"The grass is always greener on the other side" is the way the saying goes. And sometimes that's true. And sometimes it's not. Despite the issues the New York Rangers find themselves in, both in terms of cap inflexibility and veterans not living up to expectations, it can always be worse.
While you'll probably hear Keith Yandle's name a million times leading up to the trade deadline, you haven't really heard about him outside of the Rangers' media sphere all that much. Why? There's another team that's currently dominating the headlines, and not in a good way.
Enter the Winnipeg Jets, who are on the brink of another losing season and have two potentially marquee free agents slotted to reach free agency this summer; Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd. Right now the Jets are trying to sign both of them. Or one of them. Or ... none of them? It's a confusing situation.
The running rumor is Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is going to try and pinpoint one of the two to sign and then try to move the other one before allowing them to walk for nothing in free agency. But that plan doesn't seem to be going so well as of yet ...
LeBrun: "I know when teams are phoning now, the #NHLJets are saying, 'We haven't made up our minds yet on these guys.' "— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) January 27, 2016
So this has, of course, turned into trade rumor central. It seems as though the consensus is Ladd will be the one made available, with his name being thrown around in rumor after rumor after contract talks have reported broken down.
Ladd really is a media darling, especially in a market like New York when toughness and grit get more value than skill and talent. That's not to say Ladd is a bad player, quite the opposite actually, but that doesn't change the fact the Rangers can't risk trying to pry him from up north.
Here's the deal: The Rangers went for it -- as in, push all the chips into the middle of the table future bills be dammed -- last year with the Keith Yandle trade. And since that trade the team has handled the entire situation about as poorly as possible, and now most likely need to explore moving him at the deadline. My take on that is here. Patrick Kearns had his own take for the Fourth Period here.
There's two problems with trying to go after Ladd: What it would cost to get him and then what it would cost to keep him.
Let's start with the first aspect, what it would cost to get him. In order to seal this deal the Rangers would need to be willing to part with at least two and probably three of the following: Yet another first round pick, Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei, a B-prospect (Aleksi Saarela/Robin Kovacs) or a roster player (Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg, etc.).
If you don't think the cost would be that astronomical than you haven't been paying attention. Ladd won a Cup with Chicago, was a huge part of that team's identity, and has blossomed into a true power forward. He's having an off year this year, but he's put up pretty spectacular numbers on pretty bad teams. The guy is a good hockey player, and since every general manager's ears perked up when contract talks broke down in Winnipeg, you better bet there's going to be a bidding war for his services.
But let's say the Rangers pull the trigger on a move (which, as I talked about Wednesday, would be a bad idea) there's another cost to Ladd. The cost of keeping him. With money. Which eats up cap space. Which the Rangers do not have any of.
Ladd is currently making $4.4-million a year. Once he hits the open market I would expect his new deal to be in the $6-7-million range. Teams are willing to pay for players like Ladd, and it's a big part of why the Jets can't keep both him and Byfuglien -- the cost is too high. The Rangers need every penny of the free space they're going to have to keep their own free agents and RFAs. Adding Ladd into that mix would pretty much ensure the players the Rangers didn't move off the roster to get him won't be kept around because they can't afford him. And if you're the Rangers, do you want to commit a six years or so to a 30-year-old who plays that bruising style? It's part of the reason why the Rangers walked away from Ryan Callahan and those risks have to be looked at here too. The Rangers aren't strangers to ageing players rapidly declining with massive cap hits.
Ladd is a great player. He could very easily help the Rangers turn things around right now. In any other situation Ladd is exactly the type of guy you gun for heading into the playoffs.
But the Rangers made their bed by refusing to try and free up space to allow themselves the flexibility to make a move like this.
Now they need to sleep in it.