The Chicago Blackhawks and restricted free agent Brandon Saad still have significant ground to make up in order to come to an agreement on a new contract, according to Jay Zawaski of CBS Chicago. He says the Hawks are pushing for a two-year bridge contract while Saad wants "a longer-term deal at $4 million-plus per year."
If the Hawks don't come to an agreement on a new deal with Saad by Wednesday, he'll be eligible to receive offer sheets from the other 29 teams as an RFA. Chicago will retain the right to match any offer and receive draft picks if Saad walks, but with limited cap space the team would surely prefer not to let things get out of hand on the free agent market.
Offers around $25 million could be coming Saad's way from other teams, Zawaski reports, while the Hawks are still pushing to sign Saad to a two-year, $5.6 million contract. It's easy to see why the 22-year-old winger wouldn't want to accommodate the team with such a small deal, particularly when he'll have the ability to command significantly more in just a couple days.
The Blackhawks will presumably match any offer for Saad if it comes in the $25 million range, since the team can swallow a cap hit around $5 million, but it begs the question of why management won't simply hand over the "$4 million-plus" that he's reportedly seeking now. That seems like an entirely reasonable price to retain Saad through 2020, and if other teams are prepping to offer even more than that, getting him locked up soon so other issues can be addressed seems like a smart call.
Obviously GM Stan Bowman and his team have a much better grasp on Saad's situation than we do from a distance, but this seems like an instance where backing off the bridge deal might be worthwhile if the alternative is Saad hitting RFA. Maybe they'll spend the next couple days trying to convince him on the shorter deal for the sake of the franchise, and that's fine, but I'd rather see the Hawks lock up Saad on a five-year, $23.5 million contract than release him to the wolves of free agency Wednesday. It would also presumably help the team move Patrick Sharp by removing one pie in the sky option for teams looking to upgrade their top-six forwards.
So the Hawks and Saad appear to have some distance in negotiations at the moment, but it doesn't sound like anything the two sides can't overcome. Chicago appears to be playing a tad of hardball while Saad's camp pushes for fairly reasonable demands -- all totally fine with a couple days before free agency opens -- and hopefully there's some middle ground reached soon so the team can move on to the rest of its various personnel matters.