The Winnipeg Jets have some crucial decisions to make on their future. The outcome from such decisions may not make or break the franchise, but the impact cannot be denied.
The Jets have their two biggest expiring contracts since the franchise move to Winnipeg.
As it currently stands, Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd enter unrestricted free agency and look to receive significant paydays July 1st, 2016. Not only do the Jets have their two biggest names at forward and defence garner raises, but their two biggest young forwards leave their entry level contracts that same summer. Skepticism surrounding the Canadian dollar and its potential impacts just add to the pile.
It’s easy to see why some say the Jets are substantially unlikely to keep both Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien in the long run.
If the Jets had to keep one, which one should it be? We look at the case for choosing Andrew Ladd here.
The Jets are well known for their embarrassment of riches on the right side of their blue line.
The combination of Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, and Paul Postma could go swing-for-swing with any other NHL team’s right-shot defensive depth. While Myers tends to be overrated — if he’s your third best defender, you are doing pretty damn well.
The bulk of the Jets prospect depth also resides on the right side. While none of Jan Kostalek, Brenden Kichton, Jack Glover, Tucker Poolman, Marcus Karlstrom or Nelson Nogier look like instant home runs, there is strength in their sheer quantity.
The loss of Byfuglien would indeed be a step back on the right side; it is however the one place where the Jets could take a hit without much damage.
The Jets left wing depth is another story, although increasingly more complex.
Andrew Ladd is the sole natural left winger the Jets have at the NHL level.
Drew Stafford, Mathieu Perreault, Adam Lowry, Alexander Burmistrov, Matt Halischuk and Chris Thorburn have all spent time on the left side, but tend to play either centre or right wing. Two of these options will have to play left wing –while another at centre– in the Jets top nine, even with Andrew Ladd still on the team.
The Jets are unlikely to fill that position internally any time soon either.
Kyle Connor, who has played both left wing and centre, has elite skill but is a more long term solution as he needs time to develop in the NCAA. Brenden Lemieux has some talent but bounced between the second and third line of a deep CHL team. The other natural left wingers Axel Blomqvist, Erik Foley, C.J. Franklin, and Matt Ustaski are miles away.
There is the possibility of Nik Ehlers, with being a left-handed shot, but Ehlers has almost exclusively been developed as a right winger over the past two years.
For those on the team and in the organization, most intangible evaluations are merely a game in educated guessing. For outsiders like media, bloggers, and fans, it becomes even more cloudy.
We do know though that the team and organization looks up to Ladd’s experience. He has been given the team’s captaincy with reasoning.
There is also the way Ladd plays the game. While Ladd may not be a flashy player, he gets the results due to his skill, hard work, and determination.
Intangibles are named so due their inability to be perceived by senses, and are often hidden as latent variables. However, when one is thought to carry intangibles and also garners positive results, they are usually worth the risk in investing on their intangibles.
Ladd’s intangibles carry value not only in the now, but in maximizing potential future returns as well.
The Jets have one of the league’s better prospect cupboards, with a slew of high end talent in Nik Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Josh Morrissey, Connor Hellebuyck, Nic Petan, and others. The Jets want someone to help their team win now, but also help optimize the potential of others for the future.
Age and Injury Factor
If players never aged, there would be a lot less fear to long term contracts.
Andrew Ladd is nearly a full year younger than Dustin Byfuglien. One year may seem like a marginal distance, but could be the breaking point with term length on either player being a central factor.
In addition, historically Ladd has been significantly more reliable than Dustin Byfuglien with durability. Byfuglien has missed large chunks of the Jets games, while Ladd has barely missed any, and one of which was not for an injury.
The Jets may be stuck with having to choose between Ladd and Byfuglien. If that ends up the case, who should they choose?
The Jets carry a tonne of depth on the right side of their defence at both the NHL level and their prospect cupboard; this is not true at left wing. Andrew Ladd also carries some intangibles that make him coveted for a team that will need to surround their young evolving core with effective veteran leadership. Then there is also Ladd’s extra year and his historical durability.
These reasons suggest that the Jets should extend Ladd if their hand is forced.
Next time we will look at the case for keeping Dustin Byfuglien.