When the Blackhawks announced they were trading Brandon Saad, there were a lot who were stunned.
Apparently, that included Saad.
“A little shocked,” Saad said via conference call. “It’s my first time going through the process. At the same time it’s a business.”
Saad’s biggest introduction to this business we call the NHL came on Tuesday afternoon, when the Blackhawks traded him to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a seven-player deal. The forward said two weeks ago that he planned to re-sign with the Blackhawks but it didn’t happen. General manager Stan Bowman said the two sides never really got close to getting a deal done.
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“He’s a great young player, great young man. It was a joy to have him on our team and we certainly wish him the best in Columbus,” Bowman said on Tuesday. “From our perspective it’s difficult to make trades sometimes, especially in a case like this. But this is a business and we have a job to do and my job is to prep our team to remain competitive and win again next season.”
Bob McKenzie reported yesterday that Saad’s camp was asking for salary that came with an average cap hit of $6.5 million. Saad wouldn’t comment on what kept he and the Blackhawks apart on a deal, or what contract he could end up getting with the Jackets. A message sent to his agent, Lewis Gross, was not immediately returned.
Saad said he mostly stayed out of the negotiating process.
“As a player, I try to stay out of it as much as possible. You just try to play the game and have fun,” he said. “As for the business part, you try to take the emotion out of it. I let my agent do that and he keeps me informed and talks to me about things that are going on, but for the most part I let him do the work. He knows the business more than I do.”
As for Saad, the Blue Jackets will sign him. Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said on Tuesday that the team was already in discussions with Saad’s agent, Lewis Gross, on the deal. Kekalainen added that he’s not concerned if other teams have offer sheets for Saad.
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“We’re just going to match it,” he said. “We’re not in a vulnerable position with our cap situation where it would benefit anybody to try to offer sheet him. We would just match it.”
Saad may be only 22 years old but he already brings a strong winning pedigree to the Blue Jackets. Saad was a Calder Trophy finalist during his rookie year and claimed his second Stanley Cup in his first three seasons last month. He joins a Blue Jackets squad that’s trying to find some consistent success. Columbus made the playoffs in 2013-14, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. They hoped to build on that success last year but were derailed by a plethora of injuries; they finished 11th in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s definitely going to be a change,” Saad said. “At the same time they’ve had some tight playoff series where they’ve played well. I’m looking forward to going there and helping that team."
Saad’s pedigree will certainly benefit a Jackets team that has high hopes entering this season.
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“A winner. We’ve talked about this internally, with our team and with our management group, we want winners here and he’s a proven winner,” Kekalainen said of Saad. “He’s won two Stanley Cups, he’s 22 years old, he has speed, size, strength and he plays the game hard. He has an excellent work ethic on and off the ice. He brings a proven winner to our group.”
There was plenty of shock to go around when Saad was traded. Saad experienced some of it himself. His path is set and he’ll certainly get rewarded monetarily. Now the Jackets hope Saad can help them find more success moving forward.
“Things are going to happen and most guys don’t play their entire career in the same place,” Saad said. “I’m a little sad to leave because of the relationships that I’ve built with those guys [in Chicago], but this is part of the business and I’m excited about what’s in front of me with the Blue Jackets.”