Manitobans are thanking Andrew Ladd for his contributions as captain of the Winnipeg Jets in the five years the team has been back in the city, after fans learned that he has been traded to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Both teams announced the trade on Thursday evening. In addition to Ladd, the Jets are also sending Manitoba Moose forward Matt Fraser and defenceman Jay Harrison to Chicago.
In exchange, the Jets are getting Chicago forward Marko Dano as well as Chicago's first-round pick in the 2016 NHL draft and a conditional pick in the league's 2018 draft.
Hockey fans at the MTS IcePlex weighed in on the news on Thursday evening.
"It's sad to see him go. He was a great ambassador for the team and for the city and I think he did really well in his time here offensively and with the fans," Rob Mahon said of Ladd.
"But ultimately it came to a point where it was either trade him or let him walk for nothing like they did with [Michael] Frolik last summer."
Linda Benson noted that Ladd will be joining another Winnipegger in Chicago — Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.
"One of our wonderful guys is already in Chicago and now we're going to have Andrew Ladd there, too. They're really going to be the enemy," she said with a chuckle.
"Hopefully both parties will be happy and it will help the Jets in the long run. I guess that's what it's all about it," said Kirk Kuppers.
Ladd and his wife took to social media to thank Jets fans and Winnipeggers for their support, while the Blackhawks welcomed him back to Chicago.
Thanks to @NHLJets and the city of Winnipeg for 5 great years! Going to miss all my teammates, training staff and great people I met there!— @aladd16
We are sure going to miss Winnipeg and all our good friends! pic.twitter.com/VG5ahuHwm1— @Brandyj8
One of Ladd's teammates and closest friends in Winnipeg, Blake Wheeler, put out a simple tweet wishing his pal good luck, while those in Chicago celebrated the return of Ladd, who was a Blackhawk for two seasons (2008-09 and 1009-10) and helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2010.
Other hockey fans wished Ladd well on Thursday night, as did Special Olympics Manitoba, for which Ladd has volunteered.
To @aladd16 Thanks for the great years of service in the Peg. Heard nothing but great things about you on and off the ice. Good luck!— @SharpSk8s
The end of an era in Winnipeg. Thank you @aladd16 for everything. I hope you win another Cup with the Hawks— @ouellm
.@aladd16 Thanks for being with us from the beginning! If you want to pull a Vermette and re-sign in the off season that'd be great!— @coreyandhobbes
Harrison and Fraser were both playing with the Manitoba Moose, the Jets' American Hockey League affiliate. They will report to the Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks' AHL team.
Dano, 21, was named one of the top three players on Team Slovakia at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship. He has played in a total of 48 NHL games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks since he was drafted 27th overall by the Blue Jackets in the 2013 draft.
Questions about Ladd loomed for weeks
Ladd, a 30-year-old left winger, had been with the Blackhawks from the 2007-08 season until he was acquired by the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise in 2010, after he won a Stanley Cup with Chicago.
Ladd had been the Jets' captain since the team moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg in 2011. He ranks fifth in all-time scoring for the franchise with 305 points in 429 games. He also led the Jets in scoring three times, in the the 2010-11, 2012-13 and 2014-15 seasons.
Questions about his future had been looming over him and the Jets in advance of the NHL trade deadline next Monday.
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Earlier this week, before the Jets faced off against the Dallas Stars at the MTS Centre, he admitted that the last few games had "felt kind of weird — still part of the mental battle of not knowing what's going on."
"I still want to hopefully be here for a long time, but if I'm not, that just wasn't the plan and you got to deal with that when it comes," he told reporters on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters by conference call on Thursday night, Ladd said he looks forward to coming back to Chicago to "really show what my game's all about now."
Ladd added that he looks forward to reuniting with Blackhawks stars like Toews and Patrick Kane — teammates that he played with when Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2010.
"Now they're veteran players who have been around and, you know, all those guys have won three Stanley Cups now, so their experience is way beyond what we had when we won the first time," he said.
"I just think you've seen them all evolved as players, kind of taking the next step in terms of playing that 200-foot game, and when the game's on the line they know how to play the right way and they come up big in big situations," Ladd added.
"That's probably the only part that hasn't changed is their ability to have such a big impact in big games and in watching them since I left, they always have big moments at crucial times, and that's what's made them great. So I think anyone's excited to be a part of that again, and it's a treat to watch some of those guys play."