There's nothing really going on for the Pittsburgh Penguins right now, except dream and toss out some ideas and see what sticks. Based off general manager Jim Rutherford's end of season comments, the Pens aspire to add some skill this summer up front, with a trade being the most likely avenue. We threw out some names a couple weeks ago, but a blog from our SB Nation partner Arctic Ice Hockey was eye-catching. Could the Winnipeg Jets be looking to trade Andrew Ladd?
AIH's theory was with Ladd hitting unrestricted free agency next summer at the age of 30, it might be better value to trade him now, rather than hand him too big of a contract for the next ~5 seasons. Which is reasonable, and I don't think the Pens should overpay either, but if the Jets are considering dealing Ladd, I would hope the Penguins would be very interested in talking with them.
Rutherford did draft Ladd 4th overall in 2004 back with Carolina, and watched him win a Cup there in 2006 as a young player, so the GM certainly would know the quality of such a player.
And for fun his HERO chart where we see some really strong and encouraging underlying numbers for Ladd this season.
Ladd carries a salary cap hit of $4,400,000 and as mentioned is approaching UFA in summer 2016.
Acquisition cost could be a problem. I tend to doubt that Winnipeg would deal Ladd for the mostly spare parts that the Penguins could cobble together. Is an offer of some/all of Brandon Sutter, Beau Bennett and Brian Dumoulin / Scott Harrington enough to land a leading scorer/captain of a playoff team? Would Winnipeg accept a Chris Kunitz + type return and bank on him bouncing back? I'm not so sure the Pens have the ammunition for such a trade, but if Winnipeg is inclined to trade Ladd, that's half the battle right there. I'm betting some team is probably enamored by Sutter/Kunitz types and that could be the major building block for the Pens to send back, with additional assets to even the trade.
Rutherford thinks the Penguins will be making a trade for a skill player, I suppose we'll see what he has to offer in order to make that a reality. This is where keeping a player like Simon Despres could have benefited the Penguins better, to have a sweeter return. Alas, that wasn't to be, so hopefully the Penguins are wise with their assets from now on.
Will the Pens land Ladd? Probably not. But if he's on the block as a possibility, they should definitely consider him, if possible and see if Winnipeg is interested in anything that Pittsburgh is willing to part with. The Pens need more skill, and if they can bring in a 55 point player in today's NHL where it's difficult to score points to play with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, it would go a long way in helping the team.
The Penguins have the financial flexibility to trade for a player like Ladd and re-sign him (and/or David Perron) for 2016-17, thanks to having only 8 players under contract for that season. And that includes Rob Scuderi who could/should be bought out and have a lesser cap hit by that time. The Pens probably should be aggressive to add skill even at the risk that Ladd could leave in 1 year's time, because it's not that often that first line players hit the trade market.