The NHL’s free agency period begins in just two days on Wednesday, July 1st, meaning that unsigned free agents will be free to negotiate and eventually sign with new teams.
Players and their agents will meet with general managers. Media speculation will be running wild. Eventually, teams and players will agree to contracts, and in some ways, the landscape of the NHL will shift. But every year it feels as though many of the top free agents sign for too many years and too much money with teams that they aren’t as good of a fit with as both parties had originally envisioned.
Take David Clarkson and the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013, for instance. Contracts such as the one given to David Clarkson have recently come back to haunt the more annually aggressive teams on July 1st. The potential exists for a few Clarkson-esque scenarios to begin to unfold over the next week or so.
One of the teams who figures to be primed to avoid such unwise non-sensical moves is the Chicago Blackhawks. Part of this is out of necessity. They just don’t have the salary cap room to make a splash by landing a big name free agent.
The other reason is that their top priority is much larger than any marginal depth player they could bring in on Wednesday could ever be. Brandon Saad’s rookie contract is set to expire, and that means that the pending restricted free agent will have to make a deal with the Blackhawks to remain on the roster. It also means that he’ll be eligible to receive offer sheets from other clubs. You’ve surely heard a lot of speculation about this, but I’m here to tell you today that any such speculation is baseless and non-sensical. So let’s take a look at these rumors, shall we?
Steel City Saad
Saad is a native of the great city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Odds are, you knew this already. You also probably know that there happens to be an NHL team in that city (they go by the “Penguins”) who just so happens to be in great need of a first line winger. Hey, Saad is a first line winger.
So on paper, there definitely seems to be a fit there. There certainly hasn’t been a shortage of recent news and opinion pieces alike detailing the Penguins’ interest in Saad and the possibility of there being mutual interest on Saad’s end. You can read such things– from among the most reputable of outlets– here, here, here, here, and here if you’d like.
I’m not going to argue that it doesn’t make at least a little bit of sense on paper. I’m sure there’s a part of Saad that would love to play for his hometown team alongside Sidney Crosby, the best player in the world. But he’s already playing for the best team in the world, and playing with Jonathan Toews isn’t exactly anything to be unhappy with.
Think about it. Why would Saad have any interest in leaving the Second City? When good players leave great teams, it’s usually because they’re being overshadowed by the team’s superstars. That isn’t the case with Saad. He plays on Chicago’s first line on a consistent basis, and he excels in the role.
Being a Blackhawk has allowed Saad to hoist the Stanley Cup two times before his 23rd birthday. He’d be out of his mind to be willing to just walk away from that.
Okay, you might say, so Saad probably doesn’t want to leave Chicago, but that doesn’t mean he won’t sign lucrative offer sheets from rival teams.
You’d be correct. I’m by no means expecting it, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Saad signs an offer sheet with someone else, probably for a lot of money and a long time. The chances are low, but for numbers’ sake I’ll say there’s a 10% chance this happens. Do you know what the chance is that the Blackhawks don’t match such an offer sheet and keep Saad regardless? It’s 0%. Those are the odds you’re looking at.
Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks are going to retain Saad at all costs. Even if matching a ridiculous offer sheet puts them over the salary cap, they will trade Patrick Sharp for pennies on the dollar if they must. If it comes to it, they’d also do the same with Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg.
The point is that it does not matter what happens between Brandon Saad and any other NHL team. The fact remains that barring some enormous, completely ill-founded change of heart on the part of Chicago’s brass, Saad will still be a Blackhawk when opening night rolls around in October, and Saad’s will be one free agent frenzy contract that the team who gives it out will not regret. You can take that to the bank.