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Elliotte Friedman Speculates About The Blackhawks Trading Brandon Saad: My Thoughts

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11. Three others to keep an eye on: Chicago needs cap relief. With Brandon Saad dropped down the lineup, wonder if they look to give him a fresh start somewhere else”–Elliotte Friedman, 31 Thoughts 

It’s pathetic that this is a question being pondered by a guy like Elliotte Friedman. 31 Thoughts is a destination read for hockey fans every week and there’s not too many people in hockey media I respect more than Friedman. The fact that this is a legitimate question for the Blackhawks right now just shows how bad things have gotten.

When the Saad-Panarin trade went happened last summer, it was shocking, but it seemed logical. Panarin was signed for 2 more years, Saad was signed through the 2020-21 season. The Blackhawks knew that Saad wouldn’t match Panarin’s level of production, but the thought was that they’d be able replace Panarin in the aggregate. Nick Schmaltz developing, plus Saad’s theoretical 25+goals and increased production from Toews with a familiar and capable LW. It was also said that Saad would help mitigate some of the loss stemming from Marian Hossa’s absence. With Saad the Blackhawks would get “20 minutes a night of playing the right way”. Well against Calgary they got 7:37 of 5-on-5 play from Saad as a 4th line winger.

Things are in a downward spiral for Saad. He has one assist in his last 12 games. He’s been demoted down to the fourth line. In the salary cap era you can NOT afford to have $6M leaving ass prints on the bench.

So then the question becomes…do you think Brandon Saad can find his game and earn his way back into your top six, or are your young players simply better than him at this point. Alex DeBrincat has certainly proven his worth this year. He is a capable top 6 winger and looks like a guy who is going to pot 25-30 goals forever. So that leaves two wing spots open in your top 6. Going forward Saad will be fighting with Duclair, Hayden, Hartman, Sikura, and Hinostroza for those spots in the top 6. At this point it’s not obvious that he’s a better option than any of those guys. The difference with Saad is that(in theory, not practice) he’s the only power-forward type with speed in that group. He is still only 25 years-old. Good Brandon Saad has a higher ceiling than Duclair or Hayden. He is still a good defensive player. He has shown that he can score 30 goals in the NHL. He just looks like a shell of himself.

Is it more likely that Brandon Saad bounces back next year or are the Blackhawks and Bowman better off with an additional $6M in cap space heading into the summer? Just for fun, lets fantasize about how things could be next summer.

1) Cap goes from 75M to 80M. +5M

2) Trade Brandon Saad for picks/prospects. +6M

3) Trade Anisimov for picks/prospects. +4.55M

4) Trade Hossa’s contract to Arizona for cap flexibility. +5.275M

That adds up to: $20.825M

Hartman, Duclair, and Hayden are all RFAs and will need new deals. My guess says that those three players will get a combined $5.5M give or take. That leaves you with $15.325M to fill out your roster. That’s enough money to take a shot at UFA guys like JVR and John Carlson or get in the mud and try to poach an RFA like Trouba, Larkin, or Hanafin.

I honestly don’t know what the right option is at this point. I want the Brandon Saad I thougth we were getting back from Columbus. I want him to be the guy who plays fast, plays strong, and goes to the net. He’s better than any of these other options I laid out. I also know that the window to win again is closing so rapidly(if it isn’t closed already) and that waiting for Saad to find himself and his game might be what dooms them for good. How this shakes out is going to be very interesting and it will shape the direction of the team for the next 3 years.