When it gets mentioned on the All Star game broadcast, it's pretty sure there's some fire to go with the smoke. Such is the case surrounding the Winnipeg Jets, who have fallen back this season after being bounced in four straight by the Anaheim Ducks in the opening round last year.
While the commentary was on defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, the grist mill is grinding about Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd as well. Ladd, a 2006 Stanley Cup winner as a rookie with Carolina and again in 2010 with Chicago, was acquired by the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise before the the 2010-11 season and been their captain since November of that year. In 740 career games he's put up 195 goals and 252 assists for 447 points, and after putting up 24 goals and 38 assists in 81 games last season has produced just 10 goals and 17 assists in 49 games this campaign. This is the final year of his contract the carries a cap hit of $4.5 mil. with unrestricted free agency pending.
The truth of the matter is he would fit in perfectly with the Ducks. They need a proven top line left winger who can score and is not afraid to get physical. Ten goals may not seem like a lot but when only three members of the Ducks have posted double-digit goal totals this season, the team will take any improvement they can get.
And the price?
The Jets are looking for defensemen which immediately translates into Sami Vatanen when discussing trading with Anaheim. The Ducks have a crowded blueline and Vatanen has been viewed as the most expendable asset. However, I do not think parting ways with a skilled player such as Vatanen would be a smart move for the Ducks to make for a rental player ... Although the Ducks will have to part with someone, I imagine a deal with Winnipeg involving Anaheim's first round pick as the centerpiece.
Is Ladd A 'Must'?
While the championship experience and leadership is enticing, as are the four 20-goal seasons, Ladd has never been a big time playoff performer. In the two Stanley Cup winning runs he was a part of, he only put up five goals and four assists in 24 games, and for his career has eight goals and eight assists in 57 playoff appearances. Though it's worth noting he sports a 9.5 shooting percentage in the playoffs, and two of those eight goals were game winners.
Remember, the Jets are a budget team much like the Ducks, hence why Byfuglien and Ladd's name's are out there with the over $10 mil. in cap space they currently take up while needing new deals. Winnipeg has three significant RFAs in Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, and 2011 16th overall selection Joel Armia to worry about as well. If there's a deal to be made involving a defenseman, it probably won't be for another RFA-to-be type who's up for a significant raise, but rather a cost controlled asset in the vein on Josh Manson, Shea Theodore, or AHL All Star Brandon Montour.
Knowing as well that the Ducks don't have any selections in the second round this coming draft due to the Kevin Bieksa trade, it's a huge ask to spend the first rounder on a 30-year old probable rental and leave the team with two third rounders as the opening crack they get at the draft.
There's also the matter that it appears things may finally be rounding into form for the Anaheim offense with the acquisition of David Perron. 15 goals in four games (with 10 coming in the back-to-back wins at Detroit and Boston) show that the new line seatings by head coach Bruce Boudreau may have shaken the team out of their offensive doldrums. Meanwhile with a dive into the deep stats, Puck Daddy's Ryan Lambert has pointed out that the team is starting to win with their defense while the offense is turning too without a spike in shooting percentage.
Another question, should the Ducks acquire Ladd, is where to slot him? Does he replace Patrick Maroon alongside Rickard Rakell and Corey Perry? Does he slot in with Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg and move Andrew Cogliano down to the fourth line tangle with Ryan Garbutt, Nate Thompson, Mike Santorelli, and (should the Ducks use him when he returns from suspension) Shawn Horcoff? The preponderance of forwards seems to suggest that Anaheim would need to send a forward back, if not just to help Winnipeg fill the hole Ladd's departure would create but also make room themselves.
If the price were, say, something like Cogliano (who could be a tough ask with his no trade clause, as well as for the Jets at $2.9 mil. cap hit for two more years, while being owed $6.4 mil. in actual salary) or Santorelli and his expiring contract and a third round pick, it would seem much more palatable a deal from an Anaheim perspective. But you can bet the Jets fan base would not be happy to see their captain go for a bottom six forward and a third, especially considering the help the team needs with two additional pending UFAs (Grant Clitsome, Adam Pardy) on the backend. Defense will almost certainly have to be part of the package, and if you're adding one to the armchair GMing above, it's a really hefty price tag for a rental.
Ladd is an intriguing thought for the Ducks to target, and would certainly add a presence to the lineup for a playoff push, but he's hardly a 'must'.