Sources have told ESPN.com that Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has been talking to teams over the past week about captain Andrew Ladd to see what the return would be for the pending unrestricted free-agent winger as Cheveldayoff continues to debate what to do with him.
So, a two-pronged approach, if you will. It's the smart, if you're the Jets, to make sure you've got a handle on all your options. While it's clearly weighed on Ladd, he told reporters in Winnipeg on Tuesday morning that as time has gone on he's learned to deal with the uncertainty of what's ahead of the deadline.
"The last few games have felt a little weird, still part of the mental battle of not knowing what's going on," Ladd told the assembled media in Winnipeg. "To be honest with you, at this point I'm kind of used to it. I'm just trying to enjoy playing hockey. ...
"The longer it's gone on, the more I've gone with the attitude of what's going to happen is going to happen now. It's kind of out of my control. I still want to hopefully to be here a long time but if I'm not, it just wasn't the plan. You got to deal with that as it comes.''
At some point very soon though, the Jets will need to decide whether they're going to try to give it one more shot at getting Ladd to sign a new contract or trade him. There have been no real contract talks between the two sides since just before Christmas.
The Jets have new contracts to sign in Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele (both restricted free agents) this summer. So perhaps that doesn't leave enough money for Ladd. On the flip side, how do they replace the kind of leader and player Ladd is? It's a tough call.
Perhaps not so tough if the trade offers for Ladd are too good to turn down.
If Roman Polak and Nick Spaling are worth a pair of second-round picks, even if those picks are in 2017 and 2018, you better believe the market for Ladd starts with a first-round pick and goes from there as part of the package.
How many teams are willing to pay that?
No question the Florida Panthers have interest in Ladd, as I've reported before -- GM Dale Tallon first traded for Ladd when he was with the Chicago Blackhawks -- but at what price does it become too rich for Florida?
The Blackhawks also have interest in Ladd among a few other rental forward targets. It's not the asking price that likely worries GM Stan Bowman as much as making it work cap-wise, whether it's Ladd or Loui Eriksson or Mikkel Boedker or Eric Staal or others, Chicago is going to have to be creative, which under Bowman it has always shown the ability to be.
It's believed the Washington Capitals have checked in with Winnipeg on Ladd, although it's not clear that it would really be a fit at this point for them given their top-six setup.
Other teams have also talked to the Jets about Ladd over the past few weeks.
In the meantime, what happens with Ladd, Eriksson and Boedker has an impact on the next wave of rental scoring forwards underneath them: the likes of Jamie McGinn of the Buffalo Sabres, for example. I think the pending unrestricted free-agent winger ends up being a Monday deal as the teams who struck out on bigger names come back to Buffalo and make a firmer offer.
There continues to be dialogue between the Bruins and Loui Eriksson's camp, which is the good news. Whether or not they can come to agreement on an extension before next Monday, well, that's another question altogether. I think term likely remains the main sticking point. In the meantime, if you're Boston and you're sitting in a playoff spot, can you afford to deal Eriksson? Tough call.
The surprising New Jersey Devils headed into Tuesday's games three points out of a wild-card spot. In other words, as difficult a spot a team can be in when deciding its trade deadline strategy. But I don't think it's as difficult as people think. GM Ray Shero must keep the big picture in mind as he continues to rebuild this team. It's why in talking to other sources around the league I know that he's willing to move pending unrestricted free agents Lee Stempniak and David Schlemko if the offers are good enough. Stempniak has had a terrific season and with a $850,000 cap hit, that's cheaper than almost all other notable rental forwards on the market, which in itself might present decent offers. Schlemko at a $625,000 cap hit is also cheap and given the relatively thin rental D-market, could also move. I don't think the Devils want to move them for the sake of moving them -- after all they've got a shot at the playoffs -- but for the right offer Shero has to listen. He's still in the asset-collecting business with this team.
The New York Rangers would get a really nice return on pending unrestricted free agent Keith Yandle because he would stand alone on the rental D-market if the Blueshirts were to put him out there -- but I don't believe they will do that, despite the farm they gave up for him last year and the fact he will walk away July 1. They just can't move him, not with the way the Rangers -- and especially a dialed-in Henrik Lundqvist -- have played over the last month. They're contenders again. So they're going to look to add before Monday's deadline, not subtract. If I had to guess, I would look for the Rangers to add a third-/fourth-line forward, at the very least. Whether or not they do something bigger for their top six, I'm not sure. Just getting Rick Nash back from injury within the next few weeks or so will be like a trade deadline addition in itself scoring-wise.
We continue to wait on the Eric Staal front. The pending unrestricted free-agent center still hasn't had a firm sense of direction yet from Hurricanes management as of Tuesday morning and perhaps it's because the next few games could influence that decision, depending on wins and losses. The Hurricanes are somewhat in a playoff race after all. Staal could block any move with his 100 percent no-move clause, but I think if GM Ron Francis approached him about a potential move, he would consider giving a very short list of contending teams. And I think the reason he might do that is that he's smart, he knows he hasn't had a good season and the chance to refurbish his stock with a Cup run would help him July 1 with his new contract. Having said that, I still think Staal's preference would be to stay put and help his brother Jordan get the Hurricanes in the playoffs. But the Hurricanes captain likely wants to hear that from Francis.
The Minnesota Wild have been looking for a boost to their top-six offense all season but I don't think they're going to pay big prices to get in on the big-name rental forwards. Which is to say you can probably forget spending a first-round pick just to get in on Eriksson or Ladd. The Wild could lottery-protect the pick so it's not about the fact they might or might not make the playoffs; I think it's more about needing to keep that pick to continue to draft and bring in young talent. If there's a deal that makes sense, GM Chuck Fletcher will look at it but I don't think it'll be at the expense of his first-round pick.
Similarly, the Detroit Red Wings would look to add before Monday's deadline if it means getting an impact player for their top six up front. But like the Wild, I don't believe Wings GM Ken Holland has any inclination to move out a first-round pick to do it. So if Holland makes a move before the deadline, somehow it's for an impact forward and yet without having to pay out a first-rounder. Which means perhaps he does nothing at all. It really depends on how the trade market plays out in terms of what teams are asking. If he can use other, lower-end assets to get it done, he will look at it.