The story had been brewing in Winnipeg for months. Two of their stars, Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd, were in the last year of their respective deals. It had always been assumed that the Jets would sign one of the two but not both. Early signs pointed to trading Byfuglien and signing Ladd.
Then, a week ago happened. The Jets penned Byfuglien to a five-year, $38 million dollar contract, and seemingly, Ladd's fate was sealed.
Of course the Jets have postured saying that the two deals will be dealt with separately. They just flushed all of their trade leverage down the toilet and had to save face somehow. Unfortunately though, it seems the writing is on the wall and the entire NHL knows it.
Ladd has been the captain of the Jets since the team's return to Winnipeg in 2011. Chosen fourth overall in the 2004 draft, the power forward has been a perennial 20 minutes a game player for the Thrashers/Jets.
Over the course of his career in Winnipeg, Ladd has been playing top line minutes for a bad team (last year being the exception). He has been asked to score, and has done so at an admirable pace for someone who's skill set doesn't match your typical sniper.
The production is not overwhelming, but it is consistent. Ladd is going to score about 20 goals a year and grab 30 assists. He plays on the power play, he kills penalties, and he is a positive possession player. At even strength, his CF% is 52.1 percent.
The cat is out of the bag in Winnipeg, he will get traded before the deadline. Ladd's value is lower than it was 10 days ago by a substantial margin. Which is where Jim Nill and the Dallas Stars potentially come into play.
Trades within the division are difficult. The very nature of a trade means you give something to receive something. Ladd's contract expires, so the Stars would be asked to trade some combination of prospects and pick(s). There no faster way to lose your reputation as a GM than to trade a pick that becomes the next Jamie Benn.
Those sorts of risks are acceptable when you are buying at the trade deadline. And sometimes, picks become good players. But when that mysterious "pick" goes within the division, it gets dicey. Most teams are reluctant to trade within the division and that is understandable.
Aside of the mechanics of what it would take to get Ladd and whether or not Jim Nill would be willing to pay the price, wouldn't Ladd be a pretty good fit for the Stars?
Ladd is 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds of muscle. He plays a very heavy game. He would be a solid addition to the second power play unit, a good penalty killing forward, and would slot nicely on the second/third line.
Being a left winger, he would likely play with Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky/Patrick Sharp/Valeri Nichushkin. His robust game would be a nice compliment to the skill found in the Stars' top six.
The special teams contributions Ladd offers may be his best selling point. No one is replacing Jamie Benn as the net-front guy on the first power play unit. But the Lindy Ruff continues to balance out the first and second units, making both equally capable of scoring, Ladd would be an excellent net-front presence on that second unit.
Dallas' second line would get a boost by a puck-retrieving power forward with excellent hands. Ladd has underrated hands in terms of deflections and maneuvering in tight. Playing with Jason Spezza, his ability to drive the net would be rewarded. More importantly, that same net drive will bend the defense giving space to creative players like Spezza and Hemsky.
The downside of Ladd is twofold. He has traditionally had an abysmal minor penalty differential. While Ladd himself picks up only a slightly above average number of minors, the Jets seem to draw conspicuously fewer penalties while he is on the ice. Likely this is just a preposterous amount of bad luck. But at some point the numbers don't lie.
The other possible downside of Ladd is the asking price of the Jets. All inter-divisional trading cliches aside, what will the Jets expect to get for him?
Any trade involving Ladd is obviously a straight rental (unless a signing comes with the package), and that hurts his value. But he is still a serviceable player. He is the type of player that gets more important as the games slow down and turn into dump-and-chase affairs. I could see him traded for a good to decent prospect and a second rounder.
You can pick out almost any player in the NHL and theoretically find a place for him on your team. But the denominator of that trade is what you give up to make it happen. Obviously, there is a fine line.
Examining Andrew Ladd in a vacuum shows a player that could really help the Dallas Stars' push to the playoffs. What would the Stars have to give up to land the hulking power forward?