Published November 20, 2014
WINNIPEG, Man. -- Winnipeg's new NHL franchise hopes another cornerstone is ready to fall into place.
One day after introducing its management combination of GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and Craig Heisinger, it hosted a visit from Andrew Ladd, the man who may wear the captain's "C" this fall. Ladd visited Winnipeg on Thursday to tour the MTS Centre and meet with the staff of True North Sports and Entertainment, which is buying the former Atlanta Thrashers and relocating the team to Winnipeg.
At age 25, Ladd already has two Stanley Cups on his resume, and he captained the Thrashers this past season after Atlanta acquired him from the Chicago Blackhawks last summer. Before his 2008 trade to Chicago, Ladd spent parts of three seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes and won a Cup in 2006.
While Ladd is new to Winnipeg, he is not new to Cheveldayoff, who served as assistant GM and senior vice president of hockey operations with the Blackhawks before being hired in Winnipeg. The pair were both part of the Hawks' Stanley Cup-winning team last spring.
"I have a lot of respect for Chevy and [am] impressed with how he deals with things," Ladd said of Cheveldayoff. "His resume speaks for itself. He's an impressive person."
Ladd said he trusts Cheveldayoff's vision for the sort of organizational and culture that he would like to create in Winnipeg.
"You need to trust people you're going to work with and know that you're in good hands," he said. "I have a lot of respect for Chevy and looking forward to working with him."
"We had a good culture in Chicago, where you knew everyone really well. From what I've seen so far, that's what they want here. It's kind of a casual setting, and everyone feels comfortable talking to whomever, which is a great start."
Ladd, the fourth player taken in the 2004 Entry Draft, came into his own last season with the Thrashers, scoring career highs of 29 goals and 59 points in 81 games as he continues to evolve from a checker into an offensive force. The Maple Ridge, B.C., native can become a restricted free agent on July 1, though he sounded like someone who's ready to put down roots.
"It's something you think about," he said of the possibility of testing free agency. "But I've been kind of knocked around. This will be my fourth spot -- three teams, but fourth spot -- in six, seven years. So it'd be nice to be in the same place for a while and be able to lock up at the end of the summer and know you're coming back to the same place."
Ladd, who brought his fiancé and his agent, said the initial meeting went well and that he anticipates contract talks will begin soon.
"It's a starting process to come in here and see what it's like," Ladd said. "It's a big commitment on both sides, and not something either side takes lightly. First impression was great. I'm looking forward to working with them."
Assuming he works out a deal to remain with the team, Ladd, the first player to visit Winnipeg, plans to aid his teammates in their transition to a new city.
"It's something I wanted to do. We were kind of in limbo, and this hopefully gets the ball rolling," he said. "Maybe I can provide some info for a lot of the guys that are unsure about what's going on here and what it's like -- especially how you're treated with ownership goes a long way.
"The group of guys is still the same, and I really enjoyed playing with them last year and I want to continue to be a leader with this group."
The city's reaction to the club has certainly caught Ladd's attention.
"It's been amazing. It was crazy to see," he said of the enthusiasm that has greeted the return of hockey to Winnipeg -- including the speedy sale of 13,000 season tickets. "As a player, it's fun to see that and kind of gets you excited about coming into town and getting the season started in October."
The reception the still-unnamed team has received in its new home -- as compared to life in Atlanta -- didn't go unnoticed.
"You can go anywhere (in Atlanta) and not get noticed and fly under the radar," he said.
While Ladd and his teammates have a new city to learn, he also spent time giving Winnipeg fans an up-close scouting report on their new club.
"We're a young, energetic team that will play hard," he said. "Talent-wise, we were probably underrated. We've got a lot of really good pieces. We were kind of built from the goaltending out. Ondrej Pavelec is a standout in net, and we've got a great D corps that'll get the puck to the forwards."
"Last year we played an exciting brand of hockey."