Columbus Blue Jackets: All-In with Brandon Saad


It’s been a blockbuster summer so far for the NHL and we got another one earlier today: the Columbus Blue Jackets acquired restricted free agent Brandon Saad from the Chicago Blackhawks for Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp, and a fourth round draft pick.

The 22-year old scored 23 goals and tallied 52 points in his third full season in Chicago.  While those numbers aren’t eye-popping, he also went on to add eight more goals for the Hawks on the way to their third Stanley Cup in six seasons.  He’s a rare combination of size, speed, and skill and a complete package in all three zones.  It’s that package that no doubt led to the Hawks thinking someone was about to sign him to an offer sheet.  Since the Hawks are in what many call “salary cap hell,” they were forced into a corner here and tried to get something for him.

More from Columbus Blue Jackets

While many are bemoaning the loss of Saad for the Blackhawks, don’t lose sight of the winners in this trade: the Columbus Blue Jackets.  This is the type of deal that raises the expectation level for the organization.  Saad joins an impressive forward group that already contains Ryan Johansen, Nick Folingo, Scott Hartnell and Brandon Dubinsky.  They’re big, talented, physical, and will cause headaches for everyone in the Metropolitan Division.  Don’t think this won’t affect the rest of the division’s summer plans when it comes to piecing their teams together.

Back to the Blue Jackets though.  After earning a playoff spot in 2013/14 and winning their first two playoff games in franchise history, Columbus suffered through a rash injuries this past season and despite winning 15 of its last 17, finished with only 89 points and out of the playoff picture.  Management knows it could not sit back and rely solely on players being healthy to make a return trip to the playoffs, so on the eve of free agency, they landed one of the most coveted pieces on the market.  It’s a bold move for a team that continues to build its footprint in a “new” hockey market.  Think there are some Blue Jacket ticket reps on the phone as we speak selling a few extra tickets to fans?

On the ice, acquiring Saad doesn’t vault the Columbus Blue Jackets to division favorites at this point.  The team’s defense is still suspect, and no doubt they will need to address the issues on the blue line this summer through free agency and possibly more trades.  With former-Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky manning the pipes, the Blue Jackets don’t need to run out six all-stars on defense, but another top-four player is necessary.  If the trade today tells us anything it’s that general manager Jarmo Kekalainen will be aggressive in trying to plug the holes.

Of course, there is still the minor issue of re-signing Saad.  There are numerous rumors floating around the Twitterverse, but it appears he is seeking a contract that will pay him in the neighborhood of $6.5 million a year.  While a team can still try and sign him to an offer sheet on July 1st if he isn’t signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets then, there is no way the Jackets make this trade without the willingness to essentially hand Saad a blank check to stay.  The team has more than $13 million available cap space.  You can expect Saad to account for about half of that when the ink on his new contract finally dries.

The expectations are raised in Columbus.  You don’t make this type of splash and commitment to a player and expect to miss the playoffs.  This trade should set up the Blue Jackets for immediate and future success and anything short will be a disaster.  There are no excuses now.  They are all-in.  Embrace it.

Next: Saad Has Been Traded

More from Puck Prose