The Four Teams Most Likely to Acquire Andrew Ladd

With a week until the NHL trade deadline, and captain Andrew Ladd still unsigned and seemingly headed for free agency this summer, here’s a look at the NHL teams which make the best trade partners for Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Winnipeg Jets.

Ladd Trade Criteria:

  1. Only considering teams who are likely to make the playoffs (16 current playoff seeds, plus Minnesota)
  2. Targeting teams whose biggest need is for a top-6 winger, (mainly on the left side)
  3. Stanley Cup contenders favoured over mere playoff teams
  4. Teams with attractive prospects or young roster players given further consideration

LaddBut first, here are 9 teams where Ladd probably isn’t headed…

Unlikely Ladd Destinations

Boston

The Bruins are currently trying to re-sign winger Loui Eriksson, and are considering trading him if they can’t reach a deal. And given the Bruins’ cap situation, it wouldn’t make much sense for them to give up assets in order to bring in another pending UFA who is even less likely to stay than Eriksson. And for those who might suggest the teams swap Eriksson for Ladd, that makes even less sense for the Jets, who would look for young players, picks, or prospects in exchange for Ladd.

Colorado

The Avalanche may be looking to add at the deadline, but it’s been rumoured that their priority would be to add pieces on the blueline. Given the extreme weakness on the left-side of their D, that makes a lot more sense than dealing for a left winger, where they already have players like Matt Duchene (LW/C), Gabriel Landeskog, and the recently acquired Shawn Matthias.

Tampa Bay

Like Boston, the Lightning are trying to retain a key player on their current roster – in this case, a much bigger fish in Steven Stamkos. And like Colorado, they are reportedly more interested in adding to the blueline, given the injury to Jason Garrison, and a very poor year thus far from Matt Carle – who makes a staggering $5.5M per season.

New York Islanders

Along the same lines as Boston and Tampa, the Islanders are struggling to retain some key pieces, including soon to be free agents, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen. They also have a lot of forward depth as it is, so adding a third forward who is probably headed to free agency doesn’t seem like a wise choice.

Minnesota

While it’s hard to believe that the Jets would deal Ladd to their most significant divisional and geographical rival, the Wild also have pretty good depth on left wing, with Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek, and Jason Zucker. The rumour around Minny was that they were very interested in acquiring Ryan Johansen from Columbus, and offered up young defenceman Jonas Brodin, so if the Wild were in the market for something up front, it’s more likely to be a centre.

Detroit

The Red Wings are a team in transition – you might call it a “competitive rebuild” – as they pass the torch from veterans like Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Kronwall, and Howard, to young players like Larkin, Tatar, DeKeyser, and Mrazek. So while the Wings certainly have lots of prospects of interest to the Jets, like Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, and more, the Red Wings have rarely been a team who makes a splash at the deadline, and now would seem like a particularly unlikely time.

Pittsburgh

While Pittsburgh would probably love to have a winger like Ladd – you could argue that he’s a younger version of Crosby’s running mate, Chris Kunitz – the Penguins have depleted their prospect base and draft selections so much in recent years that it’s hard to believe they have anything to give back in a deadline day deal where the Jets will be looking for young players and picks. Furthermore, the Pens’ bigger need is on the blueline, where they’re rumoured to be intersted in Canucks d-man, Dan Hamhuis.

St. Louis

Aside from being a divisional rival, the Blues have a lot of depth and flexibility up front already, with several players taking a turn at both centre and wing including Steen, Backes, Berglund, and Schwartz, and several other good forwards like Stastny, Brouwer, and Lehtera, the emerging Robby Fabbri, and the incomparable Vladimir Tarasenko. With the recent knee injury to top-pairing d-man, Alex Pietrangelo, one would think the Blues’ priority would be to add depth on the blueline.

San Jose

While the Sharks have been a good team this year, they probably aren’t a true contender like the Western powers of Chicago, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and St. Louis, and thus may not be looking to make a splash at the deadline. Furthermore, Pierre Leburn recently indicated that the Sharks are more interested in adding to their blueline.

