Saturday, June 18, 2011

RFA Market: Could Andrew Ladd's Complete Game Complete Rangers Top Six?

Al Bello/Getty Images
The New York Rangers, like all teams, are looking to add talent to their roster this summer.  The unrestricted free agent market appears to begin and end with Brad Richards in terms of adding potential top line talent.  With the rumors circulating that Richards is seeking $7 million per season for upwards of seven or eight years, and the potential lost flexibility being unable to buy out Chris Drury brings, other options have to be taken into account.  Having already looked at potential trade targets in Stephen Weiss, Patrick Sharp and even Jeff Carter, there is another avenue to consider; restricted free agency.

Before you go getting too excited, this is not going to be a fantasy move for Steven Stamkos, but rather a look at a player who has to decide if he really wants to go with his team on their move to Winnipeg.  Andrew Ladd, 25, is a talented two-way winger who had a breakout season during his first year with Atlanta scoring 29 goals while adding 30 assists in 81 games while captaining the team.  His combination of offense, defense and leadership is very similar to the Rangers own Ryan Callahan.  There is no question that Ladd could immediately step into the system this team forged last season and be successful.  What Ladd brings that the Rangers do not have currently is someone to finish in the garbage areas around the net as he is an excellent net presence.  Ladd can play in all situations with his two-way play shining most on the penalty kill.  Also cannot discount what his experience as a two time Stanley Cup champion would bring to the Rangers roster.

There is a lot of talk about the Rangers need for a top line center and it is always something to consider, but with another year for Derek Stepan, Artem Anisimov and Brian Boyle, why not surround them with more talent on the wings instead?  The Rangers have talented prospects in Chris Kreider and Evgeny Grachev in the pipeline for left wing positions, but there is still somewhat of a hole there for the coming season.  Wojtek Wolski has the talent to fill that void for the coming season, but a player like Ladd is brings more of an all-around game to the table than Wolski and leaves the team knowing more what they will get on a nightly basis even if less skilled.  Having a top six of Gaborik, Ladd, Dubinsky, Callahan, Stepan and Anisimov might not be as sexy as the move for a Brad Richards, but could be extremely effective.

The cost for Ladd would likely be around $4 million per season which could seem steep for a player who has only had one big offensive season.  Beyond just the dollars per season, as a restricted free agent the Winnipeg franchise would have the ability to match the contract and if they chose not to do so, which is unlikely, compensation at that level would be a first and a third round pick.  I think the price in terms of salary and compensation could be worth it to the Rangers now and in the future as the team has a deep prospect system and is adding a player heading into the prime of his career.