If there was ever a player that left Chicago for Winnipeg that would be considered The Prodigal Son, it would be Bobby Hull.
But for most younger fans, Andrew Ladd is “the one that got away.”
In 2009-10, Ladd was a 23-year-old winger coming of a regular season that wasn’t trending in the right direction. After a career-best 49 points in 2008-09, his first full season in Chicago, Ladd took a step back to 38 points while more than doubling his penalty minutes from 28 in 2008-09 to 67 the following year.
But during that postseason, Ladd was a key part of the Hawks’ run to the Stanley Cup. Playing through injuries, he scored three goals and added three assists in 19 playoff appearances. He was big, young, fast and his name now appeared twice on the Cup. Certainly the Hawks would hang on to him… right?
When free agency began, and the Blackhawks started assessing how much their core players were going to cost.
Ladd was a restricted free agent who had posted 33 goals in the previous two seasons. Based on his two rings and leadership, he was in line to get a nice raise from either the organization or a third party arbitrator. The Hawks decided they couldn’t afford whatever his new salary would be, and pulled the trigger.
Ladd was the last man dealt out of town. On July 1, Ladd was traded to then-Atlanta for defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy and a 2012 second round pick.
The trade of Ladd came before Niklas Hjalmarsson signed his offer sheet, and before Antti Niemi’s arbitration award was too much for the Hawks. Neither of those events had much/any impact on the Ladd trade.
At the time of the trade, the Blackhawks didn’t know what they had in then-college-freshman Nick Leddy. They also hadn’t shown (and still haven’t shown) any confidence that AHL All-Star Brian Connelly would ever see the NHL. Vishnevskiy was young, had some NHL experience, and was a puck-moving defenseman. He was brought in to fill a perceived need.
Ladd was given a one-year deal by Atlanta worth $2.35M last year, and was named the captain of the Thrashers. He established career highs with 29 goals and 59 points; Ladd was given increased opportunity in Atlanta, and took advantage. He became the player many had expected he could become one day.
Now, Ladd is the 25-year-old captain of the Winnipeg Jets. He is playing in the first year of a five-year, $22M contract and hopes to get Winnipeg into the playoffs in the next couple years.
From Chicago’s perspective, the trade is still grading as incomplete.
Vishnevskiy has been surpassed by a number of defensemen in the organization, and he has since left Rockford for Russia. He had no impact on the organization.
The second round pick that was acquired in the deal became the 36th overall pick in the 2011 Draft, which GM Stan Bowman used on defenseman Adam Clendening. He’s a good, young defenseman that could factor into the future of the blue line in Chicago.
Right now, however, Chicago fans look at a 6’3, 205-pound forward that can fly up and down the ice and put up 60 points as the greatest casualty of the salary cap cutting that had to be done during the post-Cup summer of 2010. Ladd was a fantastic role player for the Blackhawks, and has been even better in Winnipeg.