Let's be honest. Andrew Ladd has never been among the NHL's superstars.
Since being drafted fourth in 2004 behind Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and...er...Cam Barker, the 6'3, 216lb power forward from Maple Ridge, BC has had a useful and strong but not spectacular NHL career, winning the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes and another with Chicago before joining the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise. He's scored 453 points in 759 NHL games and is currently captain in Winnipeg, but is widely expected to be traded this deadline. Indeed, he's being touted as one of the biggest players available.
Recent reports in Winnipeg have teams offering first-round picks and a "mid-level" prospect straight up for Ladd's services with no guarantee they'll get him beyond the remainder of this season. That's really not a bad return at all for a power forward who is probably going to be one of the supporting cast members on a "good" team, has only broken the 20-goal barrier three times in his career and has 33 points this season.
So why should Boston be interested in this news, anyway? They're not likely to be in the market for Ladd (he's an older, probably poorer version of someone like Jimmy Hayes without the bonus of being young and developing into his role)...Ladd is probably as good as he's ever going to get right now and has reportedly turned down a six-year, $36 million extension in Winnipeg. He's probably about as far from a trade target as the Bruins could get right now.
But here's the thing. What the Jets get for Andrew Ladd, or even what's being offered, could be an excellent indicator of the level of price for a top-level forward trade at the deadline.
Ladd, after all, is Winnipeg's captain. He's also expecting a payrise comparable to Loui Eriksson. If anything, Ladd can expect slightly less. The two players are within a few months of each other age wise, both are wingers, and both are likely to be top-six on their new teams (well, unless Loui's new coach is a Joe Haggerty disciple).
The two players are about as similar as you can get in terms of points in the career and expected role on a team, even if their styles of play are slightly different (the main difference being that Ladd is more of a power-forward)
Here's a comparison of the two players this season, however.
What that visual is showing can be summed up in one sentence.
Loui Eriksson is a better player to have on your team than Andrew Ladd is.
But that's a little glib, so let's look at why.
Sure, Ladd has scored more to this point in his career, but then again, he's played 40+ more games. In every other category aside from primary points (goals and first assists - a gap which is likely explained by Ladd having 8 more goals in the past three seasons due to the fact that WARRIOR charts use the aggregate of several seasons for their measurements) Eriksson is better.
Then there's "useful possession". Essentially, what that means is that the same linemates are likely to perform better with Eriksson on their line than they are with Ladd. Or, to put it another way - Eriksson makes a team-mate perform better than Ladd does. By a significant, visible amount.
The most notable gap is in goal suppression. Simply put, teams are far less likely to score when Eriksson is on the ice than when Andrew Ladd is. The goal differential shows this even more clearly...having Eriksson on the ice will mean your team scores more and/or concedes less than equivalent games with Ladd on your wing.
Essentially, what this chart is saying is that if you're a playoff team looking for a difference maker, you're more likely to get that boost, given all other variables being the same, with Eriksson than Ladd, because your team is likely to score around the same, but significantly, it'll concede less and have more useful possession.
And that, by simple logic, makes Eriksson more valuable a player to your team than Andrew Ladd is.
This is a key driver when it comes to trade talks. With both Ladd and Eriksson in similar situations and teams looking to use them in similar roles either as rentals or longer term, knowing (or even having an idea) of what is currently being offered for Ladd (or other comparable top-level deadline rental prospects) is going to give the Bruins considerable leverage in trade talks. It gives them the ability to evaluate offers far more thoroughly than simply thinking "well, that seems about fair".
Crucially, knowing that Eriksson is more valuable to teams than Ladd is will allow the Bruins to look at the offers (offers, let's not forget, that have started at "first round pick and mid-level prospect" and are only likely to rise this week as the bidding becomes more desperate) and say "look - if this guy is attracting THAT kind of offer, then surely you should be offering us even more?".
In the game of trade poker, knowing what kind of bets teams are making on another, equivalent player allows for one hell of an advantage - it effectively allows you to call teams' bluff when they try and claim that the market isn't running as high as you're asking. It also allows you to adjust your expectations accordingly.
Knowledge is power no matter what the time of year in the NHL. But at the trade deadline when you're looking to sell a prize asset for as high a price as possible and that asset happens to be the best of its kind at the deadline, it's the equivalent of bringing a gun to a knife-fight.
The Bruins should exploit that advantage to the full these coming days. To do otherwise would be a criminal waste.