If Brandon Saad wasn’t looking at a big pay day before the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he has certainly played his way to a few more zeros on his paycheck. While he was a name to watch before the playoffs began, his play so far has skyrocketed him to wanted man stature.
Second Round Statement
In the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, 42 picks came and went before Saad heard his name called. In fact, the Blackhawks selected three players (Mark McNeil, Phillip Danault, and Adam Clendening) before him. Unless you pay attention to the Blackhawks, you may look at that list and say, “Who?”. With a combined 23 NHL games played between them, it’s easy to not know who they are.
After bouncing back and forth between the Blackhawks and the AHL Rockford Icehogs for the better part of the 2012-13 season, Saad found his way onto the playoff roster, scoring one goal with five assists, helping the Blackhawks secure their second Stanley Cup in four years.
Since becoming a mainstay in the Blackhawks lineup in the 2013-14 season, Saad has racked up 42 goals with 57 assists in 160 games. His success is not just contained to the regular season, as he added on six goals and ten assists in last year’s playoffs. So far this year, Saad has topped those numbers with eight goals and two assists, with at least two more games to be played. Of those eight goals, six have given Chicago the lead (two being game winners), one tied the game up, and one extended the lead. None were bigger than this goal in the Stanley Cup Final to give Chicago the lead and help tie the series up 2-2:
Quite the heroics for the 43rd overall pick, eh?
Saad is entering into the last year of the entry level deal he signed in 2011, meaning that he will be a RFA this offseason. Given the Blackhawks’ cap situation, it has led to speculation that Chicago may not be able to hold on to the 22 year old winger.
The odds of this happening? 50-1. If you don’t gamble, that means it is a long shot that has very little chance of happening.
“He’s emerged as a guy coaches trust, so I would think he’s going to play an even bigger role next year.” said Bowman. “He’s ready for that. He’ll be 23 and he’ll have a couple of years of solid NHL experience under his belt. He’s ready for taking that next step to being a featured guy.
“We’ll get him signed.”
Many have wondered if teams will sign Saad to an offer sheet upwards of six million per year, forcing Chicago to either let him walk or purge the team to keep him. Leading many to question – who goes to make room?
The obvious choice is Patrick Sharp, who still has two years left on his contract at $5.9 million a year. While Sharp has been a part of the “core” group for the past five years, his age (already 33) and declining skills have made him expendable. This season, Sharp saw his numbers cut in half, scoring 16 goals (down from 34 last year), and tallying 27 assists (down from 44).
Also on the chopping block is winger Bryan Bickell, who has made a name for coming up big in the playoffs, but has fallen flat this year. Bickell has two years remaining on his contract at $4.5 million a year, a hefty price for a player who only shines in the summer months.
The Hawks may have to sell low to move these players, but if that’s what it takes to keep Saad in the Indian Head sweater, then Chicago has no choice.
Saad has expressed interest in staying with Chicago, telling the Chicago Tribune, “I want to end up in Chicago for sure. They’ve treated me nothing but great here.”
Sorry to fans of other teams, but the young kid they call “Man-Child” looks destined to stay in Chicago.
Matthew Bowen has been covering the Chicago Blackhawks for 5+ years. He has covered the team for websites such as ChiCitySports, Bleacher Report and Blackhawksondemand.