Over the weekend, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on Hockey Night in Canada that the Winnipeg Jets were “going to take a real run” at re-signing defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, even though a number of NHL teams were inquiring about his availability in a trade.
If the team is focusing its effort on keeping the 6-foot-5, 260-pound pending UFA defenceman, the future is a lot murkier for another pending UFA: forward Andrew Ladd.
Trade speculation has begun swirling around the Jets captain after a report surfaced Monday morning that the team had broken off contract talks. Ladd has been with the franchise since he was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010, one year before they relocated to Winnipeg.
After morning practice Monday, Ladd spoke about his contract status and the chance he stays with the Jets beyond this season.
"I don't know. That's a question for both sides," he said. "I can't answer that question."
Ladd, an 11-year NHL veteran, added that what he's going through isn't anything unusual and just a part of life in the NHL.
"Anybody in this situation, the easiest thing to have happen is to get something done and understand where you’re going to be, for you and your family. That's ideal," he said. "That's not how it happens every year. Like I said, I’m not the only one going through this process, a lot of guys around the league do it year to year. I know there are guys on one-year deals that have this happen every single year."
With the NHL trade deadline coming up on March 2 and the Jets sitting second-last in the Western Conference, nine points out of a playoff spot, naturally trade speculation is taking off. Ladd would no doubt garner interest from a variety of playoff-bound teams looking for a winger with size who consistently scores more than 20 goals a season, has won two Stanley Cups and has experience as an NHL captain.
Ladd was asked if he would be surprised if he was with another NHL team by the trade deadline.
"It's hard for me to see that," he told the assembled media. "But I've also been around long enough to realize that anything can happen and things change quickly. You never know."
Ladd has been traded twice before in his career. In 2008, the Carolina Hurricanes (who drafted Ladd fourth overall in 2004) moved him to the Blackhawks for Tuomo Ruutu. After he won a Stanley Cup with the Hawks in 2010, and amidst a salary cap crunch, Chicago traded Ladd to the Thrashers/Jets for prospect defenceman Ivan Vishnevskiy and a second round draft pick.