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Bye Captain and the World of Tomorrow: Looking at Dano and the Andrew Ladd trade

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Oh Laddy boy, the 'hawks, the 'hawks are calling,
All night and morn, e'er since Big Buff re-signed.
Your contract's gone, and all our fans are yelling,
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and we must bide.

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

"I saw a great disturbance on the Twitterverse, as if thousands of Jets fans suddenly cried out in wonder and were suddenly joyful. I fear something newsworthy has happened."


Winnipeg Jets fans, breathe a sigh of relief. In a non-playoff year, Andrew Ladd was not allowed to simply walk at season's end, nor was he signed to an extension featuring far too much money or far too much term. In short, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff did what he had to.

But before passing final judgment, we need to look at the deal he brokered. As per TSN 1290, the trade breaks down as follows:

The Winnipeg Jets trade: 
Andrew Ladd (36% salary retention)
Jay Harrison
Matt Fraser
To the Chicago Blackhawks, in exchange for: 
Marko Dano
CHI 2016 1st round draft pick
CHI 2018 3rd round draft pick, conditional

Fair Value?

Yes.

To get a reasonable feel for Andrew Ladd's worth, let's turn to last season. While there have been transactions this year, they've tended to be hockey trades (Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones), contract dumps (the Dion Phaneuf showstopper), or simply unlikely to indicate a whole heck of a lot. I'm hard pressed to discern what Roman Polak being worth one-and-a-half 2nd round draft picks (Nick Spaling comprising the remaining half) has to say about the market for Andrew Ladd.

For the purposes of this conversation, there is one trade in 2014-15 which should be highlighted:

The Arizona Coyotes trade: 
Antoine Vermette
To the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for:
Klas Dahlbeck
CHI 1st round selection in 2015

While Andrew Ladd is both a superior forward to Antoine Vermette and likely has more clout among GMs, the Vermette transaction was also a bit of an overpay by Chicago, somewhat mitigating the difference between them.

This was a reasonable high bar to set for expectations. And it was a high bar which the Ladd trade met, if not surpassed.

The 1st rounders involved are at bare minimum equivalent; it can't get any worse than the 30th overall selection Arizona ended up with last June. If there's a difference to be found, it's primarily in the prospects.

Klas Dahlbeck versus Marko Dano

Prior to his arrival in Arizona, the hope for Dahlbeck was that he might be Chicago's next Michal Rozsival: not quick or flashy, but a solid defensive defenceman that gets the job done. Bigstay-at-home, responsible, limited. The absolute zenith of hope would have been second pairing, with third pairing duties a far more likely end.

Having said that, Joel Quenneville's Chicago Blackhawks can sometimes be a tough roster to crack. In three seasons with the organization, Dahlbeck donned the Indian head for all of four regular season games in 2014-15. Contrast this against Trevor Van Riemsdyk, who played 18 regular season games in 2014-15, his first season as a professional after leaving the University of New Hampshire. Joel Quenneville likes who he likes, which is fine because something something three Stanley Cup victories as head coach.

While Dahlbeck was drafted by the Blackhawks 79th overall in 2011, Dano arrived as one of two core returns in the Brandon Saad trade, together with Corey Tropp Artem Anisimov. At the time, Dano was coming off of a rather successful rookie effort, in which he posted 21 points in 35 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets (in addition to 19 in 39 with the Springfield Falcons). He accomplished those 21 points while skating on the team's then-third line, alongside Alexander Wennberg and Scott Hartnell. Arctic Ice Hockey's frenemies over at Second City Hockey were downright giddy watching highlights such as this:

Combined with his impeccable fancy stats and depleted Chicago lineup, many were left salivating at the offensive opportunity awaiting him in the Windy City. But Joel Quenneville's Chicago Blackhawks can be a hard roster to crack, remember? And so matters didn't quite unfold as the multitude of armchair GMs had hoped or predicted.

You had me at Marko Dano

Assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in October, Dano was recalled for an 18 game stint in which he dressed 13 times, scoring twice while averaging 09:41 per game. During this time, his most frequent linemates were Marian Hossa and something called a Tanner Kero. When with the IceHogs, he also posted 23 points over 34 games.

Aside from point totals and flashy highlight videos, what kind of player is Marko Dano? The Hockey News has this to say:

Assets: Owns a great shot, elusive skating ability and a lot of creativity on offense. Is versatile enough to play either wing or center, and he's especially good when shooting from his off-wing (right).

Flaws: Doesn't have a big frame (5-11), so he needs to get stronger in order to play an effective game in North America. Also lacks offensive consistency, while the rest of his game is only average (at best).

Career Potential: Versatile scoring forward with upside.

In their 2015 review of the forwards, SB Nation's The Cannon said that during his second recall, Dano was "showing serious offensive creativity and a willingness to play a rugged style. He finished the season as the team's top-scoring rookie with 8-13-21 in just 35 games." The praise continued in their review of 2014-15 season at large, pointing out how "Dano was a real surprise in camp, earning a spot on the Game 1 roster through his tenacious play, great hands, and incredible energy."

