Brandon Saad is heading back to Pittsburgh.
But just for the summer.
“It’s a business in the end, but this is where I want to be and I’m sure we’ll figure something out,” Saad said of his pending restricted free agency on Wednesday as the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks cleaned out their lockers and prepared for Thursday’s parade. “Chicago’s been great to me, and I couldn’t be happier.”
The 22-year-old power forward and burgeoning star will have no shortage of suitors, and his hometown Penguins are expected to make a run at him. There could be massive offer sheets, and there will be trade calls. But neither Saad nor Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman seems terribly concerned. Saad will be back, no matter the cost, no matter the impact it has on the cap-strapped roster.
He’s the No. 1 priority.
“He’s going to be a big part of our group for many years to come,” Bowman said. “We’ll make it work.”
Saad had career-highs of 23 goals and 29 assists this season, and had eight more goals in the playoffs. In his three NHL seasons, he’s won 10 playoff series and two Stanley Cups. He plays on a line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, and sometimes he plays alongside Patrick Kane. There will be millions of reasons for him to sign an offer sheet from another team. But there are more important reasons why he wants to stay.
And just like Toews and Kane left money on the table by signing contract extensions last summer (albeit the two highest cap hits in NHL history), Saad was open to the idea of offering an adopted hometown discount, even if his real hometown comes calling.
“It’s something that’s crossed my mind, for sure,” he said. “The money’s going to come and go. But to win championships and play on a great team, that’s what it’s all about. … We have a tight group here. I’m close with a lot of the guys, and it’s fun out there on the ice and off the ice. The goal is to be in Chicago.”