WINNIPEG – He’s been the face of the franchise for the last five years.
But Andrew Ladd knows his days with the Winnipeg Jets are numbered.
“My hope is to stay here for a long time,” the Jets captain said. “But I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I guess I can kind of see the writing on the wall.”
Ladd will play in, what could possibly be his last home game, with the Jets tonight. The 30-year-old forward has been the subject of trade talks for several weeks with the league’s deadline of February 29 rapidly approaching.
“It’s kind of sad to think about,” Ladd said. “The last few games have felt a little weird. It’s still kind of the mental battle of not knowing what’s going on.”
Ladd will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season when his five-year, $22-million contract expires. His agent and the Jets have been unable to agree on a new deal – something Ladd calls disappointing. He has not received a new offer from the team this week.
“The tough part is being in limbo and not knowing what’s going on,” Ladd said. “At any point, it can change but you try to do your best to focus on the task at hand and help this team win hockey games.”
For example, Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars. Winnipeg enters the day having lost three straight games and four of its last five. The Jets’ pre-game skate though felt more like a wake with players reminiscing on what Ladd has brought to the team.
“He’s always been one of our hardest working guys,” Jets forward Blake Wheeler said. “He’s been a close friend to me and my wife. It goes deeper than just on the ice.”
Jets head coach Paul Maurice saiid it’s a little harder for his team to keep its focus this week with the uncertainty surrounding Ladd’s future.
“It’s a defined distraction,” Maurice said. “We identify it, talk about it openly and make that part of what you’re dealing with for the game tonight.”