It appears there’s been a drastic turn of events in the Ladd-Byfuglien contract talks saga.
At the beginning of the season, it was almost certain the Winnipeg Jets were more interested in re-signing their captain Andrew Ladd and dealing all-star defenceman Dustin Byfuglien before the trade deadline.
Well, the tables have apparently turned.
Elliotte Friedman first reported on the weekend the Jets have turned their focus from re-signing Ladd to now inking Byfuglien to a long-term deal.
“The word everyone seems to be getting is they’re going to take a real run at trying to sign him (Byfuglien),” Friedman said during Hockey Night in Canada’s Headlines segment on Saturday.
The Jets are nine points out of a playoff spot heading into action Monday night and the likelihood the team makes a surge in the second half of the season seems unrealistic.
As TSN hockey writer and former Jets beat reporter Gary Lawless puts it, Winnipeg must make a decision on Ladd and make a decision very soon.
Somewhere between the NHL draft last summer and now, the business relationship between Ladd and the Jets soured. Now it has infected the personal and the hockey relationship between a proud captain and his organization. Maybe at 30 he’s beginning to fade. Or maybe he’s still healing. Circumstances don’t allow for the Jets to wait this out. They need to make a call on Ladd in the next five weeks.
Ladd is looking for a long-term deal in the ballpark of $6 million per season. Based on the captain’s production this season — 10 goals and 27 points in 48 games — there’s a better chance of winning the powerball lottery than Winnipeg handing Ladd that kind of money.
Players like Brandon Saad set the bar high in the off-season when the winger signed a six-year extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets worth $36 million. You can make the argument Ladd’s numbers have been stronger over the course of time — including his career year in 2014-15 when he scored 24 goals and 62 points in leading the Jets to the post-season.
But the truth is Ladd will be will be 31 in December and his best years may already be behind him.
Byfuglien on the other hand may walk away like a bandit when all is said and done. The soon-to-be UFA has reportedly been in talks with Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff as both camps look to hammer out a new deal sooner than later.
While Ladd’s production has dropped off, it’s been the opposite for Big Buff, who has 12 goals and 26 points in 48 games played. Byfuglien will also be 31 this year so handing out big bucks on a longer-term deal will be the sticking point in negotiations.
If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, it’s not crazy to think both Ladd and Byfuglien could be available at the Feb. 29 NHL trade deadline.
Either way, the next few weeks should be interesting in Jets Land.