Following the Brandon Saad trade, Marko Dano made an immediate impact on Second City Hockey's list of Top 25 Under 25, coming second only to Teuvo Teravainen (ahead of third place Artemi Panarin). His profile included such moments of effusive praise as:

"With Dano, we've already gotten a taste of him playing in the NHL. And boy, it was pretty spectacular."

"When Dano was on the ice, he was a dominant possession player who also produced on the scoreboard. For an analytics-oriented team like the Blackhawks, it's easy to see why they would target Dano."

"...we're talking about a 20-year-old winger who's put up elite possession numbers and shot production numbers while playing on a good-not-great team...And unlike many explosive offensive players who don't thrive on the other side of the ice, Dano's strong possession numbers show a willingness to play a quality two-way game."

In summary, Marko Dano is an undersized 21-year-old forward with versatility, skating ability and skilled hands. He has a noteworthy shot and creative mind, but not without a strong two-way work ethic. If he was Canadian and a few inches taller, he'd have been a top-15 pick.

How might Dano compare to someone already in the Winnipeg Jets organization? Luckily, friend of the blog and all around nice person Patrick Williams is somewhat of an AHL connoisseur, and gave this interesting organizational comparable:

Long story short, if expectations are set at "versatile middle-six forward", this is an eminently realistic end for Dano to aspire to. A projected middle-six forward with offensive skill and two-way ability is also, in my opinion, more valuable a return than what Arizona received in Dahlbeck.

It should also be said that Dano comes with the cache of a former 1st round draft selection, as opposed to Klas Dahlbeck's status as a 3rd rounder. Rightly or wrongly, this likely has some impact on their respective values.

Let's Talk About Selections

With Chicago's 1st round pick, it is entirely possible that the Winnipeg Jets select a player whose ceiling is similar to Dano's. In the last five years, the following players have been selected 30th overall: Rickard RakellTanner PearsonRyan HartmanJohn Quenneville and Nick Merkley.

Rakell is an underrated two-way talent, one who meshed tremendously well alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry earlier in the season, while currently centring Perry under Anaheim's present strategy of splitting up their two stars. He's on pace for 22 goals and 47 points in 79 games this season.

Tanner Pearson was invaluable during Los Angeles' march to the Stanley Cup in 2013-14, scoring 12 points in 24 games. He provides the team cheap, young offensive depth in the middle-six, while receiving steadily increasing ice time season after season.

Ryan Hartman has yet to break into the Chicago Blackhawks lineup, while John Quenneville and Nick Merkley are still plying their trade in the WHL, but hopes are high for Merkley especially that he might be a 1st round steal of the top-six variety.

Even if the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, this year's draft features no shortage of names who might still be available come 30th overall. Exposure, knowledge and opinion will determine whether one leans towards Rasmus Asplund or Alex DeBrincat, Taylor Raddysh or Jonathan Dahlen, the list goes on. Regardless, Winnipeg's much vaunted scouting staff have the very real opportunity to draft a important cog for the future.

Folks may be inclined to cheer for a Chicago postseason flameout, so as to move up the draft board this year. However, the trade also includes a conditional 3rd round selection in 2018, one dependent on Chicago winning the Stanley Cup this year. With an abundance of viable options in the 1st round's latter half, it's not a terrible outcome for Winnipeg if the Blackhawks hoist the Cup this year. There are good players to be taken in the third round of any draft.

And to be frank, a conditional 3rd rounder is more than sufficient return for the other two players Winnipeg packaged with Andrew Ladd. Jay Harrison provides the Chicago Blackhawks additional defensive depth of the hard-hitting kind, while acquiring Matt Fraser gives them a Matt Fraser. Neither had a future with the Jets organization, nor much if any worth as a tradeable asset. Winnipeg may be retaining 36% of Andrew Ladd's contract, but this somewhat balances out with Chicago taking on the contracts of Harrison and Fraser, neither of whom were cheap so far as AHL depth goes.

Conclusion

Andrew Ladd was a 30-year-old pending UFA, playing for a team 27th in the standings and 30th in terms of total cap hit. Rather than committing dollars, term and a roster spot, the Winnipeg Jets and Kevin Cheveldayoff chose to cash in on their expiring asset.

The end result is indeed applause worthy. At minimum, Marko Dano and a 1st constitute fair value for Andrew Ladd. Dano provides the organization another young, exciting player, one who might be able to make an immediate impact. Wherever it falls, Chicago's 1st round draft pick provides Winnipeg another at-bat, at a time when well-regarded prospects will still be on the board. Kevin Cheveldayoff did well.

And let's not forget, there's nothing stopping Winnipeg from taking a run at Andrew Ladd in the summer, if they're so inclined. Meanwhile, let the Marko Dano era begin.