 

Here are 4 spots where Ladd might end up, but which may not end up being the best fits…

Possible Destinations for Ladd:

Nashville

The Predators feel set on the blueline with the likes of Josi, Weber, Ellis, and Ekholm, and they added a long-coveted first line centre this year when they acquired Ryan Johansen. The main thing the Preds need is help on the wing, especially in the top-6. While they do have a few productive wingers, with James Neal, Filip Forsberg, and Craig Smith, Colin Wilson has had trouble establishing himself as a top-6 winger, and has been a disappointment this season, with just 4 goals in 42 games. Considering that Nashville has the 3rd fewest goals this season from their forward group, Ladd could be quite a nice fit with the Preds. That said, if they don’t feel they are a serious contender this year – and their play thus far suggests that they probably aren’t – they may look to a cheaper option to bolster the top-6, like Jiri Hudler out of Calgary.

Florida

With the Panthers’ run to the top of the Atlantic division, and the previous relationship between Ladd and Florida GM, Dale Tallon – who were together in Chicago and won a Stanley Cup in 2010 – many have speculated that Florida is an obvious fit for Ladd. Florida hockey writer, George Richards noted Saturday (on the Illegal Curve hockey show) that he had heard the Panthers had “zero interest” in Ladd as of a month ago, but to add another wrinkle, he mentioned that Tallon was seen watching the Jets play against Tampa on February 18 (a game in which Ladd scored 2 goals, plus another in the shootout), and speculated that things may have changed. Of course, at this point it’s all just that – speculation. Considering the Panthers’ sudden rise, it may be that GM Tallon doesn’t see his club as a serious Stanley Cup contender just yet – at least not to the point where it makes sense to remove a piece of the future for a rental player. Now, if in trade talks, they were able to speak to Ladd’s agent and gauge his interest in signing long-term, that could certainly change their interest level.

Los Angeles

With the recent injury to top-6 left winger Marian Gaborik, some have speculated that LA would be a good fit for Ladd. While Ladd would certainly give them another finisher to play with either Anze Kopitar, or former World Junior linemate, Jeff Carter, their depth on left wing remains strong, with Milan Lucic, Tanner Pearson, and Dwight King. Furthermore, after waiving defenceman Christian Ehrhoff, who is a shadow his former self, the Kings’ may be looking more for help on defence. All that said, for a legitimate Stanley Cup contender like LA, they can probably justify adding quality players regardless of the position, and they certainly have a history of making big deals at the deadline, including Jeff Carter in time for their first Cup in 2012, and Marian Gaborik for their second Cup in 2014.

New York Rangers

The Rangers lost two important wingers from last year’s top-9 – Martin St. Louis and Carl Hagelin – and while they’ve seen a break-out season from 22-year-old J.T Miller, they’re getting less production than they expected from some other young players in Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes. It’s been rumoured that the Rangers are looking for some size and skill up front, with some speculating on Carolina Hurricanes captain, and pending free agent, Eric Staal. But with Staal’s cap hit of $8.25M, and the Rangers with virtually no cap space, it might make more sense for them to look at a cheaper option like Ladd, who would also bring size, experience, and finishing ability. From the Jets’ perspective, the Rangers don’t have a lot of young talent outside of their NHL roster, and it’s hard to see the New York giving up any of their big young forwards like Miller, Kreider, or Hayes for a rental player, so while there may be interest from the Rangers, there also may not be a great fit here.

 

Here are the 4 teams which may be the most suited to acquiring Ladd, (need on LW, contender status, good young assets)…

Most Likely Ladd Destinations:

Dallas

The Stars certainly have the top-end skill, with a top-6 that includes the likes of Benn, Seguin, Spezza, and Sharp, and other nice top-9 options like Eakin, Nichushkin, Hemsky, and the surprising rookie, Mattias Janmark. If you were to throw in an excellent complementary scorer like Andrew Ladd, which NHL team would be more dangerous up front? Playing with high-end playmakers like Seguin or Spezza would maximize what Ladd offers, namely, skill, smarts, and finishing ability around the net. The Stars also have several young blueliners in their system who might be of interest to the Jets, most notably, Julius Honka and Esa Lindell. Stars’ GM Jim Nill has also shown a desire to make big moves, acquiring Seguin, Spezza, and Sharp in back-to-back-to-back summers from 2013-2015. The biggest question is whether the Stars are willing to meet the Jets’ asking price, when they might instead prefer to save their young assets to address the more pressing need they have on the blueline.

