Pittsburgher Brandon Saad, formerly a restricted free agent for the Chicago Blackhawks, was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a haul of players and a 4th round draft pick. The Blackhawks, fearing that they could no longer afford to retain him, got what they could.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were confirmed to have made an attempt to acquire Saad, but were unable to seal the deal.
Can confirm that Penguins made a failed attempt to acquired Brandon Saad, who has ended up in Columbus.
— Dave Molinari (@MolinariPGH) June 30, 2015
He’s From Here
Pittsburghers love other Pittsburghers.
An outsider simply needs to understand that the City of Pittsburgh often views itself like one big family. The family’s prized children are the athletes who play for city teams. Besides winning championships, there is nothing a Pittsburgher loves more than rooting for another Pittsburgher.
The Steelers had the likes of Charlie Batch and “McKeesport” Mike Logan. The Pittsburgh Pirates have Neil Walker, who grew up in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh, just like I did. Even after years in the majors, it’s still an often mentioned fact.
Saad is from the northern suburbs as well, so there was already grassroots interest in acquiring him before the first trade rumblings were heard. Fans had it in their minds that Saad was a prized piece to the puzzle and that he was a Pittsburgher made it all the more real. It felt like something that would be too perfect of a fit to pass up.
The Pens front office, feeling seemingly the same way, did not want to pass on an opportunity at Saad for a second time (They passed on Saad during the draft). While the details of the offer made has not yet come to light, one can assume – based on the quality of players sent by the Blue Jackets to Chicago – that Derrick Pouliot or Olli Maatta were not a part of the proposed deal.
The Cost of Emotional Attachment
So, yes, Pittsburghers wanted a fellow Pittsburgher to come home and make good for the hometown team. It’s natural and understandable. Until you take a look at the numbers, anything is possible. Well, signing Saad would limit a lot of options.
It’s been reported that Saad was asking Chicago for what amounts to an absurd amount of money.
CHI traded Saad because he was looking for 6 yrs with AAV of $6.5M. May have been an offer sheet coming tomorrow from a team with those #s.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 30, 2015
Don’t get me wrong, I like Saad. I like his game and what he can bring to a team. I like that he’s 22 and on the rise. Yes, I like that “he’s from here.” What I don’t like is that cap number. Woof!
That number is about twice as large as the current Chris Kunitz deal. While Kunitz is on the wrong side of 35, and may not be worth his contract – is Saad THAT good? Is he twice the player that Kunitz is?
Saad at half his asking price, somewhere around Kunitz’s current contract numbers, is how I could categorize his value. At $6.5 million per year, that’s simply too much for a cap strapped team to handle. The Blackhawks knew they couldn’t handle it, so they made the move.
Stages of Grief
Both media and Pens’ fans responded to news of the deal by progressing through the stages of grief:
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) June 30, 2015
There is huge incentive for a Metro team to offersheet Saad now. CBJ won't let him walk after the trade, go all in on driving up his cap hit
— Jason (@Jay32600) June 30, 2015
The Saad deal makes me worry all the more about GMJR making a knee jerk move and paying far too much for Kessel.
— Nick Casecoin (@Nick422) June 30, 2015
Pens were in on Saad too, damn. Gotta push for Kessel even more now or sign Semin.
— Cole Wight (@Wight_Zone) June 30, 2015
Cheer up everyone, it’s not the end of the world. The Pens dodged a cap bullet and still have major assets to move in potential deals to come. I, too, empathize with you as someone who would have liked to see Saad pull on his hometown team’s jersey, but the time isn’t right.
Still, it would have been sweet.
Lee is a contributor here at The Hockey Writers as well as at Pens Initiative. A graduate of Pennsylvania State University, he worked an internship at VH1 Radio in NYC and served as Editor-in-Chief of the Penn State – New Kensington campus student newspaper, The Nittany Pride. You can visit Lee’s website here: leecjsobotka.com.