The Blackhawks are poised to make some changes after a disappointing 2010-11 season, and with cap space to spare this offseason there’s potential for some quality moves. Blackhawk Up will take a look at who’s available for Stan Bowman to pursue over the next week. However, Bowman cannot negotiate before July 1 – or should he? On the docket today is Atlanta Thra…err, Winnipeg forward Andrew Ladd.

"How 'bout this view, Stanley?"

CONTRACT STATUS: Restricted free agent; $2.35M cap hit in 2010-11

2010-11 STATS: 81 GP; 29 G; 30 A; minus-10; 9 PP goals; career-high 14.9 shot percentage

Why Stan Bowman Should Be Texting Him Right Now: Familiarity aside, Ladd proved last season what he can do with a bigger role. At 25 years old, he set a career-high with 59 points and was named Captain of the young Thrashers after being traded out of Chicago during the Great Salary-Cap Purge of last offseason. The Blackhawks had well-documented gelling issues as the core players adjusted to a revamped locker room, and it could safely be assumed Ladd was missed in that regard. Playing on the first line in Atlanta bumped Ladd’s game after being relegated to a lesser role on a stacked ‘Hawks offense during the Stanley Cup run. Weaker teammates led to a misleading minus-10 rating, simply because the Thrashers didn’t have the talent to stick with other squads.

Now to the obvious part – Ladd would greatly be welcomed back in Chicago. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported yesterday the cap could reach $64 million, meaning the Blackhawks would have more room to wiggle Ladd’s salary within the confines. With the ‘Hawks seemingly hard up on improving and using the extra cap space available too them this offseason, Ladd would be a solid re-addition to a squad which can use a young, familiar face to fit in nicely with the future plans.

Plus, wouldn’t seeing him do something like this be fun? …

Don’t Risk the Fine: Ladd’s restricted status is just one obstacle to overcome, given a reasonable qualifying offer ($2.35M) and Winnipeg’s right to match any offer sheet. On top of that, some former Blackhawks personnel have a strong interest in having him follow the team to Manitoba. Dustin Byfuglien signed a huge contract extension with the franchise during the season, meaning he’ll be around for some time. Former ‘Hawks assistant GM and new head man in Winnipeg Kevin Cheveldayoff, who was GM of the Chicago Wolves which is – was? – the franchise’s AHL team, said his first call would be to Ladd. Oh, and current ‘Hawks assistant coach Mike Haviland is a candidate to take over as coach. The deck is stacked against Ladd returning to his former team when he’ll already have some familiar faces dying to keep him, and he’ll have to relinquish the ‘C’ given Jonathan Toews has that on lockdown for the rest of his life.

When any franchise moves, there’s always a question of whether or not players are happy with the relocation and will bolt if given the opportunity. However, Ladd went on his own will up to Winnipeg with his fiance and agent to check out the city. Is he reaching out to show he’s committed? Or is he simply unsure if he wants to test the waters before accepting any sort of long-term offer with the unnamed franchise?

The Verdict: Tamper. Give the old pal a call and feel him out with a nice little chat reminiscing about the good ol’ days. Some deep thought will have to be put into an offer come July 1, given Winnipeg can match. It’s likely a three-year offer with roughly a $3.5-4M cap hit is necessary to make True North bat an eye. Put your best foot forward to find out if Ladd is worth making such an offer, and if he’d consider signing an offer sheet to return. There’s no harm in exploring all options, especially a familiar one.

Tampering Week Rundown:

June 19:   Semyon Varlamov
June 18:   Ville Leino
June 17:   Eric Belanger
June 16:   Brooks Laich
June 15:   Brandon Dubinsky