It would appear Kevin Cheveldayoff has learned from how he handled Michael Frolik a year ago at this time. A gamble that never paid off.
The Winnipeg Jets GM decided to keep his winger at the 2015 trade deadline, figuring he’d need Frolik for the playoff push. Winnipeg was swept in Round 1, Frolik failed to register a playoff point, and as an unrestricted free agent, the forward walked to Calgary for zero return on July 1. (Same thing with forward Lee Stempniak, who’s now enjoying a career season in New Jersey.)
So when Cheveldayoff was asked on Hockey Central at Noon Thursday about his plans for impending UFA Andrew Ladd, it was telling that he invoked Frolik, to whom the Jets believe they made a competitive offer.
With Winnipeg a playoff long shot, it sounds like the Ladd decision will be resolved this month.
“There’s probably either a deal [contract extension] to be had or a trade to be made,” Cheveldayoff said, regarding Ladd and the Feb. 29 cutoff. “We’ll look at all those situations as they present themselves.”
The common theory is that when Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien inked his five-year, $38-million extension Monday, there wouldn’t be as much money or urgency in the tank to keep the captain as well.
A Stanley Cup champion twice over, Ladd reportedly opened negotiations by requesting a six-year deal worth at least $41 million. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, the Jets and Ladd’s camp have kept communication open but nothing is imminent.
“I honestly don’t know. I haven’t heard much from their side in terms of what that does or how it impacts,” Ladd told the newspaper Tuesday. “I’m sure we will soon, but I honestly don’t know.”
The list of Cup-hopeful clubs looking to add a scorer with leadership qualities and playoff experience is long. The Los Angeles Kings, Florida Panthers, Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, and Montreal Canadiens are among them.
“Certainly the phone is something that is ringing, obviously, when they see Dustin get signed,” Cheveldayoff said. “There’s lots of things here we’re still working through internally. We’ve got Andrew as a UFA, we’ve got several young players as potential RFAs this summer [Jacob Trouba, Mark Scheifele, Michael Hutchinson, et al.]. And we’ve got a puzzle that is limited by a salary cap that is unknown.
“That makes for some interesting prognostications.”
Ladd has scored 13 goals and 17 assists in 53 games this season. He is a minus player (-9) for the first time in four years. He has dropped down to the third line and missed shifts due to performance. The 30-year-old’s production has dipped from 2014-15’s brilliant 62-point showing.
“Are there some days that it makes it harder to focus on what you need to focus on? Probably, but that’s part of being a professional and overcoming that mental battle and getting ready to play hockey every day,” Ladd told the Press.
“Different guys go through different things at different points in seasons and careers. It’s just something you have to deal with. You won’t get a complaint out of me, I guess.”