While there’s no cause for panic in the Windy City quite yet, a report out of Chicago says the Blackhawks and restricted free agent
Brandon Saad are “further apart on a new deal than initially expected.”
According to CBS Chicago’s Jay Zawaski, Saad’s camp and the Blackhawks have differing opinions on not only what the 22-year-old free agent should be getting in terms of salary, but also what the length of the contract should be. From Zawaski’s report, the Blackhawks would prefer to ink the winger to a short-term deal that would allow them some salary cap flexibility now while Saad is seeking a long-term contract that would carry him into unrestricted free agency. On the short-term deal, the Blackhawks are seeking to land Saad at roughly $2.8 million per year, Zawaski reported. But Saad’s camp sees the long-term deal carrying an annual price tag closer to $4 million, possibly more.
With free agency set to open Wednesday, and with Saad still not under contract, the Blackhawks are in the difficult position of having themselves opened up to an offer sheet scenario. As an RFA, Saad has the ability to ink a contract with another club should they give him an offer he sees fit to sign. Of course, this would give Chicago the opportunity to match the deal or receive compensation for Saad, which could force Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman to make a difficult choice regarding the burgeoning star winger. Were Saad to agree to an offer sheet with another club, it would not be the first time a restricted free agent under Bowman’s watch has signed such a deal. In July 2010, defenseman
Niklas Hjalmarsson signed a four-year, $14 million deal with the San Jose Sharks which the Blackhawks promptly matched. Hjalmarsson has since become a stalwart on the backend for Chicago. What makes Saad so valuable – much like what made Hjalmarsson so valuable in 2010 – is that he’s already a remarkable player for his age and could be an incredible top-six forward on any of the league’s 29 other teams. In Chicago, he’s become a top-line winger alongside
Marian Hossa and
Jonathan Toews and proven he can shoulder both penalty killing and power play duty, as well. Being so versatile makes Saad a unique asset for the Blackhawks, one who Bowman almost certainly wants to see back in red, white and black this upcoming campaign. That said, Bowman may have to up his bid, because it’s not hard to see why Saad’s camp believes their client is worth the $4 million-plus ask. This past season, Saad scored 23 goals and 52 points, both career highs, and in the post-season contributed to the tune of eight goals and 11 points, including one shorthanded goal and two game-winning markers. In the playoffs, Saad averaged more than 20 mintues per outing and the Stanley Cup victory this past season was the second of his young career. Following the Cup win, Bowman said he was confident Saad would re-sign. “I just talked to (Saad) right after we won,”
Bowman told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Potash post-Stanley Cup victory. “We [hugged] and I said, ‘This is the first of many — we’re going to win a lot together.’ He gave me a big hug and said, ‘Let’s go.’ So … he’s going to be here. I don’t think he would want to leave after this scene here.”