Blackhawks trade star forward Saad to Blue Jackets
In a stunning move, Blackhawks manager Stan Bowman traded burgeoning star forward Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday afternoon in a seven-player trade that wasn't foreseen by anybody outside of either team.
Saad, 22, was sent to Columbus along with forward prospect Alex Broadhurst, a Chicago-area native, and defense prospect Michael Paliotta, who signed with the Hawks this past season after completing his college eligibility at the University of Vermont.
Coming to the Hawks are center Artem Anisimov, 27, forward prospect Marko Dano, 20, former Blackhawks forward Jeremy Morin, 24 and a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
"We gave it our best shot," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said during a conference call Tuesday afternoon.
"We worked hard at it with Brandon and his agent, and weren't able to reach an agreement. And when that became apparent, then we turned our focus to trying to improve our team for next season."
Saad was unable to be reached for comment. His agent, Lewis Gross, didn't return multiple requests to speak to Saad.
Bowman didn't get into specifics, but said it became clear Saad and Gross were asking for too much of a pay raise. The talented two-way forward could become a restricted free agent Wednesday if he doesn't strike a contract extension with Columbus beforehand.
Saad, who had a salary-cap hit of just $764,166 this past season, set career highs in goals (23), assists (29), points (52) and time on ice (17:15) in the regular season. He had eight goals and 11 points in the Hawks' 23-game run to the Stanley Cup title during the playoffs.
Anisimov should step right into the Hawks' vacant spot on the second line and a $3.283 million charge against the salary cap for his final year before free agency. Bowman said the Hawks are close to signing him to a contract extension, however, and his 6-foot-4 frame gives them good size down the middle.
"He's a player that we have been trying to acquire for quite some time," Bowman said. "I've talked a long time about our desire to find a big centerman. There's very few of them in the NHL. You just look around the 30 teams, and to be able to get a guy in the prime of his career, 6-foot-4, who can do a little bit of everything, it's someone we've been chasing for a long time, and we were finally able to acquire him."
Dano is another key to the deal for the Hawks. The highly-decorated prospect had eight goals and 13 assists in 35 games for the Blue Jackets this season in his first NHL campaign. Dano can play center or the wing and might also step into a vital center role with the Hawks, depending on where coach Joel Quenneville wants to play him.
Saad could command a big contract offer sheet from an opposing team in free agency, which would've given Bowman a decision he didn't want to get stuck having to make -- match it or accept draft-pick compensation in return.
"I think it's fair to say we both tried hard to make it work it," Bowman said. "It just wasn't going to work in this scenario. We certainly tried our best and I don't think we ever came close on a contract, and it wasn't for lack of effort. I respect their side. It just didn't work for us and obviously it didn't work for them. And that's why we had to move on."