And so the mighty get mightier.
For the second year in a row, Stan Bowman, the soft-spoken general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks, has beaten everyone to the punch in landing the top potential trade deadline asset in the marketplace, Winnipeg Jets winger Andrew Ladd.
No one player thought to be available heading toward the 3 p.m. ET Monday trade deadline had garnered as much attention as the two-time Stanley Cup winner had in recent weeks. A significant number of teams expressed some degree of interest in Ladd's services.
The fact that Ladd, 30, won one of his Stanley Cups with Bowman's Blackhawks in 2010, before he was shipped to the Atlanta Thrashers in a post-Cup salary dump, was clearly a factor in Bowman's meeting Winnipeg's sizable demands for their hard-nosed captain.
The Blackhawks sent Winnipeg a first-round pick in this year's draft, a former first-round draft pick in Marko Dano, an Austrian center with good skill who was selected 27th in the 2013 draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets, and a conditional draft pick in 2018 if the Blackhawks win the Cup this spring.
The Blackhawks had an obvious hole on the left side of their offensive lineup, and Ladd appears to be the perfect fit for that hole.
The Maple Ridge, British Columbia, native is a solid 25- to 30-goal producer. Look for him to slot in on the left side with captain Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa to give Chicago a dominating top six, with league scoring leader Patrick Kane playing most of the season with Artem Anisimov and rookie scoring leader Artemi Panarin.
The Blackhawks are seventh in goals scored per game and second in power-play efficiency. Ladd adds to that arsenal.
The Ladd acquisition is reminiscent of the big move of last year's trade deadline, which saw Bowman land the top center on the trade market in Antoine Vermette. Although Vermette took longer than anticipated to have a positive impact on the Blackhawks, he produced in crucial moments in the Western Conference finals and Stanley Cup finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning as Chicago won its third Stanley Cup in six seasons. (The Blackhawks also paid handsomely for veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen at the deadline in a move that did not have much of an impact.)
Look for the Blackhawks to spend between now and Monday in hopes of adding another defensive piece, something they might be able to accomplish, given that the Jets are retaining 36 percent of Ladd's salary, as reported by ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun.
You have to wonder if the Ladd trade might have an impact on Vancouver Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who must decide whether to waive his no-trade/no-move clause before Monday. It's not known whether the Blackhawks could afford or would choose to meet the asking price for Hamhuis, but Ladd is clearly a domino that has tumbled. Now we'll see what ripples this move creates.
Certainly, other teams looking for offensive help will redouble their efforts with players such as the Arizona Coyotes' Mikkel Boedker, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July, and the Calgary Flames' Jiri Hudler. Jamie McGinn of the Buffalo Sabres and P.A. Parenteau of the Toronto Maple Leafs are also forwards who will be of interest to teams looking to bulk up before the deadline.
Even so, as was the case a year ago, the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers, all teams looking to add up front, will find themselves chasing the Blackhawks. As it ever was, it seems.