The Chicago Blackhawks have been searching for a new top-line left winger ever since trading Brandon Saad. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the team even “investigated” trying to reacquire Saad from the Columbus Blue Jackets last season, “but couldn’t make things work.”
Saad, 24, began his career with the Blackhawks before being dealt to the Blue Jackets in a cap crunch trade following the 2015 season. He’s considered one of the better young winger in the NHL, yet he’s found himself just fifth in playing time among Columbus forwards this season.
Friedman is wondering what the Blue Jackets will ultimately do with Saad, but he also noted that the Blackhawks tried to get him back last season. Instead, Chicago ended up sending a host of assets to Montreal and Winnipeg for Dale Weise, Tomas Fleischmann, and Andrew Ladd in a bid to make another Stanley Cup run.
It’s unclear how a Saad trade would’ve worked then — or how it would work now — given his $6 million cap hit. Maybe Chicago was discussing a deal involving retained money, which they convinced Montreal to do with a hefty trade package including Phillip Danault, but Saad would’ve been far more costly in both assets and cap space.
You have to imagine the first-round pick from the Ladd trade would be involved, and maybe the Blue Jackets would’ve been cool taking back Dano, too. But it’s still hard to see exactly what the Blackhawks would’ve packaged together to compel Columbus to retain salary and give away a good young player that it had just acquired and extended months before.
The Blue Jackets don’t have an obvious reason to trade Saad other than getting big value back for him.
At this point, the odds of Saad returning to Chicago are incredibly low. The Blackhawks might want him back, partially in an acknowledgement that they’ve struggled to replace him, but it’s hard to see how a $6 million cap hit fits without major salary heading back to Columbus. That would imply a much larger trade involving other veterans, so we’d be talking a pretty drastic shakeup. That doesn’t seem in the cards right now.