Blackhawks deal Saad to Columbus

10-171460575-smallIn a completely unexpected and stunning move, the Blackhawks have traded Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for four players and a 2016 fourth round draft pick. Stan Bowman had stated on more than one occasion leading up to this summer that his number one priority was to re-sign Saad this offseason and that he was confident he could do so. Unfortunately, it is now clear that the two sides could not come to an agreement on a contract, thus leading to the trade.

Obviously this one hurts, a lot, but let’s break it down here and really take a look at what this trade means.

First off, it is being reported that Saad was looking for a deal worth about $6.5 million per year for 6 years. If that is in fact true, then there’s no way the Blackhawks could have signed him to that deal without having to dismantle their roster. With the Hawks as tight against the salary cap as they are, two million dollars is a lot of money. If Saad was looking for four million per year, then he doesn’t get traded. This isn’t like the MLB where a team can sign players to huge deals left and right. In this case, what seems to be not a huge sum of money (two million), is in fact just that.

Secondly, with Saad reportedly looking for that type of contract and the Hawks not in a position to agree on that, they had to deal him away before he became a restricted free agent at midnight tonight. If he were still on the Hawks’ roster at 12:00am tonight, any team in the league could then contact Saad and sign him to an offer sheet, which would likely have been $6.5 million for 6 years. If that had happened, the Blackhawks would have been left with two options:

  1. Match whatever offer sheet Saad signed, thus forcing them to make possibly even more trades than we were all expecting and putting them in an unfavorable position for the near future.
  2. Don’t match the offer sheet and receive a handful of draft picks in return that may or may not pan out to be good NHL players.

Given that situation, Stan Bowman and the Hawks chose to trade Saad now before he became an RFA.

Here’s what they got in return:

  • Artem Anisimov: Anisimov (27 years old) is a solid two-way player who can be placed at center or on the wing, making him a valuable asset to the lineup. He registered 27 points (7 goals, 20 assists) last season with Columbus, but my immediate thought is that those numbers will quickly rise now that he’s in a star-studded lineup with the Hawks. His ability to play center and win faceoffs makes losing Richards and/or Vermette easier to handle.
  • Marko Dano: This guy is just 20 years old and is viewed as one of the better prospects in the game. He has some tremendous upside and could very well end up being a big player on the Hawks for many years. As a winger, he could find himself on the Hawks’ third line next year.
  • Jeremy Morin: No, that is not a misprint. Morin is back with the Hawks after being traded away to Columbus this past December. If you’ve forgotten, Morin is a hard nosed winger who isn’t afraid of battling along the boards or standing in front of the net. He has shown some good potential at the NHL level, but hasn’t been able to put it all together yet. Whether or not he starts in NHL or AHL next year remains to be seen. That’s if he doesn’t get traded again before the season starts.
  • Corey Tropp: Tropp is a 25 year old right winger who tallied just 8 points with the Blue Jackets in 61 games last year. And to be honest, that’s all I really know about him.

In addition to those four players, the Blackhawks also received a 2016 fourth round pick from Columbus.

When you look at the return for Brandon Saad in this deal, there’s reason for optimism. Artem Anisimov is without question a nice pickup and could be quite valuable for the Hawks immediately. He ensures that the Hawks will have some nice depth at center for next season, as they already have Toews, Teravainen, Kruger (assuming he gets re-signed), and Phillip Danault, who is expected to see more NHL time. This also means that we may not see Brad Richards or Vermette back. It wasn’t likely that Vermette would have been back anyway, but Richards seemed to be a real possibility. Him coming back is still not out of the question though.

Marko Dano, as I mentioned, figures to be part of the Hawks’ future for sure. He has some real goal scoring talent and is just 20 years old. When you add in the fact that they already have an incredible talent in Teuvo Teravainen, who is also just 20, the Hawks up and coming players could make them quite scary again, and soon.

Now here’s another angle.

It’s possible that the Hawks turn around and trade Morin, Tropp, or even Dano (not likely) along with Bickell or Sharp to get a bigger return. I personally can’t see Morin playing another game for Joel Quenneville, who clearly doesn’t like what Morin brings on the ice, so maybe he’s the best bet of the three to get traded again. Whether this theory holds true, who know? It’s just a theory.

