To start I ask each of you to put on your memory cap for another captain that was traded that wanted to return home. No, Smyth didn't re-sign in the off-season after being traded as a pending UFA but he eventually came home to the team he loved.
For this theory, you will not need knowledge of advanced stats or the history of UFA signings. You may wish to take a moment, step into your kitchen and find some aluminum foil... Wait, get that out of your mouth... of course it hurts. No, you will have to fashion a hat that will make you look the part if you can believe my theory is not only possible but plausible.
My belief is that #AGoodLadd will come home in the off-season. For this to happen, there will have to be a lot of moving pieces... You might say "it's a process." For this to happen, some things will need to transpire over the next few days, weeks and months.
All season, Blake Wheeler has slowly started to be touted as the next captain of the Jets. On the 23rd, he was asked about his captain and had this to say. "I'm still holding out hope" "I'm one of those people that... I'm the endless optimist, hold out hope right until the last day." After each time, he made a small grimace. I believe that his "last day" comment was important because he never said trade deadline. Wheeler doesn't want the captaincy at the expense of his friend and captain. Like Blake, I am an endless optimist and I feel like with a few more important events or decisions will give us more of an idea of Ladd's status for next year.
Days to Trade Deadline:
Rumors have been abound that the Jets are shopping a few players whom either have or about to have large cap hits. The most popular names have been Stafford, Enstrom, Trouba or Pavelec. If any of these players move, it may allow the Jets to get closer to Ladd's reported 6.5M ask. If Stafford moves I would almost think that the idea is a slam dunk because I think we can all agree the Winnipeg Jets organization like what Stafford contributes to the team. With the time ticking down, stay tuned and don't be surprised if Chevy moves one of these guys.
March and April:
The key event and likely the linchpin for this entire theory surrounds whether the Jets name a captain for the rest of the season. Maurice has said a decision has not been made yet and there is no guarantee they will name a captain this season. A good friend of mine mentioned this piece to me as pivotal, if the Jets name a captain before season's end, Ladd isn't coming back.
Stanley Cup Playoffs:
Ladd will be a monster in the playoffs and he has this massive opportunity to have his stock skyrocket. Unfortunately for Chicago, they will not have the cap space to sign him. Today, we all became Blackhawk fans because we want that conditional pick but also... as evidenced by the #AGoodLadd love, we want to see him hoist that cup again. Or what if we make the playoffs and win the cup?
The players mentioned above could be moved at the draft if Ladd decides to sign with us. Here is what the forward lineup could look like if the youth movement continues without Ladd.
Ehlers - Scheifele - Wheeler (Schweelers)
Perrault - Little - Stafford
Armia - Lowry - Burmistrov
Dano - Copp - Thorburn
What about Lemieux, Petan and Connor?
What you see here is a great problem to have and could mean that Ladd might be gone for good. For the Jets to resign Ladd this log jam would have to be cleared with Stafford being the only piece that means considerable cap reduction.
With Armia, Lowry, Scheifele, Trouba and Hutchison all being RFAs could we see one of these guys moved as part of a package to create more cost certainty. Will Trouba's ask come down?
The End or To Be Continued?
Blake Wheeler said he was holding out hope until the last day. This mythical last day can be defined as the day Ladd decides which team he will sign a contract with. We traded him to a team almost certainly will not re-sign him, and nothing in the rules say we can't resign him after the conclusion of the playoffs. If you're like me and Wheels remain hopeful, #AGoodLadd may come home. Regardless, I would think that the number 16 won't be worn by another Jet anytime soon if ever.