Andrew Ladd's decision to sign a five-year, $22-million contract with the Winnipeg Jets hours before he needed to file for arbitration took one of the primary restricted free agents off the market Tuesday. Ladd was considered a priority signing for the Jets, who'd nibbled around the edges of free agency for the likes of Randy Jones, Derek Meech, Tanner Glass and Rick Rypien, but needed to make a splash – and did so here.

It was a pre-emptive strike of sorts for Winnipeg. The qualities that Ladd brings – two Stanley Cups on his résumé before the age of 25, career highs in goals (29) and points (59) – might have made him a target for a free-agent offer sheet from elsewhere around the NHL.

In their early days in Winnipeg, and needing to send a message about their commitment to retaining key personnel, it was a risk the Jets couldn't afford to take. Nobody ever really wins in salary arbitration, anyway, and Ladd's contract was structured in such a way that the Jets will pay him $4-million (all currency U.S.) for the 2011-12 season and then $4.5-million for its remaining years.

In effect, they bought out his first four years of eligibility for unrestricted free agency – and it cost them $18-million, or exactly what the Montreal Canadiens paid Erik Cole to play for the same number of years. That's the cost of doing business in this inflationary age, and Ladd could have opted for a one-year contract and tested the free-agent waters next summer if he'd chosen too.