It has been five years since winger Brandon Saad won his second Stanley Cup, and a third wasn’t likely to come anytime soon with the Blackhawks.
With the Avalanche, however, Saad’s window to add to his hardware collection is more wide open than ever.
In his introductory Zoom news conference as a member of the Avs on Monday, Saad said he’d miss the Hawks but was excited by his trade over the weekend.
“[I] definitely have memories there, and I had a lot of success, but it’s all part of the business,” he said. “Having gone through it before, it makes it easier the second time around, especially when I’m going to a team that is going to compete for a championship every year.”
Indeed, Saad is no stranger to blockbuster trades. His first departure from the Hawks came in June 2015, when he was part of a seven-player swap he headlined with Artem Anisimov. He returned in June 2017 in a five-player swap he headlined with Artemi Panarin.
This time around, Saad — frequently mentioned in trade rumors for weeks — saw the writing on the wall. And when Hawks general manager Stan Bowman announced longtime goaltender Corey Crawford’s departure and suggested an impending rebuild last week, Saad realized it might come sooner rather than later.
“It was surprising, but a couple of days before it happened, you see the roster moves that they’re making, [and] you never really feel safe, I guess you could say,” he said. “After talking with my agent, he gave me an inclination that I could be on the move. A couple of days later, it happened.”
Saad was dealt Saturday — along with prospect Dennis Gilbert — for defensemen Nikita Zadorov and Anton Lindholm, an exchange that looked quite favorable for the Avs and strangely illogical for the Hawks.
Saad said the Hawks’ front office didn’t speak with him much leading up to the trade, echoing similar and equally concerning comments made by by Crawford and Jonathan Toews in recent days about an apparent communication disconnect between team management and core players.
The Pittsburgh native is happy about where he landed, though. He already has begun selling his Chicago home and is looking for a new one in Denver in order to move his young family — his son, Teo, just turned 1.
“Colorado has definitely always been on my list as a team where I could see myself playing for a long time,” he said.
“Just with the talent and the great hockey team, and then I hear great things about the city, as well.”
The Avs are no doubt filled with talent. General manager Joe Sakic said that he expects Saad to round out the team’s loaded top six that already features Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky.
With plenty of forward depth below that, Cale Makar and Erik Johnson on the back end and Philipp Grubauer in goal, Saad’s declaration of the Avs as a championship contender wasn’t a stretch.
In fact, he drew comparisons between this blossoming Avs team and the Hawks’ dynasty he joined as a rookie in 2012-13.
“It’s one of those teams where they can not even be having their best night, but they come through with talent, with scoring goals, playing well defensively, playing a good system,” he said. “They have a lot of depth, as well. All those [things] lead into championship teams. Back when we were winning in Chicago, that was the formula.”
Saad also took some slight parting shots at the Hawks, whose on-ice performance has clearly declined since 2015.
But in Colorado, Saad joins a team on the upswing.