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Brandon Saad bracing for his first early summer

Brandon Saad has 30 goals and 21 assists for the Blue Jackets this season. (AP Photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Brandon Saad’s never been off in April before.

“It’s tough,” he said. “Been playing a lot of hockey lately.”

After playing in 11 playoff series in his first three NHL seasons with the Blackhawks, Saad was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets last summer. The trade seemed to catch Saad off guard, as he fully expected to re-sign in Chicago. But Hawks general manager Stan Bowman chose to trade him rather than give him the six-year, $36-million contract the Blue Jackets did, landing Artem Anisimov and Marko Dano (who was flipped to Winnipeg for Andrew Ladd) in the process.

Saad said he doesn’t sit around wondering, “What if?”

“I don’t think too much about it,” he said. “You move on. You talk to old buddies and friends and see how they’re doing and we all know where they’re at. We see where they are in the standings and how teams are doing. They’re still a good team. They’ll always be a good team. I wish them the best.”

Saad has been one of the few bright spots for the last-place Blue Jackets, one of the league’s most disappointing teams after a brilliant 15-1-1 run to close out the 2014-15 season. He scored his 30th goal Friday night at Buffalo.

“It felt good,” Saad said. “It’s been a tough year, but to finish off with some good hockey, score some goals, and hit that valuable mark, it’s definitely something I’ll remember forever.”

Saad said he’s always happy when former teammates do well, and he’ll keep an eye on the playoffs. But he’s thinking more about next season, and what he hopes is a big step forward for Columbus.

“We have a lot of young guys who’ve stepped up and had good seasons,” he said. “It’s just about stringing it together. I know after the year, it’s a big wake-up call for a lot of us, and we should have good summers going into next year.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com
Twitter: @marklazerus