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.”

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

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AP

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.