Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is in an unenviable position. He started the season with two of his top players — his best defenseman and his captain — set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Yet, the team’s situation is such that they are not likely to keep both.
If the team made a playoff run, as they were expected to, they would likely have to keep both on the roster for the postseason and then allow one to walk for nothing. Out of the playoffs, they’re now in a position where they have to deal one so they aren’t losing a major asset for nothing.
Monday’s contract extension for Dustin Byfuglien all but ensures that Cheveldayoff will need to trade Andrew Ladd before the end of the month. There is no guarantee that he’s going to get shipped out, but it appears that the writing is on the wall.
If that’s the case, Ladd could be a rental boon for a number of playoff teams, including these six.
It’s been a season-long story for Nashville, but offense just isn’t coming as easy as they’d like. Even with the acquisition of Ryan Johansen, which has provided an offensive boost, they’re still looking for more scoring depth. Now up to 2.57 goals per game, they rank 18th in the league.
Ladd makes sense, in part, because the Preds have to take what’s available on the market. Ladd may be more of a set-up man than the finisher they need, but beggers can’t be choosers. (At least, if they can’t find a way to acquire Mikkel Boedker they can’t be.)
Cats scribe George Richards says there’s “zero interest” from Florida in acquiring Ladd. Not a good starting point, but let me sell you a cup of 6-foot-3 left wing.
For starters, recently re-signed general manager Dale Tallon has a history with Ladd. He was the GM who acquired Ladd from Carolina in Chicago. Ladd would help Florida create three frightening lines and would give them some added size for the postseason where the game changes. That could be an important point since most of their young players have never seen a game of postseason hockey, while Ladd has won two Stanley Cups.
Why it won’t happen: They’re still building an annual contender and giving up a Vincent Trocheck or Rocco Grimaldi for a few months of Andrew Ladd doesn’t make a lot of sense, even if they think they can make a run now. They’re building a powerhouse for coming seasons. Rushing that process won’t benefit the team.
The Ducks are a big team with an eye on defense. Ladd would fit right into this group and would provide some “rings in the room.”
Though they’ve begun to clear up the offensive problems that plagued them through the season’s first half, there are still questions about offensive depth. The Ducks could use any offensive push that can be afforded.
One hang-up might be the depth chart and the recent acquisition of David Perron. At left wing they aren’t full of All-Stars, but they aren’t full of guys you want to scratch or move to the fourth line. Perron, Jacob Silfverberg, Rickard Rakell (who can move to the right side easily to make this work) and Patrick Maroon are currently slotted on the left side. Ladd would instantly be their number one, but the left side isn’t really a place of great need.
Ladd certainly fits the style of hockey in Boston and his presence could make Boston an offensive powerhouse capable of competing in the shootout that is the East. But as a cusp playoff team there are a lot of questions about what they’re going to do at the deadline. Loui Eriksson, also a left wing, has become a hotly discussed trade deadline possibility.
The fact that they’re a cusp team and discussing moving Eriksson means that they are looking ahead — as was indicated in most of their offseason moves. If they’re discussing moving Eriksson, how interested are they in acquiring a rental? The answer is “not very,” in case you didn’t figure that out on your own. Yet, if they go on a run and look more certainly like they’re going to be in the postseason by the third week of the month, does that stance change some?
Detroit Red Wings
Detroit looks like a good bet for the postseason and they’re in need of some offensive depth. The return of Teemu Pulkkinen will help to get things sorted on left wing and to bring in a little more depth, but they may be looking to the trade market.
They’ve recently paired up Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk to spark a little more offensive dynamism, but no matter what the lines are, Ladd instantly becomes the second line left wing and gives them a formidable top six heading into the postseason.
The biggest hurdle here isn’t a team building for the future — Detroit is always succeeding there — but a team with absolutely no cap space. Winnipeg need to be a friendly trade partner and swallow some salary in return. A frequently frugal GM, Cheveldayoff may not make for a perfect trade partner for Ken Holland.
Like Boston, the Hurricanes are in a weird spot. They’re surging up the standings and could grab a wild card spot. But they’re going to have to make a decision soon: Are they buyers or sellers?
Eric Staal has been discussed as a big-name rental since the summer and that’s part of them needing to circle buyer or seller for the rest of the league to see. It may be too soon in the team’s development to really sell off picks or prospects in order to acquire a rental and make a postseason push, even if they do earn a berth.
On the other hand, this is a market starved for some postseason hockey. It’s been a long drought and ‘Canes fans are itching to see their team competing again. What better way to say that they’re back in the mix than acquiring a big name player like Andrew Ladd, who was a part of Carolina’s only Stanley Cup win?
Other considerations: Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, Arizona Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers.
Some have cap trouble, others should be playing for future seasons rather than right now in terms of deadline moves, but all could greatly improve with and have a spot for Ladd.
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.