What’s not a theory is that the Hawks do still have to trade Sharp and/or Bickell to open up more cap space. If they can trade both, which would be ideal, they could afford to go after some free agents that they probably couldn’t have before trading Saad. They could also seriously look at bringing back Oduya and Richards.

So while none of us are happy to see Saad go, and I’m still stunned by it, the more you look into to it, the more it appears that this was a move that needed to be made. And if Bowman can deal Sharp and Bickell, that would allow the Hawks to makes some moves to help them in the long run.

While it’s easy to be pessimistic right now, there is still a lot of reason for optimism when you look at who the Hawks just acquired and what they could still potentially do this summer.

Versteeg back in the mix

Banner-Raising-2013-1600Following the Blackhakwks’ shootout victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night, Stan Bowman met the media and announced that the Blackhawks had traded for former Blackhawk, Kris Versteeg. Versteeg was a huge part of the Blackhawks’ success from the ’08-’09 season through the ’09-’10 season when they won the Cup. Following their Stanley Cup victory in 2010, the Hawks were forced to trade away many of their key players in order to accommodate the salary cap. Versteeg was one of those players, and he was one of the harder players to lose seeing as how valuable he was to the team. But now, that is all a thing of the past, because Steeger is back.

In acquiring Vertsteeg from the Florida Panthers, Bowman was forced to part ways with minor leaguers Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen. Both of which had played in a fair amount of games with the Blackhawks over the last 2 years or so, but neither really stood out when with the NHL club. Jimmy Hayes, who is 6′ 6″, was never really able to figure out how to use his size to his advantage when here with the Hawks. That, coupled with the fact that he is a weak skater, led to his departure. As for Olsen, He played in 28 games with the Hawks back in the ’11-’12 season. During that time, he played just alright, and never proved that he belonged in the NHL. Following the end of the 2012 season, he was demoted back to Rockford and has been there since.

While the Blackhawks did give up 2 prospects that the organization had been high on until recently, many, myself included, believe that the Blackhawks got the better of this deal. Versteeg is a dynamic forward with high-end skill who can play in many different situations throughout the game. Also, Florida is eating half of Versteeg’s remaining contract. Currently, he is earning $4.4 million per year, but the Panthers have agreed to take on half of that amount for the remainder of his contract. That leaves the Hawks with just a $2.2 million cap hit per year on Versteeg.

Versteeg will be making his second Blackhawks debut tonight when the Hawks take on the Predators in Nashville. Many had speculated and Joel Quenneville confirmed this Kris Versteegyesterday that Versteeg will play on the third line with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell. That’s where he spent the majority of his time when he was last with the Blackhawks, except his line-mates then were Ladd and Bolland. By adding Kris Versteeg to this third line with Shaw and Bickell, he brings a lot of skill that that line has been lacking. While the line of Bickell, Shaw, and Morin/Smith/Brookbank hasn’t been bad, they have lacked a consistent threat to score. Add Versteeg to that line in place of Morin/Smith/Brookbank, and you immediately have an upgraded line offensively.

Defensively, Kris Versteeg is underrated. In his previous time with the Hawks, he saw a lot of time on the PK unit, and one would have to believe that will be the case again this time around. The Blackhawks have really struggled on the penalty kill this season, so Versteeg is a welcomed sight in that aspect of the game.

The biggest positive about Versteeg coming back to the Hawks is the depth that he adds to this team. Like I said before, the third line hasn’t been bad for the Hawks, but it hasn’t been great. Now, that line is a serious threat, which means that the Blackhawks can roll out at least three dangerous lines against their opponents. Depth was their key to success last year, and they are now well on their way to replicating that same success this year. There will probably be a bit of an adjustment period here for Versteeg seeing as how he’ll have to get acclimated to playing with Shaw and Bickell, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem. He is already familiar with most of the Hawks’ current system of play.

After watching Versteeg’s interview after practice on Friday, it is clear that he is more than 1306350614happy to be back where his career began. He’s got great relationships with the guys who were on the 2010 team, and he already knows this city very well. His presence in the locker room should only help strengthen what is already one of the closest, most tight-knit teams in the league.

Versteeg and the Hawks play tonight at 7 CT in Nashville. He’ll be wearing number 23.

To be honest, I can’t find a single negative in this trade, and that’s a rarity. Good work Stan.  

Here’s one of Versteeg’s top moments as a Hawk: