Andrew Ladd’s arduous journey to return to the NHL after injuries to both knees is now expected to take an extended detour through Bridgeport.
The Islanders placed the left wing, in the fourth season of a seven-year, $38.5 million deal, on waivers on Thursday. If he clears as expected on Friday, Ladd will be re-assigned to the AHL affiliate and remain on long-term injured reserve after completing a voluntary five-game conditioning stint with Bridgeport on Monday.
Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said the organization simply did not see enough from Ladd during the conditioning stint to believe he was ready to play in the NHL. He added this course of action marks a deviation from the organization’s original plan when Ladd was first sent on his conditioning assignment.
“He needs to play games to see exactly where his strength is and where the liabilities are,” Lamoriello said on Thursday as his team practiced in East Meadow. “The strength of the knee…we haven’t seen that yet. What we’ll have to do is make sure it’s there and he’ll have to be honest with himself, how he feels and where he’s at physically.”
The Islanders, on a 12-0-1 streak, play at Philadelphia on Saturday to start a stretch of 10 of 13 on the road.
Ladd, 33, played just 26 games last season with three goals and eight assists. He missed all of last season’s training camp with what was believed to be a back issue, was sidelined for a 44-game stretch because of an injured right knee, then tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on March 24, requiring surgery.
Lamoriello said there was “no timetable” as to how long Ladd might remain with the Sound Tigers if he clears waivers. Lamoriello added Ladd was “extremely receptive” to the chance to play regularly in the AHL.
“What it shows is that everybody is being honest with each other,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “I think everything has been put on the table and we want the best for Andrew as well.”
Lamoriello did not want to speculate on whether Ladd’s NHL career was in jeopardy.
“I couldn’t answer that,” Lamoriello said. “I don’t think you look at things that way. I think what you do is everything possible.”
Ladd had one goal during his five-game conditioning stint with Bridgeport.
He has 38 goals and 33 assists in 177 games with the Islanders, far less production than either the team or Ladd expected after he signed the long-term deal.
Notes & quotes: Right wing Josh Bailey exited midway through practice for precautionary reasons after experiencing soreness stemming from Wednesday night’s 5-4 win over the Maple Leafs at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. “It caught him off guard a little bit,” Trotz said. “I don’t think it’s anything that’s going to keep him out…” Lamoriello said Bridgeport defenseman Mitch Vande Sompel (arm), injured during training camp, would likely miss the rest of the season…Lamoriello reported left wing Matt Martin (injured reserve/lower body) could rejoin the Islanders for practice as soon as on Friday and that forward Tom Kuhnhackl (IR/lower body) has resumed skating on his own.