Definitely did not see this one coming. The Blackhawks have sent winger Brandon Saad—the one guy you assumed this cap-clearing summer would be all about finding the room to afford—to the Blue Jackets.
Here’s the haul:
Despite the inclusion of Marko Dano, that’s not a great return. But this was about money. The Blackhawks are right up against the salary cap. Chicago and Saad were talking about a long-term deal but were apparently far apart on terms. (The Hawks undoubtedly were asking him to take a major discount.) Saad is a restricted free agent, and was surely going to receive an offer sheet—one Chicago was apparently not prepared to match.
I’m still shocked, though. Patrick Sharp was assumed to be the Blackhawk most likely to be moved. Saad is just 22 years old and talented, the sort of talent you trade other pieces to make sure he’s around for a long time. We all knew this summer was going to be painful for the Cup champs—they’ve had to do this before—but this is the most unexpected of a week’s worth of NHL craziness.
Columbus still needs to sign Saad, or match an offer sheet. They’ve got the cap space to do either, and wouldn’t have made this deal if they weren’t planning on it.
Offer sheets are good for drama, they’re good for player movement, and they’re great for the players themselves—stars ought to be paid whatever someone’s willing to pay them. Which won’t make Blackhawks feel any better about this one. Or about the bloodletting still to come: Chicago still needs to clear space.