Before the trade deadline in February, rumors were swirling that the Chicago Blackhawks would possibly trade Brandon Saad. His contract doesn’t expire until the end of the 2020-21 season, but nobody is safe with the Blackhawks’ salary cap situation.
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Despite having a rough return to the Blackhawks’ roster, Saad has been performing well all season, and that’s a good enough reason for Chicago to want to keep him.
Saad’s return to the Blackhawks’ lineup was met with skepticism since the team traded Artemi Panarin for him. Fans were hopeful after he scored a hat trick in his first game back, but it went downhill from there. He finished the 2017-18 season with a total of 18 goals and 17 assists in 82 games. Panarin tallied a total of 27 goals and 55 assists in 81 games. There was a clear winner of the trade, and the Blackhawks were on the wrong side of it.
Saad had a better 2018-19 season with a total of 23 goals and 24 assists in 80 games. It was important for him to have a stronger season than the last, but he failed to make a full comeback. He was determined to have an even stronger 2019-20 season, and he has been successful so far.
After changing his training regimen over the offseason, it was clear that Saad was back and better than ever. After the first four games of the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Chicago’s Pat Boyle praised Saad’s on the Blackhawks Talk podcast, “The effort I’ve seen from Brandon Saad has been, to me, very noticeable. Since he has come back to Chicago, that consistency hasn’t always been there. I know, deep down, he’s probably not thrilled to be in a third-line role and getting third-line minutes, but obviously, that’s one of Colliton’s favorite lines.”
“It’s the only line that’s been together since training camp,” Boyle continued. “Saad, Kampf, and Kubalik. I think Saad has done a lot of the north-south game they have expected to see from him. I thought, defensively, he’s made some good plays as well. Saad is off to a really good start, and to me, it’s something he can build upon. He can show this franchise why he’s a part of two Stanley Cups.”
Head coach Jeremy Colliton also praised Saad’s performance, as the told the Chicago Sun-Times, “He’s been great all year. Really strong on the puck, and he can carry it from zone to zone. It’s a big benefit to us defensively, just because when he does get it anywhere above the dots — in ‘D’ zone typically — it [always] does enter their end somehow. That really helps us, and he’s been producing. No matter who he plays with, he produces.” (from ‘Brandon Saad ‘ready to go,’ could return for Blackhawks against Maple Leafs’ – Chicago Sun-Times – 1/17/20).
When asked to elaborate on his strong performance so far this season, Saad told NBC Sports Chicago, “I try to improve every year and coming into this year I felt pretty confident. But I think on a consistent basis this is some of the best hockey I’ve ever played.”
Despite suffering from an ankle injury in December, Saad has stayed consistent for most of the season with 21 goals and 12 assists in 58 games. In a season with so many difficulties on the offensive end, a strong scorer isn’t the type of player you want to lose.
Though Saad’s contract doesn’t expire until the end of the 2020-21 season, there have been rumors that the Blackhawks might trade him to clear up some cap space. One rumor involved him being traded to the Boston Bruins, but the trade deadline expired at the end of February.
With a cap hit of $6 million and other forwards like Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome entering free agency in July, there is a likelihood that Saad could be traded to save some money. However, I’d argue that he’s worth the investment. It’s uncertain as to if and when the season will resume due to the coronavirus, but Saad has already proven that he’s worth keeping. He’s one of the very few forwards to show any kind of constancy and has earned praise from coaches, teammates, and the media. The last thing the Blackhawks need is to lose someone they know they can count on.
When it comes to renewing his contract, he would need to have an even stronger performance next season than he has had this season. He’ll likely have to play the best hockey of his life and possibly have to perform stronger than he did in the 2015-16 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he tallied a total of 31 goals and 22 assists in 78 games.
Saad is one of the few players on the Blackhawks’ roster that is consistently performing well. Despite issues with the salary cap and having to re-sign Strome and Kubalik over the summer, trading Saad this offseason would be a foolish idea. It’s a no-brainer that Saad should be on the Blackhawks’ roster next season, but it’s all up to him to prove himself worthy when his contract expires.
All stats obtained from NHL.com