Ladd thinking long-term

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:19 PM ET

WINNIPEG - Andrew Ladd has never been in a better bargaining position.

Fresh off career-highs with 29 goals and 59 points as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers, Ladd is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1.

The Thrashers captain has been deemed a priority signing by the franchise, which is in the midst of a move to Winnipeg.

Theres plenty of speculation that Ladd is the type of player who could draw a significant offer sheet on the open market, but its important to note that Winnipeg still has the right to match any offer.

Seeing whats out there is appealing to the power forward, although Ladd gave an indication hed like to get a long-term deal done with Winnipeg if the two sides can find some common ground.

Its something you think about (testing the market), said Ladd, who was in Winnipeg on Thursday to get a feel for the city and the direction in which the franchise is moving. But Ive been kind of knocked around. This will be my fourth spot three teams, but fourth spot in six, seven years. So itd be nice to be in the same place for a while and be able to lock up at the end of the summer and know youre coming back to the same place.

Ladd is only 25, but hes already played seven seasons in the NHL and won two Stanley Cups.

His representatives tried to get a long-term deal done with the Thrashers last season after he was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks, but eventually he settled on a one-year term through arbitration, worth $2.35 million.

Talks were reopened in January, but a deal couldnt be reached and Ladds camp broke off the talks in April.

Ladd, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 of 2012 if a long-term deal cant be reached, is believed to be seeking a four-to-five year deal for between $3.5 and $5 million per season.

If the two sides go to arbitration again, Ladd is due a raise north of $3 million and Winnipeg would run the risk of losing him for nothing at the end of the season.

So a long-term deal would seem to benefit both sides.

For the sake of comparison, defenceman Dustin Byfuglien signed a five-year extension last season worth $26 million.

Ladds visit to Winnipeg didnt include any negotiations (that should come in the next few days), but his connection to general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff from their days with the Chicago Blackhawks certainly wont hurt as the process moves forward.

You need to trust people youre going to work with and know that youre in good hands, said Ladd. I have a lot of respect for Chevy and look forward to working with him.

Being the leader of the team moving to Winnipeg is something in which Ladd takes enormous pride.

Its a big honour and big responsibility, and something I dont take lightly, said Ladd. Im probably less of a talker and more showing by example. Its not going to change me. But Im definitely excited about the opportunity here and what I can do.

Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff reiterated his position that getting Ladd signed to a deal remains a top priority for the franchise.

I cant speak for what happened (in Atlanta), all I know is that we had a great morning, said Cheveldayoff. Its refreshing for him. We talked a bit about this situation (in Winnipeg) but we also talked about what we were doing one year ago today, when we were celebrating a championship.


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