Washington

Could Ladd put Washington over the top, and help them win their Stanley Cup in franchise history? The Caps are certainly the Eastern Conference favourite to make the finals, but assuming they do get there, it’ll be no easy task beating the beasts of the Western Conference. In Ladd, you get a two-time Stanley Cup winner who has scored 138 goals in the past 5.5 seasons, and has averaged 26 goals (per 82 games) over the past 427 games. While the Caps have some high-end talent in Ovechkin, Backstrom, and emerging star Evegeny Kuznetsov, as well as other skilled forwards like Jason Williams and T.J Oshie. The last member of their regular top-6 is C/LW Marcus Johansson – a good, young player, who’s having a strong season, with 34 points in 50 games; the issue is that Johansson has managed just 3 goals in his last 35 playoff games. Who better to round out their top-6 than Ladd, a left winger who could slide onto a line with Kuzetnsov and Williams? Furthermore, the Caps have a few prospects who might be of interest to the Jets, particularly defender Madison Bowey – a Winnipegger who played with Josh Morrissey at last year’s World Juniors, and also in Kelowna of the WHL. All that said, the Caps might feel that they already have the right mix now, in which case they’d simply look to add a bit of depth in case of injuries, rather than make a big change by bringing in Ladd.

Chicago

Looking to add a winger – check. It’s been widely reported the Hawks’ are looking to add a left-winger to play with Jonathan Toews.

Cup contender – check. The Hawks have won two of the last three Stanley Cups, and have been at or near the top of the Western Conference standings for most of the season.

Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that Ladd played in Chicago during their 2010 cup win – the organization is very familiar with him. The only question here is, given the Hawks’ extreme cap crunch next year, are they willing to part with enough young assets for what is almost surely a rental player? The Hawks do have a number of decent prospects – AHL players like Marko Dano, Ryan Hartman, and Ville Pokka all have some potential, though none of them have exceeded expectations in their second pro seasons. Their best prospect is likely Nick Schmaltz – a centre who has 29 points in 25 games at the University of North Dakota. Another interesting option is centre Tyler Motte, who plays with Jets’ prospect Kyle Connor at  the University of Michigan, and has scored 28 goals in 28 games. If the Hawks were willing to part with one of these players, along with at least a second round pick, I’m sure the Jets would listen, however, the Hawks don’t have a 2nd round pick in 2016, and who knows if the Hawks are willing to give up another first round pick, given the overpay they made at last year’s deadline for Antoine Vermette.

Anaheim

All of this brings us to Anaheim. A bonafide cup contender prior to the season, we all know about the Ducks’ struggles early in the year, and yet, the Ducks now sit right behind the LA Kings for 1st place in the Pacific. Could they use a top-6 winger? You bet. While the acquisition of David Perron has been a huge boost, the off-season losses of Matt Beleskey and Kyle Palmieri hurt their secondary scoring a lot more than anticipated, especially given that Jakob Silfverberg has been a gigantic disappointment, and Andrew Cogliano and Chris Stewart have struggled to provide regular offence. Ladd’s history playing with Ryan Getzlaf, both in the WHL, and at the World Junior Championships would seem to make this a nice fit for Anaheim. Furthermore, the Ducks are absolutely loaded with young defenceman on the NHL roster – Fowler, Lindholm, Vatanen, Despres – so they might feel that they can afford to shed a young d-man who has yet to crack the NHL lineup. Given that defence happens to be the only weakness on the Jets’ current list of prospects, there may be a fit here for both teams. While Shea Theodore is probably untouchable in this scenario, another skilled defenceman named Brandon Montour has come up in trade rumours. Furthermore, if a deal were to happen, Anaheim might be able to rearrange some cap space in order to re-sign Ladd, should be be interested in staying. Given Anaheim’s struggles to score for much of this season – they’re the lowest scoring team currently sitting in a playoff spot – and all of the other reasons already stated, Anaheim makes the most sense, at least on paper…

Report on Jets

Courtesy nhl.com

Thoughts from the Jets’ inaugural month

Bolstering Byfuglien

If you’re getting tired of Dustin Byfuglien’s attention to detail – or lack thereof – prepare to be exasperated. Buff has demonstrated his recklessness on several occasions, seldom more obviously than Saturday night in New Jersey, where his neutral-zone carelessness led directly to Adam Henrique’s OT winner.  We all know Buff is a high-risk, high-reward player, but with only 2 goals in 15 games this year, many are beginning to wonder if the potential upside (he scored 16 goals in 42 games to begin last season) can offset the obvious drawbacks. Continue reading

