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Winnipeg Jets sign captain Andrew Ladd to five-year contract extension

Andrew Ladd, captain of the former Atlanta Thrashers, talks to media after arriving at MTS Centre the home of the new NHL franchise in Winnipeg, Thursday, June 9, 2010. The Winnipeg Jets have signed their captain to a big contract extension.Andrew Ladd agreed to a US$22-million, five-year deal with the NHL team a few hours before being eligible to file for salary arbitration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

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Andrew Ladd, captain of the former Atlanta Thrashers, talks to media after arriving at MTS Centre the home of the new NHL franchise in Winnipeg, Thursday, June 9, 2010. The Winnipeg Jets have signed their captain to a big contract extension.Andrew Ladd agreed to a US$22-million, five-year deal with the NHL team a few hours before being eligible to file for salary arbitration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

With a new contract in his back pocket, Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd can turn his attention to more important things.

"I'm getting married July 17 in Las Vegas," Ladd said Tuesday. "It's exciting—now we can kind of let this all go by and start focusing on that and get excited about that big day."

The $22-million, five-year deal he received from the Jets was a long time coming. Ladd's agent, J.P. Barry, had the framework of an extension worked out with the Atlanta Thrashers months ago, but it never got completed.

After the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg on May 31, Barry and Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff resumed contract talks during the draft weekend and came to an agreement a few hours before Ladd would likely have filed for salary arbitration.

"Certainly it's something from the onset that we said was of the utmost importance to us and the organization," Cheveldayoff told reporters in Winnipeg. "Getting to the agreement was a great feeling. Getting on the phone and talking to Andrew and welcoming him to the new contract was great."

It was the culmination of a breakthrough season for the 25-year-old forward. He had career bests of 29 goals and 59 points and was named captain of the Thrashers.

"The last year's been pretty exciting for me in terms of the different role that I was given," said Ladd. "To be one of the leaders with that organization and the opportunity to play more and be in more situations (was nice).

"It seems like it's going in the right direction for me and I'm looking forward to keeping that challenge up."

Ladd thinks he'll be wearing the 'C' when the second coming of the Jets play their first regular-season game on Oct. 9 against Montreal at MTS Centre.

He was given the captaincy by former Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay, who has since been replaced by Claude Noel.

"I expect it to be the same," said Ladd. "I guess ultimately it's not my decision. I spoke to Claude about a week ago I guess, I had a good conversation with him, and we kind of said that we'd talk more when this all got done.

"I'm sure I'll talk to him in the next couple days when everything settles down. I'm looking forward to working with him."

Ladd earned a raise on the $2.35 million he was paid last season. The new deal averages $4.4 million each year and keeps him under contract until after his 30th birthday.

Interestingly, Ladd passed on the opportunity to sign a one-year contract and test unrestricted free agency next summer.

"Definitely you know it's there—unrestricted free agency's a big thing for a player," he said. "Looking at the big picture, I was in a great situation with the organization in terms of my role with the team. It never really crossed my mind to go that route.

"I wanted to get a long-term deal done pretty much all the way along."

He's done plenty of moving in recent years.

Ladd won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and Chicago in 2010, but was traded away from both teams.

Last month, Ladd paid a visit to Winnipeg on his own dime and liked what he saw in the Jets front office and in the community itself. The native of Maple Ridge, B.C., is looking forward to laying down some roots in the Manitoba capital after bouncing around.

"It seemed like every time I got comfortable with the city I was in and the people that were there, I was kind of getting shipped out to a different place," said Ladd. "To be able to settle down and meet people in the community and get ingrained in the community with my fiancee is an exciting thing."

The Jets also hope it is the start of a lasting partnership.

"When I sat down with (co-owner) Mark Chipman and we talked about the vision of the franchise, we talked about the fact of having quality people and character people and Andrew, obviously, is our leader," said Cheveldayoff. "Mark was very, very gracious and good about the opportunity to lock him up long term."

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