As many as 10 teams took a run at Andrew Ladd on July 1.
The former Winnipeg Jets captain was coming off a 25-goal season, with a demonstrated ability to play big minutes on the power play and penalty kill. His versatility, along with a pair of Stanley Cups and a pain tolerance high enough to play through a sports hernia (in 2014-15) made him a sought-after commodity.
For Ladd, his first trip to unrestricted free agency was admittedly a little strange, but also empowering. Ten teams called, but the Islanders won out when Ladd signed a seven-year deal.
“It’s nice to be courted and know you’re wanted, that’s the exciting part of the process,” Ladd said. “That’s what you work all of these years for - the opportunity to be able to do that, so it was a cool experience, but I’m definitely happy to know I’m going to be in one place for a long time for me and my family.”
So what separated the Islanders from the rest? Ladd said Long Island played a big role in his decision, as did assistant coach and assistant GM Doug Weight.
Weight was an important pitchman during Ladd’s courtship, as the pair won a Stanley Cup together in Carolina in 2006. Weight made enough of an impression on Ladd during those three months for Ladd to listen closely when the Islanders called.
“Knowing Dougie from Carolina that relationship with him and knowing what a genuine good guy he is, it was nice to have him here showing me around,” Ladd said. “He made me comfortable and made my wife comfortable. I trust his opinion on where things are going here.”
Long Island’s suburban lifestyle also appealed to Ladd. He’s got two preschool aged kids, so having a yard, good schools and a safe neighborhood are important issues.
“The aspect of having a family now and not just thinking about myself, but their needs and what we want for our kids and my wife,” Ladd said. “It was a big decision, so when I came out here and visited and saw the area and saw what they are trying to do here it was a pretty easy decision.”
The lifestyle was only part of Ladd’s decision - which was a momentous one for the first-time free agent. Obviously the team was a big factor in Ladd’s quest for a third Stanley Cup and he likes what the Islanders have built.
“Just from watching they have a lot of speed, their back end moves the puck really well and they have great goaltending,” he said. “That going along with one of the best players in the world is a pretty good start.”
Ladd hit the ice at Islanders Iceworks for the first time on Tuesday, officially kicking off his Isles tenure. Sporting a Nick Leddy-esque beard, Ladd looked the part of tough, grizzled vet, even standing up 227-pound Eric Boulton in an early drill. Ladd said his game is as advertised, which is simple and strong.
“I’m not going to change much, I play a pretty simple, north-south game and I try to be consistent, play hard every night and chip in offensively when I can,” he said. “We’ll see as things go along where things fall and I’m really excited to be a part of this.”