies the direction we’ve finally gotten to here. From Day 1, he was one of the guys front and centre busting his tail every day to get our group pointed in the direction we finally got to last year," said veteran winger Blake Wheeler, who will earn $5.6 million this season in the third year of a six-year, $33.6-million pact.
"For me, he’s a guy who is as big a part of what we’re doing here as anyone else. The numbers speak for themselves. You have to reward guys. You have to reward guys for their dedication. It’s not like he’s a guy that just goes out there and gets points. He’s a heart-and-soul player. Andrew Ladds don’t grow on trees. I strongly believe he deserves the contract he’s going to get. He’s going to get rewarded for his hard work. I just hope it’s here."
Both the Jets and Ladd have openly stated they want to sign an extension, and talks have been ongoing since the draft back in July. The two sides started apart on both term and money. The club wanted a shorter deal, and Ladd was originally pushing for an eight-year deal. They seem to have found middle ground at six years but remain apart on the yearly salary.
Neither side is talking in specifics, but the comparables are obvious, and $6 million per season would appear to be the watermark. Ladd wants to be above that number, and management is pushing for an average annual value south of it.
Pin the Jets shy of $35 million for a six-year deal while the Ladd camp likely has a figure of $39 million or more in mind.
In the context of these numbers, a $4-million gap doesn’t seem so wide. But it’s a lot of money to the player and in this case to the organization.
The Jets operate their business in their own manner. They don’t take cues from other organizations. They don’t chase the market and sign bad contracts.
Ladd has a range in mind. No doubt the high end is a little rich. The real question here is whether the bottom end is still beyond what the Jets are willing to pay.
That answer remains unclear, but it appears the captain wants an answer sooner rather than later.
Updated on Thursday, October 1, 2015 at 9:35 PM CDT: write-through