Andrew Ladd is the present and the future is the future.
Pump the brakes on the suggestion that the trading of the Jets captain out of Winnipeg signals a rebuild in the Manitoba capital. This is no rebuild, per se, but rather a slow renovation of a roster by a management group that has the luxury of not being accountable to its win-loss record.
Ladd was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks prior to the Jets snapping a four-game winless streak with a 6-3 win over the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff did well to stick to his asking price, grabbing the Hawks' first-round pick in the 2016 entry draft, 21-year-old prospect Marko Dano and a conditional third-round pick in 2018 (should Chicago win the Stanley Cup this spring).
That Ladd, a pending unrestricted free agent this summer, moves on is significant in its own right. He has been an important member of the club, both on and off the ice in Winnipeg; his 110 goals in 348 games led all Jets over the duration of his captaincy.
A 30-year-old with two Stanley Cup rings and a guy who has proven he can play up and down the lineup in all situations — not exactly an easy player to replace.
You might think this move is the first sign the Jets are bounding towards another exaggerated youth movement next season — especially if there's some fire to the smoke of NCAA standout Kyle Connor leaving Michigan after his freshman year to come to Winnipeg. Hold up on that rebuilding thought, though.
A curious decision
Cheveldayoff has always been reluctant to tear down this roster and start over from scratch. He had a glorious opportunity to do just that in the first couple years of the Atlanta Thrashers playing in Winnipeg, but he chose to ride with the veterans he had and try to augment that core with a few bargain-basement finds.
It was a curious decision, and given the results, one that can certainly be debated. Glass-half-empty folks, specifically those managing large season ticket charges on their credit cards, are probably wondering if they got their money's worth over the first five years (one playoff appearance, no playoff wins). Those with sunshine in their lives will point to the prospect cupboards being restocked over that same span, excusing the lack of on-ice success through this faith.
Neither side is right. Neither side is wrong.
Cheveldayoff made the decision to hold onto what he knows and add to the core slowly rather than shave it all down immediately and start over from scratch. And it's hard to imagine he's going to tear it all down at this juncture, too.
Look at what's left of the veteran component right now: Bryan Little, Toby Enstrom and Mark Stuart are locked up through 2018; Blake Wheeler and Tyler Myers through 2019; and Dustin Byfuglien beyond that.
Meanwhile, Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry, Joel Armia and Jacob Trouba are restricted free agents this summer and some of them could see long extensions. The clock has just started on Nikolaj Ehlers and Connor Hellebuyck.
As we saw in Dallas on Thursday, the young talent is there and over the course of the next few (or several) years, these names (not all of them) will make up the core Cheveldayoff is going to try to win with down the road.
You know, in the future.
About that, as a final thought:
The Ladd trade had to happen. He wasn't going to take a hometown discount and the Jets weren't going to give up salary cap (and internal cap) flexibility to keep him around. And while it's never a good move for a team short on good players to trade away a good player, it's the right assent management move by Cheveldayoff based on the fact the Jets underachieved greatly and are well back in the playoff chase.
But that's a column for another day.
Based on what we've seen from Cheveldayoff over his five seasons, moving on from Ladd and all the things he can do in the present doesn't signal the start of a rebuild or a dismantling or any other label you want to give his methodical roster assembly process.
It's just another step in a long path towards the future — whenever that is.