In an absolute stunner Tuesday afternoon the Blackhawks traded star forward Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a blockbuster trade. In return the Hawks received Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, and Corey Tropp. Saad was a restricted free agent entering this summer after the Blackhawks’ third Stanley Cup title in six years. We all knew the impending cap crunch, and that a Saad deal and potential offer sheet would be a sticky situation. But no one expected what went down earlier today.
In what GM Stan Bowman is calling a “business decision” the Hawks shockingly dealt one of the best young superstars in the NHL. Contract negotiations between Saad and the Blackhawks were apparently getting sidetracked by differing demands. Saad’s camp was demanding a max contract around 6.5 million dollars for six years, while the Hawks were pursuing a shorter bridge deal rather than a long-term max deal.
The sad part is all of the talk after the Final about Bowman guaranteeing that Saad would be signed, and Saad’s spoken desire to stay in Chicago for a potential bargain. All of that talk must have fallen apart when the two sides met to negotiate. Frankly Saad’s demands were a bit outrageous, but who can honestly blame him for wanting to get paid? Max Pacioretty, a guy who has scored 35+ goals twice in his career, is currently being paid HALF of what Saad demanded while never scoring more than 30 goals in a season yet. The Blackhawks simply had no way to possibly pay Brandon Saad that amount of money.
Rather than allow Saad to potentially get “offer sheeted” tomorrow during the free agent frenzy, the Hawks attempted to get their money’s worth in a trade. Putting all of the emotion and shock aside, and looking at the trade from afar, the Blackhawks got a really solid haul in return for their young superstar. Anisimov is a solid center than will replace Vermette or Richards with a little more offensive spunk. Dano scored 19 points in 35 games last season as a 19 YEAR OLD rookie in Columbus. ‘Nuff said.
The question now is what will the Blackhawks do with Sharp, Bickell, Versteeg, Vermette and Richards. Does this Saad move mean the Hawks are trying to keep the older Patrick Sharp? Does this mean the Hawks are going to possibly have to eat the atrocious Bickell contract because no team in the league wants to take it on? Only time will tell, but my gut tells me the Hawks are not quite done making deals. But as we learned today, our guts are normally wrong and unprepared.
When the trade went down Tuesday afternoon I was shocked, stunned, breathless, speechless, appalled, and amazed. Literally, out of all of the possible scenarios that the Blackhawks cap crunch could have this summer, this was the last one on my mind. It was a shot to the gut for Blackhawks fans. It hurts to lose such a talented and beloved player like Saad. But this is the reality of the modern era of the NHL and the salary cap. Tough business decisions must be made.
Thank you for everything, Brandon. Best of luck in Columbus. We’ll all be watching.