When Dustin Byfuglien was handed his big new contract by the Winnipeg Jets, it spelled the almost certain end of Andrew Ladd’s time with Winnipeg despite the captain’s “C” on his chest.
Ladd, who according to fantasypros.com was around the 71st average pick in most fantasy leagues, has turned out to be a disappointment to his fantasy managers this season. There was, however, good reason for Ladd going as early as he did.
Last season, Ladd played primarily on Winnipeg’s top line with Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler. Although that line wasn’t the stuff of bedroom posters and SportsCenter highlight reels, Ladd proved himself to be among fantasy hockey’s elite left wingers. In standard scoring categories there were only 25 players more valuable than Ladd last season. The captain of the Jets is even more valuable in fantasy leagues that credit hits as he is one of the most physical star players in the league.
Over the last few seasons, Ladd has proven to be one of fantasy hockey’s most dependable wingers, but things have not been going swimmingly for him in 2015-16.
Over the last 10 games, the two-time Stanley Cup winner has just three points, all of which are goals, and has seen a noted decrease in his ice time and role with the team. Recently, Ladd has been seeing a lot of ice with Joel Armia and Adam Lowry instead of his usual linemates. Nineteen-year-old Nikolaj Ehlers has been getting time with Winnipeg’s top line thanks to his outstanding month of January. Ehlers’ opportunity comes at the cost of ice time and more importantly top power play unit time for Ladd.
In the two fantasy seasons prior to this one, Ladd’s fantasy value was lifted thanks to respectable power play production, a high shooting rate and his physical style that results in both hits and penalty minutes. Last season, he set career highs in hits, shots and power play points. Although he will likely match his power play goal total from a year ago, the drop in Ladd’s offensive production has been notable and might have something to do with this being both a contract year and his age-30 season.
Ladd’s name has been in the rumor mill for quite some time and with his history of postseason heroics and success, he will likely be in high demand with the Feb. 29 trade deadline looming.
The case for rolling the dice and acquiring Ladd for your fantasy team is built on two important factors. First, he has a recent history of exemplary fantasy hockey value. Second, he is not currently getting a fair shake with the Jets. Having a minus-10 plus-minus rating has also hindered the veteran winger’s fantasy value, which is why he is currently well outside of fantasy hockey’s top-100 players in standard scoring categories.
Even in an anomalous, streaky year on a bad hockey team, Ladd still has managed to get 30 points in 54 games and has six power play goals. His shooting percentage is almost identical to what it was in 2014-15 and if he gets traded he could find himself in a situation where he is involved in more high-quality scoring chances and getting fed pucks from more talented playmakers. He will also have plenty of motivation if he is traded to a Stanley Cup contender.
If Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff can’t find a way to extend Ladd for a reasonable salary and cap hit after breaking the bank for Byfuglien, the chances are good that he will be wearing a different sweater come deadline day. And if that happens, the chances of him landing in a better situation than his current reality in Winnipeg are almost certainly worth the gamble for your fantasy team. Fantasy managers that find themselves on the outside looking in on the playoff picture in their leagues should consider pulling the trigger on trading for Ladd.