There was no hemming and hawing for Brandon Saad, no talk of what he could be getting with his current contract ending and pending restricted free-agent status.
Instead, it was all about how he could stay with the Blackhawks.
“The money’s going to come and go. But to win championships and play on a great team, that’s what it’s all about,” Saad said. "I’m looking forward to getting something done pretty quick.”
Saad is going to get a nice little payday regardless of where he goes. That payday would definitely be more elsewhere. But the lure of staying with the Blackhawks, who have won three Stanley Cups since 2010, including the last two with Saad, is more of an enticing carrot.
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The Blackhawks have become a model of success in the salary-cap world that was supposed to keep dynasties – or whatever you want to call this – from happening. Staying here and possibly winning more championships appeals to Saad, and he’s willing to take a little less cash to keep winning here.
“They’ve been great to me,” Saad said of the Blackhawks, who selected him in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. “Obviously you play the game to win. This is where I want to be.”
General manager Stan Bowman has been confident that he’ll re-sign the 22-year-old and he reiterated that on Wednesday.
“He’ll be a big part of our group for many years to come. We’ll make it work; that’s not a concern to me,” Bowman said of Saad. “Brandon’s been a big part of this, he’s grown as a player and we want him to continue to grow and take a bigger role next year. I think we’ve seen him emerge over the last couple of seasons. He’s just starting to grow into a big role on our team and that’ll continue for many years to come. We’ll work that out. I have confidence in that, in terms of bringing a player like Brandon back.”
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It’s not the first time players have taken less money to stay in Chicago. Bryan Bickell has struggled since signing his four-year, $16-million deal in the summer of 2013 but, considering how he played that 2013 postseason, he likely would’ve gotten more elsewhere. Niklas Hjalmarsson signed his current deal a year before his previous contract ran out and didn’t take that big of a raise to stay with the Blackhawks. At the time Hjalmarsson said, “maybe I could have gotten more [money] somewhere else but I make a lot of money.” The lure of the Blackhawks and the potential to win more here keeps players from testing a market that certainly would pay them more.
The salary cap for 2015-16 will probably end up around $71 million. The Blackhawks will have to do some number crunching again this offseason. Some players will not be re-signed and some will be traded. But Bowman has no intention of letting Saad go, and it doesn’t sound like Saad wants to leave, anyway.
“It’s not about the money,” said Saad. “We love playing the game, and to be in Chicago and be a part of a great team where we get along, it’s a great group of guys and we have a lot of fun. This is the goal, to get something done and be in Chicago.”