Sunday Jets Notes: Impact Players, Line Combinations, and Scheifele

Impact and Complementary Players

It’s interesting to hear people analyze a certain player’s role or importance. Most assumptions about players are inherently imprecise, but none more so than the labeling of players by their supposed line. Terms like “1st line centre” and “2nd line winger” get thrown around a lot, and are meant to reflect a certain level of talent as well as expectations for offensive production. But how do you know if someone is suited to the 1st line or the 2nd line? Doesn’t it depend in large part on their linemates? The ice time they receive? The specific opportunities (1st unit pp?) they’re afforded by their coach?

A concept that’s equally subjective, but which may be more precise involves splitting players into two categories: Continue reading

To Fight Another Day

4th overall pick in 2009, Evander Kane

Why losing today will help the Jets win tomorrow

Many people are asking why the Jets have been so inactive in the free agent market. Is it that no one wants to play in Winnipeg? Are they simply too cheap? Perhaps there’s another explanation. Take a peak at the organizational chart below:

JETS ORGANIZATIONAL DEPTH CHART
NHL
LW C RW LD RD G
Ladd Little Wheeler Enstrom Byfuglien Pavelec
Kane Burmistrov Antropov Hainsey Bogosian Mason
Thorburn Slater UFA/Trade Oduya Stuart
Glass Cormier Rypien Jones
Stapleton
AHL
LW C RW LD RD G
Gregoire Maxwell Mahacek Meech Flood Manino
Klingberg Gagnon Pettersson Festerling Postma
Holzapfel O’Dell Kulda Zubarev
Chiarot Redmond
Junior/College
LW C RW LD RD G
Lowry Scheifele Brassard Yuen Serville Kasdorf
Leveille Telegin Melchiori

NHL

Promising youngsters with Kane, Burmistrov, Little, Bogosian, Pavelec, and a few just entering their prime – Byfuglien, Enstrom, Ladd, Wheeler. Definitely not a playoff roster.

UPDATE: The Jets acquired RW Eric Fehr shortly after this article was written, filling the “3rd line RW” spot I had held open for an established NHLer. Fehr – a product of Winkler, Mb – is a very talented winger who has been hampered by injuries throughout his career thus far. (Back and shoulder problems.)

AHL

Solid defensive depth, but the only d-men that are likely to have significant NHL careers are Postma and Kulda. Klingberg is a big, fast, skilled winger, but the jury is out on whether he has top-6 potential. Maxwell and Mahacek are nearly NHL ready, but neither looks like they’ll ever play in the top-6. The rest will probably never play a full season in the NHL.

UPDATE: Since the writing of this article, the Jets have acquired Kenndal McArdle – a quick, hard-working forward who has some potential to play in the NHL as a 3rd or 4th liner – and signed Jason Gregoire, a player with top-6 potential. Gregoire is a goal scorer, and about as good a prospect as Klingberg. He is also two years older than Klingberg, and closer to being NHL-ready.

Junior Prospects

The most problematic segment of all. The only prospect that has any chance of being an impact player is 1st rounder Mark Scheifele. The next best prospect is Russian centre Ivan Telegin, but it’s very difficult to project what (if anything) he might become at the NHL level. The rest are bottom-6 forwards and 3rd pairing D at best.

THE REALITY

With a non-playoff roster in the NHL, very few quality prospects in the AHL, and only one high-end junior prospect, Jets management knows exactly what this team needs: high draft picks. That doesn’t mean that the team can’t be competitive in the here and now, but ‘competitive’ would be best defined as playing in tight games rather than piling up wins.

I think I see the strategy. A solid goaltending tandem combined with a good crop of defencemen should keep the games close, providing fans a team that’s good enough to stomach. If the goal was to make the playoffs now, they would have added 3 forwards capable of playing in the top-9; that is the obvious and pressing need. The fact that they haven’t added any quality forwards (Glass is a 4th liner; Rypien is a fringe NHLer) leads me to believe that they’ll try out the Cormier’s, Maxwell’s and Mahacek’s up front and accept a lottery pick this time next summer.

