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Blackhawks’ deal for Ladd sets tone for approaching deadline

The Blackhawks’ deal for Andrew Ladd sets the tone for the upcoming trade deadline says SI’s Al Muir.

It’s a seller’s market as the NHL steams toward Monday’s trade deadline.

That was made clear Thursday night when Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff extracted a 2016 first-round pick, top prospect Marko Dano and a conditional pick from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for power forward Andrew Ladd and minor leaguers Jay Harrison and Matt Fraser.

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That’s a solid bounty for a pure rental, and one that's sure to supercharge the market in the days leading up to Monday’s trade deadline. But for Chicago GM Stan Bowman, it was a price well worth paying. Ladd brings a gritty physical presence and a renewed scoring touch (four goals in his past three games) to a Blackhawks squad primed to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. He’ll likely line up alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on the team’s top line, giving Chicago a top-six that's simply unmatched in terms of depth, experience and scoring ability.

The Jets also retained 36% of his $4.4 million salary, a critical concession that not only allowed the Hawks to slide Ladd under the cap, but keeps Bowman in the game—barely—with about $1.6 million in space on deadline day. He’d like to upgrade a defense that relies too heavily on the big three of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson, but he’ll need to work some more cap magic if he wants to pursue a difference maker like Calgary’s Kris Russell or Vancouver’s Dan Hamhuis.

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The first-round pick is the key for a Jets team that's going to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons since moving to Winnipeg, but Dano is the most interesting piece. The 20-year-old winger, acquired by Chicago from Columbus last summer in the Brandon Saad trade, is viewed as a potential top-six forward, but the fact he’s on his third team in less than a year raises some red flags. Is the former first rounder (27th, 2013) simply in high demand, or is there something about his game that convinces teams he's expendable? We’ll get a better sense of that over the final few weeks of the season. He's headed from AHL Rockford to join a Jets team that, with this deal, has set its sights firmly on the future.

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As well as both of these teams made out, the big winners could be the clubs with something yet to offer.

With Ladd gone Boston’s Loui Eriksson now stands as the top forward available. There was some buzz Thursday that the Bruins were making progress in contract talks with the 30-year-old winger, although there’s a lingering difference on term. The team would like to hold the line at four years while the player is asking for six—a commitment he could certainly get as a UFA this summer.

If they can’t find common ground, it’s likely that the 23-goal winger is bound for one of Chicago's Western Conference rivals. Los Angeles and St. Louis are known to be looking for forward help before Chicago bulked up, and it’s thought that the resurgent Minnesota Wild would like to upgrade at the position as well. The B’s are looking for a young, NHL-ready blueliner in return, making the defense-rich Wild an obvious partner, but could be tempted by a package similar to what the Jets extracted for Ladd.

The deal also ups the buy-in for Arizona forward Mikkel Boedker and likely will convince Carolina to actively pursue its options with veteran forward Eric Staal. Both could draw offers of firsts plus a prospect after this deal.