WINNIPEG – After three NHL teams in six years, Atlanta Thrashers captain Andrew Ladd is looking for a place to hang his skates for a while.
That place may very well be Winnipeg, which Ladd said looks like a pretty good fit.
“I’ve been really impressed with the reception so far and their vision on what kind of culture they want to have here and the way they see things going,” said Ladd, who brought his fiancee and his agent to town Thursday for a look see at the place where the as-yet unnamed team will play this fall.
“How you’re treated with ownership goes a long way and we didn’t have a great experience with that in Atlanta,” he said.
Ladd becomes a restricted free agent this summer and Winnipeg needs to sign him to a new deal to keep the left winger. For his part, he’d be happy to see that happen, considering the number of lockers he’s had to clean out in the NHL.
“I’ve been kind of knocked around. . . this will be my fourth spot, three teams but four spots in six or seven years. It would be nice to be in the same place for a while and lock up for the summer and know you’re coming back.”
He was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2004, won a Stanley Cup with them two year later, moved to Chicago for another Cup and was then traded to the Thrashers, who finished second last in the Southeast Division and missed the playoffs.
Winnipeg’s new management has also said they’d be happy to have Ladd but they were a long way from a deal. He’s coming out of a US$2.35-million, one-year contract in Atlanta.
“We haven’t talked at all. I know they’ve got a lot of things on their plate,” he said.
The native of Maple Ridge, B.C., did sit down to talk hockey with general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and team owner Mark Chipman. He’ll be taking back some of what they said to other members of the team and predicts there won’t be much to the idea of relocating.
“We definitely have a young group that’s really eager to be in a hockey market and can feel the excitement coming from the city,” said Ladd.
He says the frenzy that saw season tickets to the MTS Centre sell out in minutes also generates excitement among the players and it’s a far cry from the kind of treatment the players are used to in Atlanta.
“You can go anywhere (in Atlanta) and not get noticed and fly under the radar,” he said.
As for what the Thrashers bring, Ladd says they have the building blocks in place to make a successful team.
“We definitely have some great pieces in place, it’s more I think a maturity thing.”
Ladd cited the strong start they had to the last season, only to stumble in the last half.
If he returns, he’ll be racking up plenty of frequent flyer points since Winnipeg will still be playing in the Southeast Division, with two teams in Florida and the closest in Washington, D.C..
Ladd is also getting married in July.
On the team name, Ladd said he’d be happy to put on a Winnipeg Jets jersey, if that is the name selected, but he diplomatically hedged his bet.
“I’d love it,” he said. “It’s got history . . . I’m a big fan of the name but I also think it’s a new group, the success wasn’t there in the past and we want to start something new.”