Brandon Saad was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets yesterday.
Have we all come to grips with that yet? Or is this column going to be met with a firing line and an angry mob of Blackhawks die-hards holding burning torches?
The Brandon Saad trade was a good move. It was a necessary move. It was a reminder that professional sports are a business and a reminder there’s nobody in the sport of hockey who understands that better than Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman.
Listen, I’ll admit that I was nearly in shock when TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted out the breaking news. It was a metaphorical atom bomb that left Chicago Blackhawks fans running to the nearest courier for answers.
But in the midst of all that commotion we as fans momentarily lost sight of what is important, what has gotten us to this point.
We seemingly forgot this is a franchise that’s hoisted the Stanley Cup three times in six years (and twice in the last three) under the guidance of hockey’s most disciplined mind.
Yes, Brandon Saad was loved. Yes, Brandon Saad is only 22 years of age. Yes, Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane were possibly the coolest American forward duo ever. And yes, there’s a strong chance that we see Brandon Saad grow into a bonafide superstar wearing a different sweater.
That’s the cost of not just building a dynasty in the NHL’s salary cap era, but maintaining one as well. To move forward, casualties have to happen. In this case, Brandon Saad became a casualty to the NHL’s stingy cap and an incoming free agent offer sheet.
According to multiple reports, Saad’s camp was asking for a six-year deal that averaged $6.5 million annually. For some perspective on that figure in the landscape of professional hockey, that’s a lot of fucking money to pay your fourth leading scorer from last season.
Simply put, it just wasn’t feasible for Stan Bowman to do anything but move forward running the organization the same way he has for the better part of a decade. When that way of doing things has given him three Stanley Cups, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Sure, we were confused. Everything we Hawks fans were led to believe after Cup No. 3 said that Brandon Saad was the chief offseason priority. And while it looks like he always was, the result was a complete 180 from what anyone expected.
Like you’ve probably heard a million times, it’s a business. It happens. There’s a reason Stan Bowman has his job, not any of us. Bowman loved Brandon Saad too, but for different reasons than we do.
That’s the most frustrating byproduct of the Saad deal for me — the shock has turned into doubt and the doubt has shifted to pure ignorance. Some will tell you Stan Bowman wanted to do this, that Brandon Saad’s camp didn’t force his hand.
Those same folks are also sitting around bitching and moaning, acting like the Blackhawks got nothing in return. The reality is, Stan Bowman’s team might have gotten better for next season.
Blackhawks acquire Anisimov, Dano, Morin and Tropp and a 4th-rounder from CBJ for Brandon Saad, Paliotta, Broadhurst: http://t.co/dI1w9HPBSG
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) June 30, 2015
Artem Anisimov is the unquestioned centerpiece of the deal. At 27 years old, he’s a talented playmaker at a position of need. Bowman went as far as saying that he’s a “player we’ve targeted for a while,” and backed that up with a five-year extension Wednesday morning.
It’s typical Chicago sports fan to hate something that’s unknown. Having spent the last three seasons in the pit that is Columbus, OH, Blackhawks fans have no idea who Anisimov is. So naturally, the easy move is to knock him. Try a little harder, and you’ll find out he’s now been dealt for both Rick Nash and Brandon Saad.
The most intriguing piece in the deal is prospect Marko Dano. In his first 35 games at the NHL level, the 20-year-old tallied 21 points and recorded a +/- of 12 last season (that’s very good). Dano will likely be treated a lot like Teuvo Teravainen was, learning on the fly, splitting time between Rockford and the big leagues.
There’s little doubt that Brandon Saad’s trade caught all of us off-guard, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing. In fact, isn’t it a good sign the guy running the Blackhawks isn’t doing what all of us spoiled fans think he should do?
The answer is yes.
Stan Bowman has a vision, one that he’s followed to (one more time) three Stanley Cups in six seasons. The departure of Brandon Saad stings bad, but by this point I think it’s safe to say that vision is much bigger than one young and exciting American winger.
After all, maintaining a modern-day NHL dynasty isn’t an easy job.