Manitoba·JETS BLOG

It's time to do something with Ladd and Byfuglien

The month of December arrives this week. On Tuesday, to be exact. That’s not so important in the big picture sense — Christmas presents are pretty great — but the arrival of the new month could mean something big for the Winnipeg Jets.

Both players are scheduled to be unrestricted, free agents at the end of the year

What might Ladd and Byfuglien command for their next contracts is anyone guess (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The month of December arrives this week. On Tuesday, to be exact.

That's not so important in the big picture sense — Christmas presents are pretty great — but the arrival of the new month could mean something big for the Winnipeg Jets.

The dates haven't been announced yet, but the NHL does oversee a roster freeze during the holiday season. Typically it starts in the third week of December and lasts for about 10 days. That means no trades between clubs during that time, putting pressure on general managers thinking about making a deal to make that deal before the deadline arrives.

Why is this information important in relation to the Jets? Here's another question, relevant to the first one: What exactly is Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff doing with Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien?

As you probably know, both players are scheduled to be unrestricted, free agents at the end of the year. The club would be interested in retaining them, of course, but only at a salary and service number that suits the team's financial structure — whatever that may be.

Depending on what reports you choose to swear by, negotiations between the Jets and Ladd and the Jets and Byfuglien range between the categories of 'there are meaningful conversations' and 'we haven't talked in months.' That nothing has been resolved — or decided upon, one way or the other — is probably not a good sign, but who knows? Situations and circumstances between athletes and teams can change quickly.

What might Ladd and Byfuglien command for their next contracts is anyone guess. A player's worth is what a club is willing to pay them, and with both looking at opening the bidding to 29 other teams come the summer, that value will probably increase.

Is Ladd worth $5-million a year over five years? Can Byfuglien get $7-million per year at a term longer than that? These are the unknowns. What is known, or what seems to be understood at this point, is that the Jets aren't willing to anticipate the market and cut one guy (or both guys) a big fat cheque.

The message from media partners is the Jets are leery of retaining Ladd and Byfuglien because they have a handful of restricted free agents who are set to see raises. Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba top this list, and will probably be asking for significant hikes, while others like Adam Lowry and Michael Hutchinson will only see moderate increases.

Sounds reasonable, right?

The Jets have around $11-million of cap space this season (the 2015-16 cap is $71.4-million) and are near the bottom of the list of NHL team salaries. Plenty of room heading into next year, one would figure — depending on how tight the organization's internal cap is.

Why does this team have an internal cap again? Isn't David Thomson one of the richest dudes in the free world? 

Whatever the financial considerations are for the Jets, the bottom line in the ongoing Ladd and Byfuglien saga hasn't changed since the club was able to negotiate with the players: A small-market team on what looks to be a fixed income cannot afford to let high-level assets walk away for nothing, or allow those assets to depreciate to the point where they will only be worth pennies on the dollar.

And if the players aren't sure they want to commit to Winnipeg long-term, then they should have been moved when that information was realized.

Michael Frolik was a key piece and he walked away last summer. Ron Hainsey obviously still had some value when his contract expired a few years ago. Winnipeg got nothing for those players. 

This cannot happen with Ladd and Byfuglien.

If the Jets aren't going to re-sign the two culture carriers on a roster dotted with young, impressionable players, then they need to move both of them for assets when they can and while they still can.

Cheveldayoff is in a tough spot with Ladd and Byfuglien, but difficult choices and unpopular decisions are part of the job description.

Doing nothing is the worst option. It's time to pay up or move on, December is right around the corner and something has to happen soon.

The Jets (11-12-2) dropped a 5-3 decision to the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night. Winnipeg has one win in its last four and just three wins in the last 12 games.

Next up: a Wednesday night date with the Toronto Maple Leafs at MTS Centre.

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