Yes, you were probably shocked when you heard that the Blackhawks traded Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad in a blockbuster deal.
I was too. But after I sat down and thought about the deal, read some other writers content, and talked with people, I had a realization. SAAD IS BACK!
Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman talked of “change is coming” in the end of season press conference after being swept by the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Bowman was frustrated and called the first round exit “unacceptable.” “Change comes in many different ways. So the specifics of how we’re going to change things into next year are not really meant for this forum, Bowman said at the end of April. But I can promise you we need to be better. Joel is our head coach. He will continue to be our head coach, and Joel and I are going to work together to make sure that this never happens again.”
On Friday, change came with two trades. Three-time Stanley Cup winner Niklas Hjalmarsson was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Connor Murphy and prospect Laurent Dauphin.
Hjalmarrson, fans called him Hammer, has been a staple on the Blackhawks defense and has been extremely reliable. Having only missed 11 games in the last four seasons, he really was one of four top defenseman for head coach Joel Quenneville.
In return, the Hawks acquired a young defenseman in Murphy, who posted two goals and 15 assists in 77 games last season. Bowman has reportedly been a fan of Murphy for awhile and Murphy is just 24 years old. The Blackhawks know they have to get younger on defense and Murphy is just another step.
The Hawks also acquired 22 year old Dauphin who played in both the NHL and AHL last season. Dauphin told Mark Lazurus of the Chicago Sun-times that he believes he is a “good two way forward who really plays hard and will do everything to win.” Dauphin will have the opportunity to continue to develop with the Rockford IceHogs.
Then came the biggest shock to many Blackhawks fans : Panarin, former rookie of the year and rising star, was sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets. However, in return, the Hawks bring back 2015 Stanley Cup winner Brandon Saad.
“Moving forward, we’re very excited for these trades that we made — in particular, bringing back a player that everybody’s familiar with in Brandon Saad, said Bowman Friday afternoon. It’s pretty well-documented how well he fit into our group.”
Still in shock? I totally get it. Panarin became a fan favorite and seemed to be a next young piece to be entered into the Blackhawks core. Not to mention, the Hawks extended Panarin in late December, making it seem the Hawks were invested in the young forward.
In his first 117 NHL games, Panarin had 114 points. Those are insane numbers. So how could the Blackhawks trade away a player with so much promise and took Patrick Kane’s play to a whole new level? One reason was money.
After next season, Panarin would become an unrestricted free agent. And if his production keeps up, he will be earning a very big pay day in two years.
While the Blackhawks liked Panarin, the NHL is still a business. Bowman is one of the best and most successful general managers in the league. In order to be a contender for a long period of time, as the Hawks have been, you have to look at all possibilities and look to the future.
The motivation behind this move probably was the opportunity to re-unite Saad with former linemate Jonathan Toews. Another reason for this deal could have been maybe the Blackhawks felt that once Panarin was a free agent, they would not be able to re-sign him. Free agency is very competitive and who knows what the Blackhawks cap space will look like in two years. It may not be in the best shape as other teams that will be able to offer Panarin a very large sum of money.
After being traded to Columbus in June of 2015, in which the Blackhawks Artem Anisimov, Saad signed a six-year $36 million dollar deal. Now, coming back the Blachawks, Saad is locked until 2021. The two way forward has an annual salary of $6M, less than many think Panarin will earn on the open market in two years. Saad is a year younger, 24, and will be 28 when the contract expires.
Saad looked to be a Blackhawk for his entire career even saying Friday he hoped to one day return to Chicago at some point in his career. Well, he is here earlier than he expected.
Saad’s return to Chicago comes as both a shock and a joy to Blackhawks fans. The bread man (Panarin) will not be skating with Kane anymore. Those two put on a great show and they were able to bring out best in each other. But it’s a business and at the end of the day, the Blackhawks have brought back the man many call ” the man child.”