I’m 100% in support of this strategy. Why add some complementary pieces on one or two year contracts just so you can barely sneak into the playoffs? I think it’s crucial that a team finish either in the top 5 or bottom 5 overall. At the beginning of each year, you can usually name about 5 teams that are truly ready to compete for the Stanley Cup. Meanwhile, only the bottom 5 teams (often fewer) have a shot at a truly magnificent prospect at the draft. Certainly there’s more room at the top – a team can move from 7th to 1st within a few years with responsible drafting and development. But to go from the middle of the pack to serious contention is extremely difficult.

How come? Well, to win a Stanley Cup, obviously you need to have several excellent players. There are only three ways to acquire players: through draft, trade, or signing. Generally to get a great player in a trade, you need to give up a great (or potentially great) player. There are examples that disprove this, but they are the exception rather than the rule. There are very few top-line forwards, top-pairing defencemen, or elite goalies available in free agency, as teams make resigning these types of players a top priority. For instance, of the douzens of free agents signed this off-season, only one – Brad Richards – is unquestionably an impact player. Furthermore, free agency isn’t a level playing field. For years, even average free agents have been avoiding places like Edmonton, Columbus, Atlanta, Minnesota, Florida, and (until recently) Buffalo in favour of more desirable teams/cities like New York, Toronto, Boston, Vancouver, Chicago, etc. For a team like the Jets, free agency is not a viable means of acquiring top talent.

That leaves the draft. The draft is the best – some say the only way – to build a team. When you look at great teams, generally their core (best) players were drafted and developed by the organization:

Pittsburgh – Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Staal, Letang, Orpik

Detroit – Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Holmstrom, Lidstrom, Kronwall

Chicago – Toews, Kane, Bolland, Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson (though not Sharp)

Washington – Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Laich, Green, Carlson, Alzner

Vancouver – Sedin, Sedin, Kesler, *Burrows, Raymond, Edler, Bieksa

Buffalo – Miller, Myers, Vanek, Roy, Ennis, Stafford, Pominville

*Burrows was signed and developed by Vancouver alone – basically akin to drafting

There are small exceptions. The two best players Boston Bruins from this past year are Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas, both of whom were signed through free agency. However, Thomas was not an elite goalie when he was signed. In fact, no one (probably including the Bruins) expected him to be anything more than a good backup, otherwise there would have been intense competition for his services. Also, four of their five most important forwards were drafted – Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Lucic. (Horton came over in a trade). San Jose is another. Their best player – Joe Thornton – was acquired from the Bruins in one of the most lopsided deals of the decade. They also acquired their top defenceman (Boyle), a top sniper (Heatley, who has since become Havlat), and a top D (Burns) through trade, and their goalie (Niemi) through free agency. However, it is worth mentioning that in order to make those trades, they needed to give up once high draft picks, including Marco Sturm (21st overall, 1996), Brad Stuart (3rd overall in 1998), Milan Michalek (6th overall, 2003), Devin Setoguchi (8th overall, 2005), Ty Wishart (16th overall, 2006), and Charlie Coyle (28th overall, 2010). So although these deals break the mould, good drafting still played a large role. (LA is a similar story – a team who drafted a few core pieces in Doughty, Kopitar, Brown, etc, but used other important draft prospects to acquire talent, i.e Schenn and Simmonds for Mike Richards).

First round talents are essential. Everyone knows that Detroit pulled Datsyuk and Zetterberg from the depths of obscurity, but this is rare. Of the top-30 point producers in the NHL last year, 5 of them were 1st overall picks, 4 went 2nd overall, 3 went 3rd overall, and another 11 were first round picks. Far more dumbfounding is the following stat: of the top-20 goal scorers in the NHL last year, ONLY ONE (Patrick Sharp) was not drafted in the first round. (The previous year, only 2 of the top 19 were drafted past the first round.). Goal scoring doesn’t tell the whole story, but with second assists filling scoresheets on an all-too-regular basis, goal totals are probably the single best statistical expression of talent. And acquiring talent on draft day operates like money in a pyramid scheme – most of it goes to the top.

As the summer goes on, I’ll be looking at other draft related topics. One thing I’m particularly interested in is a nature-nurture style debate – are good hockey players drafted, or developed? It’s a chicken-and-egg thing, but you can learn a bit if you look at opposite sides of the spectrum: failed 1st round picks, and glorious late round gems. Is there anything common to the groups? Absolutely. For now I’ll say this: the top four scorers drafted furthest from the first round were developed by just two teams.