Jets sign Ladd to five-year deal

Andrew Ladd, the last captain of the Thrashers, signed a five-year deal to stay with the franchise...

Andrew Ladd, the last captain of the Thrashers, signed a five-year deal to stay with the franchise after moving to Winnipeg. (QMI Agency/Ken Wiebe)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

WINNIPEG - If the new five-year, $22-million contract didn’t say it, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff did: Andrew Ladd will be the first to wear the ‘C’ for the new Winnipeg Jets.

“Ladd’s our captain,” Cheveldayoff said, Tuesday, after signing the 25-year-old restricted free agent. “He’s the leader of this team. He’s demonstrated it both on and off the ice. It’s something that he doesn’t even have to try to demonstrate. It is what he is.”

The deal, which averages $4.4 million per season, makes Ladd the third-highest paid player on the Jets, behind only defencemen Dustin Byfuglien and Ron Hainsey, and comes not two weeks after the Jets and Ladd’s agent began talks.

It also came just hours before Ladd was eligible to file for salary arbitration, which could have led to a one-year contract and Ladd becoming an unrestricted free agent.

“You know it’s there. Unrestricted free agency is a big thing for a player,” Ladd said during a conference call with reporters. “But looking at the big picture, I’m in a great situation with this organization. My role with the team was a good one. So it never really crossed my mind to go that route. I wanted a long-term deal done pretty much all the way along.”

The former first-round draft pick (Carolina, 2004) earned $2.35 million with Atlanta last season, his first as a team captain after five years split between the Hurricanes and Chicago.

A product of Maple Ridge, B.C., Ladd earned Stanley Cup rings as a rookie with the ’Canes and with Chicago, last year, experience the Jets hope will rub off.

“The message to the other players is Andrew is very committed, he likes what he sees and he wants to be part of this,” Cheveldayoff said. “He’s won two Stanley Cup championships and he knows what it takes to help build a winning franchise. That experience, at such a young age, to have him as your leader, when he speaks to all the young players he speaks from experience.”

Ladd wouldn’t mind seeing some more NHL experience beside him in the fall, saying the team needs a little help to become a serious playoff contender.

“We probably could use a couple of veteran guys to help out in terms of scoring, up front,” he said. “But Chevy is a great hockey person. He knows what this team needs. I’m sure he’ll do his best to make sure we get some of that stuff done.”

The Jets still have several restricted free agents, including defenceman Zach Bogosian and forward Blake Wheeler.

And while Cheveldayoff repeated the team’s mantra about not trying to buy a contender, the GM says he’s not finished retooling his roster.

“The puck doesn’t drop for a while, yet.”


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