The NHL trade deadline falls out on February 29th this year, that’s right, leap day. It’s the day where all 30 general managers call each other trying to pull a fast one on one another. One GM in particular should be on high alert.
Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and the agents for team captain Andrew Ladd have broken off talks for a new contract. Ladd is in the final year of his 5-year contract worth $22 million dollars and will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. It appears that the Jets have shifted focus to their other big time unrestricted free agent, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. After making the playoffs last season, the Jets have been one of the league’s biggest disapointments. Islanders general manager Garth Snow should take advantage of this.
What Ladd Brings
The 4th overall selection in the 2004 draft would immediately give the Islanders a legitimate first-line forward to play alongside captain John Tavares. Most importantly it would give Tavares the protection he has sorely been lacking. The 11-year veteran is a four-time 20 goal scorer and is coming off his career-high with 62 points a season ago. That was with him playing through a sports hernia. Ladd is extremely durable. He has missed just 6 games since the start of the 2008-09 season. In the past five seasons, Ladd has only once had under 50 points and that was in the lockout shortened season when he had 46 points in 48 games. Like the Jets their captain is having down season. Through 48 games, he has 10 goals and a minus 9 rating. He is coming off off-season surgery to repair the sports hernia and missed most of training camp.
Ladd would bring something that they team’s crop of forwards desperately needs, a 2-time Stanley Cup champion with leadership capabilities. He has raised the Cup twice, 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes and 2010 with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Islanders have two options if they decide on a move for Ladd. They could bring the forward in as a rental and let him walk following the season. The cost of acquiring Ladd wouldn’t be as much as a player who is still under contract. The Islanders have a player who would love to play in Winnipeg, Travis Hamonic, who requested a trade to a Western Canadian team for family concerns. The Jets would have to include more than Ladd in a deal for Hamonic, who is signed through the 2019-20 season at a very team-friendly $3.75 million dollar cap hit. New York already turned down a Byfuglien for Hamonic deal. Snow would need a defenseman included in the deal. The Isles could go the draft pick route. A first rounder and a prospect, say Alan Quine or Scotty Mayfield would do the trick.
Ladd is said to be seeking a 6-year deal worth about $6 million annually. The Isles can afford to pay that if they let unrestricted free agent Kyle Okposo walk. Okposo is expected to ask for at least $7 million annually. Could a Ladd-for-Okposo straight up deal work? Winnipeg is not too far from Okposo’s home state of Minnesota, should he decide to stay. New York should keep Okposo for the season and be buyers.
Do the Isles want to pay a 30-year-old Ladd six million a year for 6 years? Do they want to pay a forward that much who never scored 30 goals? The intangibles and 20-plus goals would be worth it.
The pressure is on Garth Snow and Jack Capuano. The team hasn’t advanced past the first round since 1993. New ownership is set to take the majority stake of the team at the start of next season. Snow was quiet in free agency last summer but it is essential that Snow improves the team at the deadline. New York hasn’t fared well re-signing their last two big name rentals (Ryan Smyth in 2007 and Thomas Vanek in 2013).