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Blackhawks Wed Jul 01 2015

Blackhawks and Saad Part Ways, But All Not Lost

Chicago BlackhawksIt was a move most everyone considered impossible, losing out on a proven 22-year-old stud to cap restraints, especially after he scored eight goals and notched three assists in the postseason to help his team win its third Stanley Cup in six years. But after the news broke Tuesday afternoon that Brandon Saad had been traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the first thing to set in after the initial sting was acceptance in the salary-cap era.

A great two-way player, who benefited playing alongside surefire hall of famers in Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, Saad won over the Hawks faithful with his work ethic and electrifying plays on the scoring end and with no-look passes. There's no question the Hawks have gotten away with paying Saad an extremely affordable salary, but, eventually, his talent on the ice was going to cost Stan Bowman and company much more than the annual $842,500 bargain after season's end when he would become a restricted free agent.

Welcome to the era of the salary cap, Blackhawks fans. It's meant to give the league a fighting chance against a dynasty, and offers a chance for players like Saad to strike it rich and lead a new team to the promised land after an apprenticeship with the best. Currently, that's what is important to Saad. What's important to the Hawks, in this inevitable aftermath, is what they received in return so as to continue to redefine what is "dynasty" after these collectively-bargained rules were set in place a decade ago.

It was reported by TSN's Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) that the Blue Jackets were going to offer Saad a six-year, $6.5 million-per deal, which would have strapped the Hawks. The idea was that Bowman was looking to trade both Patrick Sharp ($5.9 million cap hit) and Bryan Bickell ($4 million cap hit) at some point this offseason -- ideally, before the draft.

However, as nationally televised games revealed, that wasn't going to be so easy. Both Sharp and Bickell struggled greatly during the postseason, which comparatively dropped their draft stock to the current financial status of Greece. Had they been able to shed most of that combined cap hit, the Hawks might have been able to match the offer sheet from the Blue Jackets, but, odds are, they wouldn't have.

No disrespect to Saad, but a lot of stars in the NHL aren't making $6.5 million per year, such as the Red Wings' Henrik Zetterberg ($6.08 million), the Rangers' Ryan Callahan ($5.8 million) or the Lightnings' Tyler Johnson ($3.33 million), all three of whom scored more points than Saad during the 2014-'15 campaign.

With that said, and his back somewhat against the wall, Bowman decided it was best to trade Saad now instead of allowing him to accept Columbus's offer sheet and get a first-, second- and third-round pick in return to groom in Rockford over the course of the next few seasons and risk defending the Cup successfully next season. In short, Bowman is instead taking a shot on a handful of players who just might be able to help immediately.

So now that the dust has settled, here's what the Blackhawks received in return:

Artem Anisimov (Center)

According to Bowman's teleconference Tuesday afternoon, Anisimov is a player the Hawks have had their eye on for the last few seasons. His salary is $3.823 million, and the Hawks are looking to extend him long-term. He was drafted in the second round in 2006 (54th overall) and had seven goals with 20 assists in 52 games last season. However, don't let those number fool you.

Anisimov will be slotted as a second-line center, and can help up the middle pretty much anywhere. Providing the Hawks don't re-sign Antoine Vermette and/or Brad Richards, Anisimov will fit in their stead.

Jeremy Morin (Left Wing)

It's hard to say how much "Mo" actually will play now that he's back in town, considering his first stint was spent with back-and-forth trips up I-90 between the UC and Rockford. Not to mention Joel Quenneville never showed much patience with him, which earned Morin plenty of time to view from the pine.

He scored two goals with four assists in 43 games for the Blue Jackets last season, so not much to rave about there. It's possible familiarity with the system a second time around might be the deciding factor for this throw in. His cap hit will be $800,000.

Corey Tropp (Right Wing)

A third-round pick in 2007 (89th overall), Tropp played sparingly in 61 games last season, scoring just one goal and seven assists. Not much else to say other than he'll benefit from playing on a solid team and will hopefully pick up good habits. His cap hit is $625,000.

Marko Dano (Center)

Dano is the guy who could prove Bowman's genius if he pans out, and all signs point to the 20-year-old from Austria being one to keep an eye on over the next few seasons. Dano played in 35 games for Columbus last season and scored eight goals with 13 assists.

He was a first-round selection for the Blue Jackets in 2013 (27th overall) and has a cap hit of $925,000. He played well for Slovakia in the U20 World Junior Championship in 2013 and scored four goals with five assists in six games during the tournament, and is known for his speed. He'll compete for an opening-night spot and likely will play immediately.

There's no doubt losing Saad is a stinger and he'll sorely be missed; however, Bowman has faced steeper hills of cap issues to climb out of, and at last check he was successful in coming out on top -- twice. Take the 2010 cap nightmare left by previous general manager Dale Tallon. Bowman sent fan favorites Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien -- to name just a couple -- to far-away lands in order to rebuild and reclaim the Cup for which he was named after by his father. He did it then, he did so again on a smaller level in 2013, and one has to think he'll do it once more when all is said and done.

It's unsure whether or not Bowman is finished wheeling and dealing, but one has to figure Sharp and Bickell are next. And while it might be crazy to figure, you shouldn't be surprised if high trade-valued players like Corey Crawford are even safe, especially after the Saad deal Tuesday.

The cap era can be frustrating to a franchise and cause an entire fan base to question each move as if it were a fire sale. Saad merely was one name (albeit, a promising name) embedded within a very well-oiled machine.

If it's one thing to take away from Tuesday's deal it's that the Blackhawks, at least at last check, still have the likes of Toews, Hossa, Patrick Kane, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Not to mention Teuvo Teravainen and a two-time Cup-winning goalie. You can't blame Saad for taking the money, or Bowman for making the best of the worst-case scenario. It's now time for the Hawks to find its next Brandon Saad, which potentially will unfold sometime after the team raises its sixth banner in franchise history on opening night in early October.

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HawksFan / July 1, 2015 10:23 AM

Sharp wasn't bad during the playoffs, quite the contrary. Even though his point totals weren't as high as in the past, he still played some great two-way hockey(something typically not associated with Sharp). Losing Sharp would be detrimental. Now Bickell, he was awful.

Jim / July 1, 2015 10:58 AM

That's fair on Sharp, Hawksfan. Should be interesting throughout the day with free agency now open if Bowman decides to keep Sharp or see what's available.

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