'A huge void': Winnipeg Jets players, coach react to Andrew Ladd trade
'He was one of the best guys I ever met,' Mark Sheifele says about Andrew Ladd
Mentor. Skilled player. Consummate professional. Leader. Gentleman. Friend.
The words used by the Winnipeg Jets to describe Andrew Ladd in the wake of his trade to Chicago were varied but all mean the same thing: The team has said good-bye to a good man.
"He's meant a lot to me on the ice, he's meant a lot to me as a guy — somebody I could look up to and learn a lot from. He's such a pro. I looked up to him a lot with what it took to get my game to the next level, to be a leader. I owe a lot to Laddie."
Asked if he was happy for Ladd and the opportunity he has, Wheeler was blunt. And honest.
"Hell, no," he said.
"I'm gonna miss him so it's tough to swallow. Selfishly, I still wish he was sitting right next to me."
The Jets traded their captain to the Blackhawks in a multi-player deal on Thursday, with forward Matt Fraser and defenceman Jay Harrison also going to Chicago.
In return, Winnipeg gets forward Marko Dano, the Blackhawks' first-round pick in the 2016 NHL draft and a conditional pick in 2018.
The conditional pick is dependent on Chicago winning the Stanley Cup this year, said Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. If they do, Winnipeg gets a third-round pick in the 2018 draft, but if the Hawks don't win the Cup this season, the pick is null and void.
"It's tough. He was a pretty big role model for me, helped me with just about anything you could ask," Scheifele said. "He was always there for me. It was an honour to play with him.
"He was awesome. He was one of the best guys I ever met, so obviously it's sad to see him go."
The same warm sentiments came from tough guy Chris Thorburn.
"He's very approachable for a guy that's had so much success throughout his career. A first-year guy could go up to him and he could have a conversation with him, and he [Ladd] could help him out.
"He left a lot of good things behind, a lot of good qualities that we can learn from. We just wish him luck."
Ladd learned about the trade shortly before the Jets faced off against the Dallas Stars on Thursday, and it was a tough moment in the locker room, Maurice said, adding there was a lot of emotion.
"We didn't try to rush him out of the room and get the guys to focus solely on the game. He's been here too long, he meant too much, the friendships are too strong," he said.
"They got a chance to say some words to him, and that was really good."
From being the first player to arrive in Winnipeg when the Atlanta Thrashers franchise was being moved and renamed as the Jets in 2011, to mentoring young players, to the handshakes and hugs on the way out the door on Thursday, Ladd was "just a fine, fine gentleman," said Maurice.
"He was a hell of a captain for us."
In other words, there are only so many big contracts a team can maintain.
"It was a decision we didn't take lightly [and] we, as an organization, can't thank Andrew enough for what he's done and how he's handled himself," Cheveldayoff said.
It's too early to say whether another captain will be named this year for the team, he said, adding he still has to meet with Maurice and discuss that.
"You don't just simply replace your captain," but as the other players forge ahead and work hard, "other leaders will emerge," he said.
As for Dano, Cheveldayoff said the centreman will meet the team in Pittsburgh, where the Jets play on Saturday, but he didn't say whether Dano would play.
Dano played for the Springfield Falcons, Chicago's AHL farm team, last year. He put up 19 points in 39 games (11 goals and eight assists) in the 2014-15 season.
In 2015-16, Dano pocketed four goals and 19 assists in 34 games with the Rockford IceHogs.
Cheveldayoff also wouldn't say whether the team was done with trades before Monday's league deadline.
Once the game in Pittsburgh is done, "we'll look at the different options that may present themselves and we'll take a look at anything that we can to continue to push this organization forward," he said.