The Chicago Blackhawks made a stunning trade on Friday by sending star winger Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets and re-acquiring Brandon Saad. The Blackhawks got Saad, goalie Anton Forsberg, and a 5th round draft pick in 2018 and sent over Panarin, forward Tyler Motte, and 6th round draft pick this year.
Now, on the surface, this looks like a confusing trade for the Blackhawks since Panarin, who had 75 points last season, has been absolutely electric opposite Patrick Kane. The duo had an unmatched chemistry and in Panarin’s rookie year, Kane won the scoring title and the Hart trophy while Panarin took home the Calder.
So why trade him for their old friend Brandon Saad, who the Blackhawks lost to costly contract demands two years ago? Saad, who had an impressive 56 points last season, is an incredible player, but is certainly less good than Panarin.
As with all things Blackhawks, there’s a method to their madness, and while trading away Panarin seems baffling, it makes sense for the Blackhawks in several key ways.
1. Cap space
Right now, both Saad and Panarin carry a similar $6 million cap hit, making the immediate cap relief negligible. But, Saad is signed to a long term deal, through 2021, while Panarin will be looking for a massive payout in 2019. Basically, to keep Panarin around after 2019 the Blackhawks would have to back up a Brinks truck to his house, which they most likely won’t be able to afford.
By trading Panarin for Saad now, the Blackhawks make a fiscally sound move that could keep them from hurting two years down the road.
Saad is a better two-way player
Saad is frequently acknowledged as one of the best two-way forwards in the game, something the Blackhawks sorely needed after getting pushed around by the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year. For all his offensive brilliance and breathtaking goals, Panarin lacks the defensive ability that can make him an asset in big, physical match ups.
They need to fill the Marian Hossa hole
wo days ago, the Blackhawks announced that Marian Hossa would be out for the 2017-2018 season, if not much longer. Filling the void he leaves on the ice is next to impossible for the Balckhawks, but Saad comes close. Plus, losing Saad two years ago also left a big hole on Jonathan Toews’ line, which will suddenly be filled again.
Don’t underestimate team chemistry
According to reports, Toews and Kane both expressed interest in bringing Saad back into the cheap jerseys nhl fold as both players had great chemistry with him.
Speaking to reporters after the trade, GM Stan Bowman acknowledged the impact it would have on the locker room.
“They had tremendous chemistry together and he found a home on Johnny’s left wing and that’s someone Johnny would enjoy being reunited with,” Bowman said.”But it’s ultimately up to (head coach) Joel to see how he wants to use him.”
Bowman stressed that while Saad is a proven fit on Toews’ line, the team isn’t trying to recreate the formula they had before, but trying to push forward with something new.
“We’re looking for this to spark the group and to achieve more things down the road,” Bowman. “We don’t want to replicate an old formula, we want to move forward.”
But, it’s undeniable that Saad is already a proven fit not just in the locker room, but on the first line. He’s a defensive forward who may not be able to match Panarin goal for goal, but will contribute in lots of key ways for the Blackhawks.
Really, no one loses in this trade. The Blue Jackets are getting a superstar in the making while the Blackhawks are bring back a puzzle piece that was crucial to their two Stanley Cup wins. Plus, they fill some pretty big holes in their line up while having more financial certainty down the road. It’s a gamble sure, but one that has a better than even chance of succeeding.