Ladd contract No. 1 priority for Winnipeg GM

Getting forward Andrew Ladd (above) re-signed is the highest priority for new Winnipeg GM Kevin...

Getting forward Andrew Ladd (above) re-signed is the highest priority for new Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. (PHILLIP MacCALLUM/Getty Images/AFP)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:09 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Andrew Ladd, expect a phone call from Kevin Cheveldayoff.

And a hefty, new contract offer.

Getting the Atlanta Thrashers captain and leading scorer signed to a new deal is a high priority, it seems, for everybody at True North Sports and Entertainment.

“Andrew’s going to be one of my first phone calls,” new GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said, Wednesday. “He is a big, big piece of this franchise.”

Ladd, a 25-year-old who’s already won Stanley Cups with Carolina (his rookie season) and Chicago (a year ago), is scheduled to become a restricted free agent, July 1.

While he’d begun talks toward an extension with Atlanta GM Rick Dudley, those were put on hold until the sale of the franchise.

“We’re very fortunate to be inheriting such a good leader,” Cheveldayoff said, describing Ladd as someone who “exudes character” and “what it takes to win.”

Ladd led the Thrashers with 29 goals and 59 points this season, his sixth in the NHL, making him a priority for more than his leadership.

“We’re going to find a way. Find a way to get to common ground,” Cheveldayoff said.

The GM will get plenty of help from his assistant.

“He won’t be cheap,” Craig Heisinger said of Ladd. “The role I would play is selling him on the culture, the city, the province, the environment that’s here. And it would be up to Kevin to hash out the number.”

With the full approval of the man who signs the cheques.

“He’s a fantastic young man,” True North chairman Mark Chipman said. “He plays the game with his heart on the sleeve and that’s what we aim to be about. That will be Chevy and Zinger’s responsibility to convince him he’s coming to a place where he’s going to flourish.”

It’s the second straight summer Ladd’s contract has come down to the wire. Last year he took the franchise to arbitration. If he doesn’t sign by July 1, he’s free to accept offer sheets from other teams. But Winnipeg would have the right to match.


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