Friday, 26 February 2016

What If He Came Back?

I find it funny that an hour prior to the trade between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets that sent Andrew Ladd back to the Windy City we had discussed on The Hockey Show that Marko Dano would be the return for the Jets' left-winger. As you may have heard, there were other pieces involved in the Ladd-for-Dano trade, but there's a chance that the biggest piece in the deal in Andrew Ladd could wear Jets' colours again next season. It's a storyline that could happen if a few things fall into place. Hear me out on this.

There have been a ton of people lamenting the fact that the Jets traded Ladd. Winnipeg has been his home for the last five years. The cost of living here is one of the lowest in the league. He's beloved by fans, teammates, and management here, and he's been a part of the community in a big way. He's still a leader or in the top-five of most offensive statistics for the Jets. Why did we trade Ladd?

My thought on this: respect. The Jets want to see one of their core players win while he's still a major contributor to the team that lands him. Andrew Ladd plays the next few months in Chicago, has a good time, impresses a few GMs with his play alongside Toews and Hossa, maybe wins a Stanley Cup, and generates some interest in his services come July 1. Ladd hits the free agent market knowing that Chicago probably can't afford to keep his services, and learns that his $5.5 million to $6 million per season demand is a little high. Teams come back and offer the 30 year-old somewhere in the range of $4.5 million to $5.5 million. Ladd's camp will have to explore the offers.

That price range? That would interest Winnipeg. The problem is the quality of the offers that Ladd gets - namely which teams look most attractive to the veteran winger. But it would also mean another move with Brandy and the kids, another summer of moving vans and house-hunting, and another August of looking for schools and integrating into a community. All of that is hard work and really takes the fun out of the summer for a guy who has earned the right to have a summer off.

In other words, there's a chance that Ladd could return in July.

If Ladd wins a third Stanley Cup with Chicago, the move back to Winnipeg might be easier. If there are teams looking for that last piece of the puzzle - think Justin Williams to the Washington Capitals - Andrew Ladd might be that player. Ladd brings scoring, some speed, a good hockey sense, and some physicality - all traits valued in the NHL today. If a team like the St. Louis Blues or Los Angeles Kings or Anaheim Ducks came calling, Ladd would probably take that opportunity because winning a Stanley Cup is an opportunity afforded to very few in their playing days.

But July 1 will be a very interesting day for Andrew Ladd. There will be interest in him, and it will either increase or decrease based upon his salary demands once he hits free agency. If he drops, the interest might be high based on his body of work in the NHL and, most recently, with the Winnipeg Jets. Ladd and the Jets have said all the right things about wanting to stay and wanting to keep the captain in Winnipeg through to his trade yesterday, so what if this discussion of getting Ladd to return in the off-season has already happened?

Prior to completing the trade, all it would take is for the Jets to contact Ladd's camp and informing them that while they aren't happy about trading the captain, they can't let him walk away in free agency for nothing. That being said, they also could have indicated to Ladd's camp that when the winger hits free agency, the Jets would be re-interested in signing him because of his importance to the club. I'm not saying there's some conspiracy here, but it could happen.

I don't think there's any bad blood between the two sides. The trade happened because the Jets and Ladd couldn't find a number that worked. I don't believe either side wanted a trade, but the Jets have to get maximum return for a player they covet and are unable to sign. This trade was more about business and finding the best place for Ladd to win than it was about making changes to a roster to win now. I think both parties are aware of this fact, so circle back in the summer to the business and see if things work better at that time.

The captain may return in the summer if the math make sense.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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