Who needs the free agent market anyway? The Colorado Avalanche have added to their forward group through trade, acquiring Brandon Saad from the Chicago Blackhawks. Sadd will come alongside prospect defenseman Dennis Gilbert in exchange for Nikita Zadorov and Anton Lindholm. The Blackhawks will also be retaining $1MM of Saad’s $6MM cap hit. Zadorov subsequently accepted his $3.2MM qualifying offer for 2020-21.
This is now the second time that Saad has been traded by Stan Bowman, who originally sent him to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2015 only to reacquire him in 2017 (sending Artemi Panarin the other way). This time he’ll exit just a year away from unrestricted free agency as his six-year $36MM contract winds down.
It also comes after three somewhat disappointing seasons in Chicago, even if there’s not really a lot to complain about with the 27-year-old. Saad is an excellent player who racked up 62 goals and 115 points over those three years, but even more was expected of him after he reached the 30-goal and 50-point marks in Columbus.
Still, the other things that Saad brings to the table shouldn’t be overlooked. He is an excellent puck-retrieval option on the forecheck and protects it well once it is under his control. While he may not have the high-end playmaking ability that is required to be a real star in the NHL, he’ll be another weapon for the Avalanche to deploy in what is now one of the deepest attacks in the entire league.
In Brandon we are acquiring a two-time Stanley Cup champion who brings veteran leadership and experience to our team. He is a proven goal scorer and at age 27, is in the prime of his career.
Saad had two Cups under his let by the time he was 23, averaging more than 20 minutes a game in the Blackhawks 2015 championship. That proven playoff experience is important to a team like Colorado that is attempting to get over the hump.
Not to be forgotten for Colorado is Gilbert, who is heading into the final year of his entry-level contract and played 21 games for the Blackhawks this season. The 2015 third-round pick spent three seasons at Notre Dame and though he doesn’t possess much offensive upside, will serve as some important depth for the Avalanche behind their star-studded blue line.
That blue line of course is losing Zadorov, who has been (rightly or wrongly) one of the faces of the Avalanche franchise since his acquisition in 2015. One of the main pieces in the trade that saw Ryan O’Reilly head to Buffalo, his explosive open-ice hits were immediately met with fanfare in Colorado.
Unfortunately, those hits weren’t surrounded by enough other skills to warrant the kind of ice time that he received early on. Zadorov never did put together much of an offensive game, scoring a career-high of 20 points in 2017-18 and was quickly passed by other more dynamic defensemen in the system. While he has remained a viable option, he was made a healthy scratch several times this season and was obviously headed towards a breakup with the organization
After accepting his $3.2MM qualifying off Zadorov will be well paid, and perhaps he can find a new level to his game. He is still only 25 and will certainly receive enough opportunity on a Blackhawks team that suddenly appears to be in something near rebuild-mode.
After letting Corey Crawford walk, Chicago is expected to go with a young tandem of Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban in net, and haven’t made any substantial additions to the roster through free agency. With just a few years left on the hefty contracts for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, a new reality is coming in Chicago.
Dan Milstein of Gold Star Hockey, Zadorov’s agent, actually broke the news on Twitter