Since moving to Winnipeg, the Jets have been represented by one player more than any other. Andrew Ladd has been the captain since day one, and has been a great representative of the city. He is the exact kind of player that Winnipeg loves, a lunch pail guy who works hard, isn’t afraid of the dirty areas of the ice and plays in all zones. Ladd is not the prettiest guy out there, not flashy, not the best hands, but he works about as hard, if not harder than any other player they have. Ladd has been the Jet garnering the most attention this summer, entering the last year of his contract, the organization is trying to extend him. It is certain Ladd will be getting a raise moving forward, the question is how much does he deserve. Sure Ladd is the Jets captain and does a lot for this team, but he is also one of the most criticized Jets on many nights.
Ladd made a name for himself in Carolina and Chicago, while winning two cups he played a key role as a bottom six forward and was one of the best in the league at it. Ladd has been forced to accept a new role in Winnipeg, that of a top six forward. Ladd plays with Winnipeg’s top players and has been the one constant on the top line. He scored 50 points in his first season, which was his lowest total. The next was a shortened season due to lockout, and Ladd played out of his mind, 46 points in 48 games, people thought he may have taken the next step and become a real first line producer. Though he has not been able to keep that pace, Ladd’s numbers have continued to rise, and he has been one of the Jets best offensive players.
Ladd has done everything the team has asked, offense, defence, special teams, he plays in all situations and plays well. Now he is looking for a raise, and a new contract. Despite this being the talk of the town for much of the summer the team and Ladd’s agent have yet to come to an agreement. It is surprising considering how much interest both sides have expressed about getting a deal done in the media. It makes me believe the two sides are not that close, whether it is a number, or term, there is a difference in the way the two sides perceive Ladd.
The Kesler Precedent
Ladd’s negotiating team got a huge boost last week when the Anaheim Ducks signed Ryan Kesler to a massive contract. The six year contract extension was worth $41.25 million, an average annual value of $6.875 million. Though both the dollars and term have been almost universally panned, the contract remains, and sets a precedent for Ladd. Ladd and Kesler are similar players, with similar roles. The Jets forward goes out every night and though he plays on the first line, he is normally put in a largely defensive role, playing against the opponents top players. Kesler does much of the same except plays on the second line. Ladd does more in the way of scoring, however Kesler has shown he is a far better playoff player thus far. The biggest difference is that Kesler plays centre while Ladd is on the wing. Not only does Kesler play the higher paid position, but is also one of the better ones in the league. The Ducks centre has become one of the most unbeatable face off men in the NHL, at 56.3 % he was one of the top guys. There is no way Ladd will get the same money as Kesler, but you can absolutely guarantee that his contract will be brought up in the negotiations. By waiting and watching Kesler sign his contract, Ladd got himself some more money before he even sat at the negotiating table.
Will the Deal get Done?
While being one of the most popular Jets, Ladd has also been one of the most critiqued. He is not your average first liner, he is not a goal scorer. Another common complaint, and perhaps the one the surfaces the most are the penalties. Ladd not only takes a lot of penalties, they are penalties that hurt the team. Ladd took 72 penalty minutes last season, the majority of which were minor penalties that put his team on the penalty kill. The common perception is those penalties often come in the offensive zone. True or false, it is a perception that may be used when the Jets come to the table to negotiate. What is not perception is his penalty ratio. Ladd averages 1.2 penalty minutes per 60 minutes, while only drawing 0.2 (courtesy ESPN stats). He ranks dead last among Jets forwards in that stat and it is not good enough. Whether the Jets decide to sign Ladd in the following weeks, or Ladd plays through the season on an expiring contract, this will be a distraction until it is over. The Jets should sign Ladd, he is a great captain and a definite leader on this team. They cannot overpay however, Winnipeg has too many young players that will need contracts and Ladd is not Ryan Kesler.
Born and raised Winnipeg sports fan and contributor with The Hockey Writers.