Blackhawks

Blackhawks trade Brandon Saad to Blue Jackets

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Blackhawks trade Brandon Saad to Blue Jackets

When general manager Stan Bowman said he wanted Brandon Saad to remain with the Blackhawks earlier this month, it seemed a foregone conclusion.

Bowman was adamant. Saad was, too, as the 22-year-old forward was ready to be part of the Blackhawks for years to come.

But a funny thing happened on the way to signing that anticipated extension: The two sides never got close to a deal. And now, just two weeks later, Saad is no longer part of the Blackhawks present or future.

Saad was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of a seven-player deal on Tuesday afternoon. The Blackhawks acquired Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin and Corey Tropp, as well as a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

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The deal was a shocker, especially given the Blackhawks’ determination, and talk of that desire, to sign Saad to a new contract. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Saad’s camp was looking for a six-year deal with a cap hit of $6.5 million per season, though Saad's agent, Lewis Gross, later told McKenzie that they were not looking for six years. Bowman wasn’t going to “talk numbers” but said the two sides never got close to an agreement.

“It’s fair to say we both tried hard to make it work. It wasn’t going to in this scenario,” Bowman said via conference call this afternoon. “I don’t think we ever came close on a contract. It wasn’t for lack of effort. I respect their side. It just didn’t work for us, and it obviously didn’t work for them. That’s why we had to move on.”

So the Blackhawks traded Saad to the Blue Jackets. Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, who spoke on a separate conference call, said the Jackets are already working on a deal for Saad.

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Saad not signing here doesn’t mean the Blackhawks are out of the salary-cap woods. Anisimov has one year remaining on his current contract, which has a cap hit of $3.28 million. Dano has two years on his contract with the much-lighter cap hit of $925,000 per season. Still, that means the Blackhawks have about $68 million tied up in 16 players, and the salary cap will be $71.4 million for the 2015-16 season. Bowman said talks are going well with Marcus Kruger, who’s likely to be signed to a new deal soon. Does that mean Patrick Sharp is still traded? Or Bryan Bickell’s on the block?

“We have a few different paths we can pursue,” Bowman said. “A big need for us was center. We lost a few from last year’s team, and I think that’s an important position for us. That’s why we had success. We filled a huge hole there with Anisimov. We have other decisions to make. Obviously this was a big decision, and now that we’ve made this move we can look at a few different things looking into the coming weeks. We have some flexibility. We’re not pressured into doing anything, but we’re open to different things as we prepare for next year.”

Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville have long said, “things change quickly in our business.” The trading, not re-signing, of Saad on Tuesday couldn’t have reinforced that quote any more. The Blackhawks thought they and Saad would be together for quite a while. They won’t be. So now, the Blackhawks will move on.

“Our plan was to sign Brandon. We didn’t know until we started negotiations where they were going to be,” Bowman said. “We did our best. Both sides tried hard, and we couldn’t come to an agreement. You can’t get stuck in a position. You have to keep preparing for next season.”

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?